PhD proposal defence: Asta Rand, 4/1/2016
Asta Rand will be defending her PhD proposal on Friday, April 1st from 3:15 -4:45 in QC-2013, entitled'Prehispanic Maya Subsistence and Movement: Determining the Utility of Stable Sulphur Isotope Analysis'.
The prehispanic Maya who inhabited central Mesoamerica from the Preclassic to Postclassic periods (1000 B.C. to A.D. 1500) have been the focus of intensive archaeological study for over a century. In recent decades, developments in archaeological conceptualizations of migration combined with the data generated from isotopic techniques have lead to more detailed understandings of prehispanic Maya movement and subsistence practices.
Stable sulphur isotope (δ34S) analysis is a novel technique that has successfully been used to differentiate sources of protein and to identify nonlocal individuals in several archaeological contexts elsewhere in the world. The effectiveness of this method is based on the existence of sufficient variation in δ34S values throughout a region to allow for source of protein to be differentiated. The environments inhabited by the prehispanic Maya were highly variable, and associated variation in their sulphur isotope composition was estimated based on what is known of δ34S values from comparable environs elsewhere in the world. The results of a pilot study conducted on 14 human skeletons from the minor Maya centre of Caledonia (Belize) support the estimated local environmental δ34S values. Subsequent analysis of δ34S values from the Caledonia faunal remains will provide more detailed information on the sulphur isotope composition near the site.
The proposed research will, therefore, verify estimated variations in the environmental sulphur isotope composition of the Maya region by obtaining baseline δ34S values from faunal bone recovered from multiple sites throughout this region. Once sufficient variation in baseline δ34S values from faunal remains has been established, it will be possible to analyze additional human remains from Maya sites. The extensive research into prehispanic Maya movement and subsistence not only provides the context within which the utility of this novel isotopic technique may be tested, but also allows for a holistic interpretation of prehispanic Maya life using a multidisciplinary approach.