What was the impact of canal and city building
on the fragile flora and fauna of the volcanic uplands of the Guatemala
Valley? And what clues to long-distance trade and contact can the
zooarchaeological fauna from Kaminaljuyu provide?
There are two intriguing questions driving my current research
at Kaminaljuyu (excavations most recently directed by Dr. Stephen
Houston of Brigham Young University). The first, most basic, and
in some ways most intriguing issue is an investigation of ancient
KJ inhabitant's use of and impact on the fragile but fertile volcanic
upland environs. My earlier work at KJ (on a research project directed
by Dr. Juan Antonio Valdes of San Carlos University) indicated that
there are some interesting links between population growth, landscape
modifications (building canals), and the rate of animal consumption
and therefore likely the number of animals that were around. However,
we would also expect that as populations grow, the animals that
need full forest and those that don't like humans would disappear.
In exchange we might expect to see that animals like deer who do
like disturbed lands and agricultural fields would become more frequent
AND that when the canals were built and maintained that we would
see an increase in aquatic species like fish and turtles. We really
don't see those changes yet -- which may be an effect of the small
sample size I had with the last project. So I'm hoping KJ will provide
a better sample and a better understanding of the animal resources
during occupation of the site.
There are also some broader questions I'd like to approach with
my research. KJ is a very early site and is the center of considerable
controversy about the extent to which the Guatemalan and Mexican
nobility were in contact, traveled, or traded, and to what extent
this Mexican contact may have influence the rise of a social elite.
Choices in animals used for food, as symbols of elite authority,
and as part of rituals are good indicators of this type of contact
or movement of people. I'll be interested to see whether animal
use patterns might reflect ethnicity (as well as status etc.)