|Awardee:||TRUSTEES OF BOSTON UNIVERSITY|
|Doing Business As Name:||Trustees of Boston University|
|Estimated Total Award Amount:||$ 20,000|
|Funds Obligated to Date:||
|Award Start Date:||08/01/2010|
|Award Expiration Date:||07/31/2012|
|Awarding Agency Code:||4900|
|Funding Agency Code:||4900|
|Primary Program Source:||490100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT|
|Award Title or Description:||Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: A Terminal Classic Maya Household at the Microscale: Social Organization and Foodways in the Puuc Hills, Yucatan, Mexico|
|Federal Award ID Number:||1036123|
|Parent DUNS ID:||049435266|
|Street:||881 COMMONWEALTH AVE|
|Awardee Cong. District:||07|
Primary Place of Performance
|Organization Name:||Trustees of Boston University|
|Street:||881 COMMONWEALTH AVE|
Abstract at Time of Award
Under the supervision of Dr. William A. Saturno, Stephanie Simms will analyze data garnered through archaeological investigations at the Maya site of Escalera al Cielo. Escalera al Cielo is located in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico, within a network of hills surrounding a nearby urban center. The rural hilltop residence of Escalera al Cielo was intensively occupied between A.D. 800 and A.D. 950, and then abruptly abandoned. Although the causes for this rapid departure remain unknown, rich artifact scatters in and around household buildings provide a snapshot of daily life. Excavations of sleeping structures, kitchens, food storage areas, and adjoining open patios were designed to identify patterns of activities that took place there. Analyses of food residues from ceramic cooking and storage vessels, grinding stones and other stone tools, and sediments will provide new information on food-related activities.
Project Outcomes Report
This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.
Excavations at the site of Escalera al Cielo, located in the Puuc Maya region of Yucatán, Mexico, revealed groups of artifacts left in and around domestic structures, strengthening the case for a rapid abandonment of the site at the end of the Terminal Classic period (AD 950); the timing corresponds with a regional demographic collapse, or the popularly termed "Maya collapse." This project involved the investigation of prehispanic Maya households at the site, with macro and microscopic analyses of the artifacts and plant remains they contained, and contributes to research into everyday lives in the ancient past. Taking advantage of the rare occurrence of such rich artifact assemblages, ceramic and stone implements were studied (with particular attention to food-related functions) to outline the basic culinary inventory. Microscopic plant remains collected from soils and adhering to artifacts provide information on specific plant species used for food (maize, beans, squash, arrowroot, palm fruits) and industrial purposes (palm leaves for roof thatch and mats).
The spatial organization of architecture (e.g., residences, kitchens, storage facilities), artifacts in and around them, and plant remains reveal patterns of food-related activities within the household. For instance, it is evident where residents, most likely women, would regularly gather to grind maize and other ingredients at large grinding stones located in outdoor patios, under the eaves of thatched roofs. The identification of root crops provides new evidence for the range and diversity of ancient Maya diet, beyond the traditionally assumed reliance on maize, beans, and squash. In addition, abundant chile pepper residues on artifacts indicate that spicy food preparations were not only a component of central Mexican diets, but also ancient Maya diet, at least in the Puuc region. These new data contribute to regional models of site abandonment and demographic collapse, a widespread phenomenon for the Terminal Classic Maya that remains poorly understood. Information on the cultivation, gathering, and use of specific plant species also highlights human-environment interactions in the Puuc region of the Maya area, a challenging landscape with no perennial water sources that was once densely inhabited but is occupied by few subsistence farmers today.
New archaeological methods were employed during this project, specifically the recovery and analysis of ancient plant microfossils, that overcome issues of preservation in humid conditions and contribute to our understanding of tropical agricultural societies. In addition, undergraduate and graduate students from the United States and Mexico received training in a variety of archaeological field and lab methods. Members of the local community of Yaxachen were employed during excavation and local schoolchildren receive regular tours of the site and protected forest surrounding the site. These new data on ancient diet are being incorporated into informational materials as the Kaxil Kiuic Biocultural Reserve (where the site is located) continues to develop a "living laboratory" for research and education. Finally, a National Geographic film entitled "Quest for the Lost Maya" was produced during 2011 excavations and presents additional information on the ancient inhabitants of the Puuc Maya region.
Last Modified: 08/30/2012
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