What did the Maya nobility do with their
animals? Did they eat fancy meats and exotic shellfish? Did they
display "trophy heads" like big-game hunters today? Did
they buy only the best bone needles? Did they wear only the fanciest
Dr. Takeshi Inomata, director of the Aguateca Archaeological Project
and professor at Yale University, has discovered one of the most
remarkable archaeological assemblages known in the Maya lowlands.
In the Petexbatun region of the Guatemalan Peten, warfare was a
way of life. Aggressive expansionistic nobles vied for territory
and status, and eventually caused the abandonment of the region.
At the site of Aguateca, despite the fact that the kings had an
enormous defensive system erected around their palaces, the site
was attacked, burnt to the ground, and abandoned. However, luckily
for us, the abandonment was so rapid that the kings and nobles dropped
their worldly goods on the floors of their houses in great piles
of detritus that provide us with a complete picture of elite household
activity at around 800 AD! I am taking advantage of this marvellous
situation to examine the details of the elite use of animal materials
-- everything from animal protein for food, to animal bone for tools,
to animal shell for personal decorations.