Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Anthropology

Content Description

1 online resource (xvii, 266 pages) : illustrations (some color), color maps.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Robert M Rosenswig

Committee Members

Marilyn A Masson, Sean M Rafferty


Fish Otoliths, Marine Historical Ecology, Maya, Mesoamerica, Seasonality, Stable Isotopes, Otoliths, Fish remains (Archaeology), Fish trade, Mayas, Animal remains (Archaeology)

Subject Categories

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Environmental Sciences | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


This dissertation investigates the Maya fish trade through the extensive analysis of fish otoliths (ear stones), from the Postclassic sites of Mayapán, and Caye Coco, and provides an initial foundation for the development of a historical ecology program. Through osteometry, thin-section microscopy of growth rings, and microscale stable isotope analysis (δC13 and δO18), a spectrum of data is produced to characterize the Postclassic fish trade. These data are used to illuminate themes of the seasonality of the fish harvest, diet, biodiversity, fish population demography, environmental change, sustainability, and resilience. The timing of a seasonal intensification of the harvest is viewed in the context of ethnohistoric records of fishermen’s rituals and large-scale ceremonial fish harvest. Social and cognitive aspects of fishing in the Maya realm are explored, and the results for Mayapán and Caye Coco are compared and interpreted. Environmental and climate change are explored through zooarchaeological and isotopic analysis and comparison with modern fish populations.