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Search: Maya Lowland Flora

The Maya Lowland Floral database is a collaborative ethnobotanical and archaeobotanical project between The Field Museum and the Department of Anthropology at Northeastern Illinois University. When complete, the inventory will be a survey of over 1500 plant species.

We include species recorded by ethnographers and others studying contemporary Maya populations in the lowlands of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. Where possible, more than one voucher for each species is present, to account for rainy and dry season samples. In cases where vouchers were unavailable from the Maya area, we selected examples from other regions.

Excavation site
Archaeologists, Zoologists, Botanists, and other specialists often recover parts of flowers, seeds and fruits in their research. For this reason we provide close-ups of the reproductive organs of each voucher to aid in the determination of these materials. Where possible, high-resolution photographs of seeds associated with each voucher were taken using incident light microscopy and a 1 mm grid.

In the non-industrialized world, relationships between social groups were (and in some cases, continue to be) based not on money, but instead often on the consumption of symbolically charged food items. We believe that asymmetric power relations are decipherable by the presence of particular plant remains in specific archaeological contexts. Additionally, archaeobotanical samples help us to describe the local paleoecology, and locate the cultural landscape of cultivated, tolerated, and wild plants. With this catalog we rely upon one of the most comprehensive Neotropical herbaria, the Macbride Herbarium, to establish a baseline morphological reference resource to identify archaeobotanical remains recovered by archaeologists working in the Neotropical lowlands of the Maya area. Most of the vouchers represented relate directly to the seminal botanical work of the area compiled by Stanley, Bartlett, Lundell, etc. (1), and ethnobotanical work developed by Roys (2). Providing a well-sourced digital voucher library can thus remove one important obstacle to regional archaeobotanical work, and aid in our understanding of the past.



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References

  1. Botany of the Maya Area. Miscellaneous Papers of the Carnegie Institution of Washington Vols. 1-13 (1936) and Vols. 14-21 (1940), Washington, D.C.
  2. Roys, Ralph Loveland. 1931. The Ethno-Botany of the Maya. The Department of Middle American Research, The Tulane University of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA.


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