Did the ancient Maya enjoy a good meal
of escargot occasionally?
Is this the explanation for the recovery of literally
millions of freshwater snails in archaeological deposits in Belize
and Guatemala? It would be an excellent explanation if the only
deposits they were found in were garbage heaps or middens. But archaeologists
have discovered that sometimes the most enormous accumulations are
found in ritual deposits – in caches or on top of ballcourt
markers in the center of playing fields. I have spent several years
doing population and morphological research on two different gastropods
(Pomacea flagellata or the apple snail, and Pachychilus spp. or
the jute) to discover size changes over time that might be attributed
to the effects of environmental changes, harvest pressure, or selection
of dietary favourites. We do indeed see changes in both size and
shape of these two types of snails over time, but does this change
indicate that the snails were being harvested at rates that were
severe enough to change the genetics of the populations? Or does
this change indicate the effects of changing climatic conditions?
Only further research will answer that question...