PART IV: ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES IN THE MOTUL DE SAN JOSE POLITY

Chapter 11:
Use of Fine-Gauge Screening for Recovery of Zooarchaeological and Archaeobotanical Materials at Sites in the Motul Polity
By Kitty F. Emery and Erin Kennedy Thornton
Abstract: Emery and collaborators have embarked on a regional research study to discover if fine gauge screening methods increase the representativeness of zooarchaeological samples from various depositional situations in the Maya area. In one important subset of this regional project, Emery and Thornton have conducted screening tests using nested screens of 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16th inch meshes to recover zooarchaeological and macrobotanical remains from occupational surfaces, middens, fill, and non-settlement deposits at the Motul de San Jose sites. We test whether the materials recovered from finer gauge screens is more representative in terms of increased sample size, taxonomic breadth, and skeletal element representation and whether identifiability and relevance of the samples is maintained. This has proven to be the case in other world areas, but fine-screening techniques are not yet accepted in Maya archaeology since their utility is unproven.

Chapter 12:
Preliminary Investigations in Macro and Microbotany at Motul de San Jose
By Andrew Wyatt, David Jarzen, and Kitty F. Emery
Abstract: The recovery of botanical remains from archaeological deposits in the Maya area is problematic for reasons of excavation strategy, recovery method, and preservation of the remains. The Motul de San Jose Ecology Sub-Project has investigated the effectiveness of macrobotanical and microbotanical recovery method techniques and the preservational condition of the returned remains. These tests allow us to suggest appropriate methods for future studies here and elsewhere.

Chapter 13:
Zooarchaeology of Motul de San Jose: Animals in Environmental and Economic Perspective
By Kitty F. Emery
Abstract: The animals remains recovered from the site of Motul de San Jose provide a valuable glimpse of the use of faunal resources within the boundaries of a polity capital. Local polity capitals such as Motul had access to animals from within their immediate landscape, and through trade and tribute, to those from much further afield. This chapter uses the Motul faunal assemblage to explore community-wide animal resource availability and use within the Motul landscape, and community- and status-related differentials in access to resources from both within and outside these political boundaries.

Chapter 14:
Animal Resource Use and Exchange at an Inland Maya Port: Zooarchaeological Investigations at Trinidad de Nosotros
By Erin Kennedy Thornton
Abstract: Analysis of archaeological animal remains from the site of Trinidad de Nosotros documents how animals were used as dietary, raw material, ritual, and prestige goods at this inland Maya port site from Preclassic (ca. 800 B.C.- A.D. 250) through Postclassic (A.D. 1000-1500) times. Based on the site’s lacustrine location, specific attention is given to the contribution of aquatic resources to the prehistoric Maya diet, and what impact archaeological excavation and recovery methods have on our interpretation of aquatic resource use. Temporal and spatial variation in the zooarchaeological record at Trinidad de Nosotros also provides insights into patterns of elite animal use and the site’s economic status and role within the larger Motul polity.

Chapter 15:
Soil Studies, Activity Areas and Public Plazas in the Motul de San Jose Zone
By Richard Terry
Abstract: New methods in soil chemistry have been applied to archaeology and have successfully been used to provide evidence on activity areas. In this chapter, we present the heavy metal and organic residue analyses that were carried out on household stucco floors at Motul de San Jose. We also undertook phosphate testing of several public plazas at Motul de San Jose, La Trinidad de Nosotros, and Akte, with the goal of pursuing suggestions that these spaces may have functioned as markets.

Chapter 16:
Stable carbon isotope evidence of ancient maize cultivation on the soils of Motul de San Jose
By Elizabeth A. Webb. and Henry P. Schwarcz
Abstract: The ancient Maya population of Motul de San Jose was supported at least in part by the development of an agricultural system which produced maize in addition to other fruits and vegetables.  Agricultural residues from the maize crops may linger in the soil and be identified by their 13C-enriched carbon isotope signatures which are distinct from the isotopic compositions of the native vegetation which is the primary source of the soil organic matter.  The naturally labeled 13C-enriched organic matter can be used to identify the regional extent of cultivation and soil types that were selected by the ancient Maya for maize agriculture.  However, intermittent use of this area for milpa agriculture, including the growth of maize, since the end of the peak Maya population (600-830 AD) until the present has also added modern 13C-enriched carbon to the soil, effectively obscuring the ancient-maize isotope signal.  Fortunately, the different soil humic fractions have varying turnover rates and each preserve varying amounts of ancient versus modern carbon.  At Motul de San Jose, an ancient 13C-enriched maize signal was observed in the humin fraction, while modern maize imparted 13C-enirched carbon to the humic acid fraction.  An analysis of the humic fractions from 15 soil profiles along a 2.5 km transect between Motul de San Jose and the neighbouring settlement of Chäkokot revealed that ancient maize agriculture was primarily distributed around the neighbouring settlement rather than within the core of Motul de San Jose and there appears to be little correlation with either soil type or topographic slope.   This may suggest that the distribution of agricultural fields was influenced by politics and population growth rather than soil fertility.

Chapter 17:
Petén Maya Agrosystems in Historical Perspective: Models for Classic Period Land Use in the Motul de San José Area
By Matthew D. Moriarty
Abstract: Ethnohistoric and ethnographic data can make key contributions to the study of ancient land use.  The Motul de San José area is particularly rich in such data, particularly in relationship to the modern Itzaj Maya inhabitants of the area.  Furthermore, early Spanish visitors to the Central Petén provided detailed descriptions of Contact period Maya land use.  In addition, ethnographic studies by Cowgill (1961, 1962), Reina (1967), and, more recently, Atran (1993) have also provided a detailed record of modern Itzaj Maya agricultural systems.  This paper will synthesize available historic and ethnographic data concerning land use in the central Petén lakes district, formulating testable models for ancient Maya land use in the MSJ area.  It will then review the results of recent settlement and soils studies by the Motul de San José Archaeological Project in light of these models.

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