Ethnohistory of the stingless bees <i>Melipona beecheii</i> (Hymenoptera: Meliponinae) in the Mayan Civilization, decipherment of the Beekeeping Almanacs part I in the “Madrid Codex” and the study of their behavioral traits and division of labor

2010 2010

Other formats: Order a copy

Abstract (summary)

The tropical stingless bee Melipona beecheii is the most important domesticated species documented in the history of the Mayan civilization. Mythological accounts show that these bees have played an important role since the origin of life on this planet. Using ethnohistorical and archaeological evidence is demonstrated that their honey was used in the Mayan pharmacopoeia especially in human fertility and other aspects of health and social culture. One of the four ancient Mayan painted books in the form of glyphical texts that survived the destruction by the colonial Spaniards was the Madrid Codex. This book has the most extensive descriptions of Mayan meliponiculture with M. beecheii. The identification of the glyphic lexicon in the process of deciphering these almanacs involved the use of three lines of evidence: meaning, phonology, and grammar (morphology and syntax). This approach was fundamental in understanding the contents of the narratives of such almanacs.

This dissertation uses a multidisciplinary approach which involves different areas of the sciences including: ethnohistory, linguistic anthropology, Mayan studies and entomology which represent the study of biology of the bees in question. I specifically explore the behavioral traits of the M. beecheii in their task allocation, division of labor and behavioral trends associated with the provisional oviposition and operculation process, and the disruptive behavior of the gyne, along the queen- worker relationship. These particular elements were studied through the ethological methodology, in order to understand if their sociobiological development in reality corresponded with the sociopolitical model of the Mayans during the splendor of their civilization as it was consistently described in their narratives.

Results indicate that Maya may have determined that successful societies were developed by the effective division of labor of successive task performances of individuals who responded to a unified family of organisms and that their expansion and development was conditioned on the accessibility of the natural resources of their surrounding environment. Respecting and understanding these harmonious cycles of growth and reproduction in order to avoid over exploitation must have been one of the most important lessons they included in their life style. Consequently, these quantifiable and observable parameters must also be the principles on which the Maya based their development as a society and their geo-cultural expansion. All these intricate connections became clear when I was able to discover the linguistic principals on which the Mayan writing system was developed. Amazingly the Melipona beecheii show me the path to decipher it.

Indexing (details)

Cultural anthropology;
Native American studies
0326: Cultural anthropology
0472: Zoology
0740: Native American studies
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Biological sciences; Beekeeping Almanacs; Behavioral traits; Decipherment; Hymenoptera; Mayan Civilization; Melipona beecheii; Meliponinae; Stingless bees
Ethnohistory of the stingless bees <i>Melipona beecheii</i> (Hymenoptera: Meliponinae) in the Mayan Civilization, decipherment of the Beekeeping Almanacs part I in the “Madrid Codex” and the study of their behavioral traits and division of labor
Lopez-Maldonado, Julio Edgar
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-B 71/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Varese, Stefano
University of California, Davis
University location
United States -- California
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
Access the complete full text

You can get the full text of this document if it is part of your institution's ProQuest subscription.

Try one of the following:

  • Connect to ProQuest through your library network and search for the document from there.
  • Request the document from your library.
  • Go to the ProQuest login page and enter a ProQuest or My Research username / password.