Ian Nathaniel Roa

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Pittsburgh, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10344

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Roa, Ian (Pittsburgh, U. of) "Hallowed Creatures: A Zoontological Perspective of Human-Animal Interaction in Maya Ritual"

IAN NATHANIEL ROA, then a graduate student at University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was awarded funding in April 2022 to aid research on “Hallowed Creatures: A Zoontological Perspective of Human-Animal Interaction in Maya Ritual,” supervised by Dr. Marc Bermann. This project investigates ritual engagement with animals from well-documented, previously excavated ritual contexts at four major Maya polities — Baking Pot, Cahal Pech, Lower Dover, and Xunantunich in the Belize River Valley. In contrast to much previous Maya zooarchaeological research, this project takes ritual economy and social zooarchaeology approaches in a multi-sited comparative study to provide a ‘zoontological’ perspective on sociopolitical variability across the local region. This project focuses on a diachronic time scale that begins with Middle/Late Preclassic (300 BC-AD 300) when the lineaments of Maya political structure, center development, and ceremonial practices were codified reaching into the Postclassic (AD 1000-1500) when Belize Valley subsequent to the abandonment of residents who responded to social and ecological challenges (particularly drought) that ultimately resulted in political collapse. This research aims to review the role played by ritual manipulation of animals (physical and symbolic) in these developments. From this material, a sample of 141 specimens were analyzed for stable isotope data providing information on animal diet, geographic origins, and climate conditions. This large sample has made it possible to address a number of current hypotheses concerning the extent of unique processes of Maya ritual engagement with socially valued animals.