Bioarchaeological investigation of ancient Maya violence and warfare in inland northwest Yucatan, Mexico

Stanley Serafin*, Carlos Peraza Lope, Eunice Uc González

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study investigates evidence of changes and continuities in ancient Maya violence and warfare in inland northwest Yucatan, Mexico from the Middle Preclassic (600-300 BC) to the Postclassic (AD 1050-1542) through bioarchaeological analysis of cranial and projectile trauma. It is hypothesized that the frequency of violence increases before the Classic Maya collapse and remains high during the Postclassic period. It is also hypothesized that the flat, open terrain was conducive to warfare and resulted in higher trauma frequencies than in other parts of the Maya area. Results show that the frequency of cranial trauma decreases before the Classic collapse and increases in the Postclassic, partially matching the expected chronological trends. The frequency of cranial trauma does not differ significantly from other Maya regions but the pattern does: for all periods, males have more healed injuries than females and they are concentrated on the left side of the anterior of the skull. Some injuries appear to be from small points hafted in wooden clubs. In addition, projectile trauma is evident in a scapula with an embedded arrowhead tip, the first such case reported in a Maya skeleton. Overall, these results suggest greater reliance on open combat and less on raids in this region compared with other parts of the Maya area, possibly due to the flat, open terrain, though the identification of perimortem trauma in both women and men indicates surprise raids on settlements were also practiced. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-151
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume154
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2014

Keywords

  • conflict
  • embedded point
  • Mesoamerica
  • projectile trauma
  • skeletal injury

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