Plant Remains from an Ancient Mayan City and Their Implications for Land Use

Main Article Content

Jessica Brei
David Lentz


Record ID: 252

Award(s): Excellence in Research Mentoring

Student Major: Biology

Project Advisor: David Lentz

Abstract: Learning from civilizations of the past is very important because it can help us understand history in a greater context and create new innovations based on ideas of the past. The Mayan culture was in existence for thousands of years and evidence of agriculture and other uses of plants has been discovered through archaeobotany. We are using evidence from samples collected in this archaeological site to interpret how the Maya’s used their land and how it was managed, which will give us a better understanding of how this community functioned. Botanical samples analyzed in this study came from the Maya site of Aventura in Belize. In this excavation, samples were recovered from commoner and elite households as well as administrative and ritual contexts. This analysis reports findings from one elite household to better understand the access that the occupants at Aventura had to botanical resources. I utilized an array of techniques including flotation and wood charcoal analyses. I sorted the flotation samples by particle size and inspected them for botanical remains. Wood charcoal was collected during the excavation as encountered, and I examined the samples under a microscope. Scanning Electron Microscopy was used to image the charcoal and distinct anatomical characteristics were used to identify the remains to family, genus, and occasionally species. Identifications were compared to plants known locally and records of ethnobotanical uses. The data presented here gives us a better understanding of the environmental landscape at Aventura under Mayan management and the role that the Maya played in the ecosystems surrounding the site. 


Article Details

Category: The Natural World
Author Biography

Jessica Brei

Major: Biology