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Traces of ancient Mayan beekeeping found in Quintana Roo

Riviera Maya, Q.R. — In a recent dig, INAH specialists found three limestone jobón lids, which are believed to be signs of ancient beekeeping activity. Personnel from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) made the discovery along section 6 of the Maya Train.

In a report, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said beekeeping has been part of the daily life of the Mayan population of the Yucatan Peninsula since pre-Hispanic times.

Codices such as the Madrid or the Tro-Cortesiano and some chronicles from the Indies, report that ancient indigenous people used honey as food, as an object of barter and in ceremonies.

As part of the archaeological rescue work in Section 6 of the Mayan Train (Tulum – Chetumal), a team of specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), coordinated by archaeologist Raquel Liliana Hernández Estrada, recovered three jobón caps on front 5, which covers the municipalities of Bacalar and Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in Quintana Roo, a cultural area known as the Los Lagos region.

This type of archaeological material is mainly associated with the northern area of the entity, as has been confirmed by various studies carried out by INAH archaeologists, Luis Alberto Martos López, Manuel Eduardo Pérez Rivas and María Flores Hernández.

However, this discovery, the researcher pointed out, supports what some chroniclers, such as Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, observed in the territories that today make up southern Quintana Roo, which raises the hypothesis that Mayan meliponiculture spread to this area of the state.

The panuchos, as the tapas are colloquially known, detailed archaeologist Carlos Fidel Martínez Sánchez, are round and were made with limestone, measure 20 by 25 centimeters, and are believed to belong to the Postclassic period (950-1539 AD).

“Only one of them is in a good state of conservation, while the other two have a high degree of erosion,” he said.

The discovery, the researcher detailed, was recorded when excavating what was thought to be an albarrada in the area known as Estación, Hhever, upon finding the lids, the hypothesis changed and it was determined that they were the vestiges of a meliponary.

The name of the structure comes from the native species Melipona beecheii, xunán kab in Mayan, an identity element of the peninsular population.

Photos: Courtesy of the excavation team front 5, section 6 of the Maya Train

In addition to the jobón lids, other utilitarian archaeological materials of ceramics, lithics and flint were found at the site, among which a cajete with decorations in red and orange tones stands out, a hand of limestone metate, 40 centimeters long, a metate 50 centimeters long, an axe, a hammer and a star-shaped shell bead.

Front 5, pointed out archaeologist Hernández Estrada, represents the testimony of the common life of people who did not belong to the elite, “probably, we are in the presence of housing complexes from cities peripheral to ceremonial sites, such as the Archaeological Zone of Chacchoben and the Los Limones site.”

Until now, he pointed out, 261 monuments have been counted, corresponding to remains of residential areas, most of them close to the towns of Sabanitas and Estación, which are in the analysis stage in the laboratories.

The monuments registered in Sabanitas, he concluded, are foundations, albarradas and some small plinths. While in the Station area, some foundations and minor basements, deteriorated by human activity were also found.