Skip to comments.Ancient Maya Entrepreneurs Made Salt, Study Finds
Posted on 04/05/2005 10:15:38 AM PDT by anymouse
Ancient Mayan entrepreneurs working along the coast of what is now Belize distilled salt from seawater and paddled it to inland cities in canoes, all without government control, researchers reported on Monday.
They found evidence of 41 saltworks on a single coastal lagoon and the remains of a 1,300-year-old wooden canoe paddle.
Their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows the extent of trade just before the Mayan civilization in that region mysteriously fell apart.
"The discovery of the saltworks indicates that there was extensive production and distribution of goods and resources outside the cities in the interior of the Yucatan," they wrote.
"To me the exciting thing is that, in addition to the paddle ... these saltworks that we have found in the lagoon indicate the importance of non-state-controlled production in pre-industrial societies," said Heather McKillop of the Department of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University, who led the study.
"I think at some point there was a complex system of production and trade that is only beginning to be figured out, including, probably, overland transport using human porters and also travel up and down river and lagoon systems using canoes," she added in a telephone interview.
Although Mayan art depicts canoe traders, the discovery of the paddle fragment is the first wooden artifact from the period, McKillop said.
McKillop and colleagues discovered the salt factories by snorkeling in the clear waters of the Punta Ycacos Lagoon on the coast of Belize. They date to between 600 and 900 AD.
"They were abandoned about AD 900, at the same time as the inland cities were abandoned," she said.
Ceramic pots at the sites suggest Maya workers boiled seawater to collect the salt.
The trade clearly went both ways. In the salt-producing areas, McKillop's team also found artifacts that would have been made inland.
"There are little figurine whistles and also some pottery with stamped decorations around the shoulders of jars and outsides of vessels," she said.
Before her team's search, four other salt workshops had been found in the lagoon but the extent and details of the regional salt-making operations were unclear.
Hmmm..salt factories and a 1,300 year old paddle. Well that's pretty conclusive proof of something. Now if they can find the kettle and some ancient popcorn residue we'll know for sure that the Mayan culture invented NASCAR.
Or when the government just made the taxes too high...
This was found in an ancient Mayan temple
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Salt was popular as a trade item perhaps back into the stone age, as was obsidian. The silk route lay across the Asian interior and through some pretty heinous dens of thieves, yet it endured for thousands of years, and helped establish maritime trade between China and the Mediterranean as long ago as 3000 years.Cradle of Chocolate?Digging through history to a time before agriculture, archaeologists from Cornell University and the University of California at Berkeley have found evidence of a village that was continuously occupied from 2000 B.C. to A.D. 1000 as well as hints to the secret of the community's remarkable longevity.
by Roger Segelken
Oct. 8, 1998
"My guess is, it all comes down to chocolate," says John S. Henderson, professor of anthropology at Cornell and co-director, together with Rosemary Joyce of Berkeley, of the archaeological dig at Puerto Escondido, Honduras. The type of ceremonial pottery uncovered by the archaeologists points to that region of Mesoamerica as a possible "Cradle of Chocolate."
" all without government control"
We can't have that!!
This could only have been a surprise to academics.
Not possible. All good things come from the Government. Oh, Great Government, mangage me.
Seriesly, really cool.
I am going to go on a dig someday, you just wait.
Most people connect choclate with our current blend of choclate and sugar. In its natural state, however, choclate is bitter rather than sweet (as anyone who's tried Mexican chicken mole can attest). Sugar was not native to the Americas but was brought in as a cash crop by the Europeans who had obtained it from Asia.
However, there is no doubt that the addictive qualities of choclate were prevalent in Mesoamerica.
Yeah, they used it to make a hot drink, a sort of unsweetened cocoa. Not much different in effect than hot coffee, another popular drink. To the world, the Americas contributed corn (maize), tomatos, peppers, potatoes, coffee, chocolate, and (on the darker side) tobacco, cocaine, and marijuana.
Hot Choclate quickly became a Eurpean favorite as well. I wonder who had the bright idea to add sugar? Just thinking about it makes me want to go to the kitchen and fix a cup.
What part of the salt bowls or the paddle did they extrapolate this from?
Marijuana (C. sativa, C. indica, and C. rubeydis) is native to Asia (and possibly Africa), not the new world.
Other new-world plants include peanuts, pineapples, sweetpotatoes, numerous legumes, cashews, papayas, squashes, and guavas. Cotton appears to have been domesticated both in the old world (short-staple cotton) and new world (long-staple cotton).
Good call, my mistake. Heyerdahl (and others before and since) claimed that American domesticated cotton is a hybrid between wild cotton and old-world cotton. Couldn't find anything when I looked just now.
Also the strawberries varieties we now grow are a product of two native North American varieties.
Cotton has been cultivated in Peru for thousands of years...
And this, from here: http://lamar.colostate.edu/~samcox/Beans.html
An important fiber crop for several civilizations, cotton was undoubtedly domesticated multiple times. Very little argument on this point can be made since domesticated forms were found on both sides of the Atlantic much earlier than any known trans-Atlantic travel. However, independent domestication has even been suggested in the New World, based on several lines of evidence (Pickersgill, 1977). Altogether, cotton has likely been domesticated four times around the world (Sauer, 1993).
There are four domesticated species of cotton. Prior to the relatively recent expansion of cotton production into temperate zones, all cultivars were perrenial shrubs or trees (Harlan, 1992). Only species possessing the A genome produce filamentous fibers used for textiles.
East of the Atlantic, the diploid (AA) Gossypium herbaceum was most likely domesticated in Ethiopia. The exact date is not known, but Theophrastus recorded seeing a "wool bearing tree", which was probably cotton, in 350 B.C. G. arboreum, another AA diploid, seems to have been domesticated in India, where the current center of diversity is. This cotton was more widely used than G. herbaceum in the Old World prior to trans-Atlantic travel.
The New World has four wild tetraploid species (AADD), two of which have been domesticated. Molecular evidence shows that all of the tetraploid cottons contain the same A genome, suggesting that the A genome was incorporated into cotton a very long time ago, perhaps 1-2 million years ago, with subsequent speciation into four distinct groups (Gepts, 1993). Diploid New World cottons do not contain the A genome (Harlan, 1992). The A genome is present, in more or less the same form, on both sides of the Atlantic (Sauer, 1993). This has caused some consternation about the source of the A genome, and possible transport across the Atlantic. The most plausible explanation is that the A genome is very ancient, and probably occupied a range on the ancient continent of Pangea over much of current South America, Africa and India (Harlan, 1992). The immediate ancestor of either cotton species is not definitively known, and may be extinct (Gepts, 1993)
Evidence of multiple New World domestication is primarily archeaological. G. barbadense was domesticated in South America. Remains of this cotton were found in a site dated to 2500 B.C. G. hirsutem was probably domesticated in Mexico, since definitive remains of domesticated cotton have been found at a site dated to 3500 B.C. Both domestication centers are centers of diversity for their respective species (Gepts, 1993). The early presence of both domesticated species in geographically isolated areas strongly suggests independent domestication. Although the two species are morphologically similar, they are easily distinguished by isozyme alleles (Gepts, 1993).
Given the evidence, it can safely be concluded that cotton was domesticated four times in India, Africa, Mexico and South America.
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