The Rise of Maya Civilization

Last weekend the 8th Annual Tulane Maya Symposium and Workshop was held in New Orleans. Sponsored by the Middle American Research Institute, the yearly gathering is smaller than a major conference and a real chance for scholars to hear about the recent research of their colleagues and meet up and coming graduate students from institutions throughout the country, but many from the Louisiana, Florida and Texas area. 

Normand Hammond, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at Boston University, presented his research from the site of Cuello, Belize.  The site was inhabited from 1200 BC through the end of the Late Preclassic. He showed evidence from the Middle Preclassic of residential structures and a sweatbath grouped around a courtyard and persistent renovation programs for more than 500 years until they were finally buried beneath a later ceremonial structure. Floral and faunal evidence shows a community with a maize based diet and some root crop agriculture as well as hunting and puppy farming for additional protein sources. All the dogs were raised to the same age, just less than a year, and then butchered for food. There was trade in exotic goods and suggestions of  ranked society. That a community with such a small population (perhaps a little over 100 households and 600-700 people) should be this developed in the first half of the first millennium BC shows that much more work should be done to discover Middle Preclassic evidence at other sites which may have been destroyed or buried by later building programs. I’ll have to add Prof. Hammond’s “Cuello: An Early Maya Community”

Figurine from Cuello