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Childhood stress among the postclassic Maya of Mayapan
journal contributionposted on 04.07.2018, 00:00 authored by Stanley SerafinStanley Serafin
Nearly forty years ago, Sabloff and Rathje hypothesized that living standards for most Maya were better in the Postclassic than in the Classic period (Rathje, 1975; Sabloff and Rathje, 1975). While the reconstruction of past health has been a traditional focus of Maya skeletal studies, most have focused on the Classic period. This study aims to redress this shortcoming by presenting the results of analyses of indicators of childhood stress in the Mayapan skeletal series, the largest Late Postclassic sample presently available. Data from porotic hyperstosis and linear enamel hypoplasias (LEH) are integrated with archaeological context from diverse sectors at the site. A relatively high frequency of porotic hyperostosis (60%, N=40) was observed. Taken with together with previous research that found relatively low frequencies of caries, the elevated frequency of porotic hyperostosis was likely due to high parasitic and infectious disease loads rather than iron-deficiency anemia. Lower LEH frequencies were observed in Mayapan’s ceremonial center (31% of maxillary central incisors, N=16) compared with residential areas (90%, N=10). We interpret this as indicating that individuals buried outside the monumental zone were more likely to survive episodes of stress during childhood. This was expected based on the high proportion of possible sacrificial victims in the site center sample as well as the concentration of relatively elaborate burials outside the site center. The results presented here contribute to reconstructions of the temporal and regional diversity in Maya health.