The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

How Trade Networks Impact Phenotypic Variation Among an Archaeological Population from the Preclassic Maya site of Colha


1Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Texas Tech University, 2Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, 3Department of Anthropology, Science Center, South Australian Museum

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Excavations of the Maya site at Colha began in the 1970s. Located in present day northern Belize, Colha has been discussed in the archaeological literature because of its important role in the large-scale production of chert tools. The excellent raw material found around Colha allowed knappers to produce tools in mass quantities. The city was part of a regional distribution economic network that encompassed present day northern Belize and parts of Guatemala during the Late Preclassic period through the Late Classic, 300 B.C. to 800 A.D. This economic activity meant that Colha would have experienced a great deal of migration from throughout the region. This movement of people would be reflected in the phenotypic variation of individuals from the area. While the site was occupied through the Late Classic, skeletal remains have only been found from the Middle and Late Preclassic.

This study utilizes regional biodistance analysis to examine migration patterns in a population from the Late Preclassic. Nonmetric cranial traits were observed on the skeletons and recorded. Regional biodistance analysis is a technique used to analyze levels of relatedness between archaeological populations. In particular, intracemetery analysis, a type of regional biodistance analysis that examines level of relatedness within an archaeological population, was conducted on skeletal material from approximately 30 comingled individuals from Colha. Statistical analyses were conducted to determine possible familial relationships among the individuals buried in this site. The results of this study shed light on how cultural practices like trade influenced phenotypic variation among the Preclassic Maya.

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