May 14, 2020
Title: Local Community and Foreign Groups: Political changes in the Ancient Maya Center of Ceibal, Guatemala.
Abstract: With an occupation that lasted almost two thousand years (1,100 B.C.-A.D. 930), the ancient Maya center of Ceibal offers an important opportunity to expand and reevaluate our knowledge of how increasing political centralization and social inequality are reflected in diet and migration patterns. Ceibal was occupied during several critical periods of social changes in the Maya area. Throughout the Middle Preclassic period, there was an increase in centralized polities, cross-regional cultural practices, and developing inequality in the Maya Lowlands. During the Late Preclassic period, sedentary villages became larger and divine rulers likely emerged. Furthermore, evidence of warfare started to appear in the archaeological record. The Terminal Preclassic and the Classic periods were characterized by the development and decline of many political regimes that were often engaged in warfare. The occupation at Ceibal survived all of these different political changes until its final collapse in the Terminal Classic. After eleven field seasons, the Ceibal-Petexbatun Archaeological Project uncovered 81 burials with a minimum of 96 individual human remains. These remains have the potential to provide valuable insight into the processes of political centralization and social inequalities in the Maya lowlands.
By analyzing stable isotopes contained in human bones, this research addresses two questions: 1) How were social inequality and political centralization reflected in dietary practice? And 2) How were changes in social inequality and political centralization associated with migrants and external relations? To address these questions, Palomo conducted a multi-isotopic (C, N, O, Sr and Pb) analysis of 86 sampled individuals from Ceibal that date from the Early Preclassic to the Terminal Classic periods. The present research demonstrates that in the time of political growth and centralization, there was an increase in individuals migrating to Ceibal. There were also different dietary patterns observed at Ceibal during the Early Preclassic and Middle Preclassic period, which could be connected to the transition from a mobile to a more sedentary lifestyle, while not necessarily to increased levels of social inequalities and political centralization. Nevertheless, the different dietary patterns observed at the end of the Late Preclassic, Terminal Preclassic, Early Classic, and Classic periods might be different and could be connected to the development of social inequalities and the intensification of corn agriculture.
Committee: Takeshi Inomata, Daniela, Triadan, Jim Watson, and Lori Wright