Economic plant species associated with prehistoric agriculture in the Maya lowlands

B. L. Turner, Charles H. Miksicek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


The issue of plant species used by the ancient Maya of the Yucatan region previous to A.D. 900-1,000 has involved a number of types of arguments, 5 of which are identified: ecological speculation, ethnobotany, plant relicts, linguistics/ iconography, and plant remains/fossils. Recent emphasis on uncovering and analyzing plant remains from Maya occupational and agricultural relics demonstrates that direct evidence from archaeological contexts can be obtained. This evidence, including fossil pollen, seeds, and stem and wood fragments, is used to evaluate various issues involving those species proposed to have been used by the Maya. The results support views dealing with the dominance of maize as a staple and the use of squash, agave, cotton, and tree species. Propositions concerning significance of ramón, cacao, root crops, and amaranth are not yet supported by direct evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-193
Number of pages15
JournalEconomic Botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


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