PhD Dissertations: Molly Raymond Mignon, 1987

Maya Animal Protein Procurement and Utilization: An Assessment of the Ethnohistoric Evidence

A model of Maya animal procurement and dietary uses of animal protein is presented, based upon data derived from a systematic examination of native Maya ethnohistoric documents and European literature of the Conquest and early Colonial periods. Hypotheses concerning resource exploitation patterns, preferred species, hunting strategies, restrictions on consumption, and possible conscious efforts to preserve game habitats were tested against the ethnohistoric record. Specific issues addressed from a general cultural ecological perspective included the possibility of specialized animal procurement occupations; animal management; the question of protein scarcity in a neotropical rainforest environment; cultural rules supporting differential access to available animal protein; and ways in which Maya ideology may have affected the dietary and economic uses of animals.

A systematic species list annotated with descriptions from the ethnohistoric literature, and similar material on hunting and fishing methods and techniques, are presented and compared with data derived from analysis of archaeological remains, and with ethnological data reported for Maya groups.

Species rankings based on averaged ranks derived from ethnohistoric, ethnological and archaeological samples showed a primary preference for deer, canids and galliform birds as food species, followed by a group of terrestrial mammalian species. Species data from all three samples were generally in agreement, and data from the ethnohistoric sample tended to support a majority of the predictive hypotheses. A wide variety of faunal species, including insects, appear to have been utilized by the Maya for dietary purposes.

Possible sources of bias affecting these results, and the validity and limitations of ethnohistoric research methodology for addressing subsistence questions, are examined and evaluated.