The articulation of social inequality and faunal resource use in the Preclassic community of Colha, northern Belize
This dissertation evaluated the interactional dynamics of emerging social inequality and the economics of basic necessities during the early development of Lowland Maya civilization. Basic necessities, including clothing, shelter, and utilitarian tools, were all affected in some way by the changes in access to and distribution of resources, technology, and information. This study focuses on one specific relationship: that between increasing social inequality and the procurement and distribution of animal resources.
This research problem is addressed using faunal remains from the site of Colha in northern Belize. The faunal assemblage (totaling 14,553 bones/bone fragments) was recovered from Preclassic Period (1,000 B.C.-A.D. 250) residential deposits. The 1,250 years represented in the assemblage cover the time when the Maya shifted from small autonomous communities to hierarchically ranked centers, many of which specialized in the production and/or exchange of goods for regional consumption. The faunal data from Colha were evaluated against the changes in social complexity documented for this period.
A distinct patterning in the use of faunal resources during the Preclassic was observed. The early settlers of Colha (roughly 1,000-600 B.C.) utilized low-bush terrestrial, wetland, and aquatic species nearly equally. The prominent use of wetland and aquatic resources suggests that wetland agriculture may have been used. The five hundred years that followed saw a gradual shift toward a heavier use of wetland and aquatic resources, probably due to wetter conditions and to the biodegradation caused by land clearing and heavy faunal exploitation.
In the Late Preclassic there was a marked change in faunal use, beginning approximately 100 B.C. This includes a heavier reliance on terrestrial species, an increased use of dog for food, and a greater utilization of distant habitats, such as marine and high-forest environments. These changes required modifications in the social aspects of food procurement and distribution, including exchange relationships, and not simply an intensification of past strategies. It is proposed that households could use their elevated status (and accompanying accumulation of wealth and power) to shift from a strategy of direct food procurement to one in which food could be acquired indirectly through exchange and/or tribute.
Latin American history;
0336: Latin American history