chapter  Chapter Twelve
20 Pages

Migration and mobility in the eastern Maya Lowlands

WithCarolyn Freiwald

Population movement relates to many important questions in Mesoamerica, from the large-scale migration of Itza and Mexica groups, to the origins of kings and abandonment of great cities. Differentiating migration from trade or travel can be difficult, but isotope geochemistry methods have driven renewed interest in Maya mobility. This chapter describes what strontium isotope ratios have revealed about population movement in the Maya region, including the migration of men, women, and children of elite and non-elite status into large cities and small communities across the Lowlands. Burials from four sites in Belize illustrate how bedrock geology, faunal baseline values, and statistical analyses of human populations are combined with archaeological context to identify both local and non-local populations. New research directions include more in-depth theoretical discussions and continued advances in isotope and aDNA technologies to move from identifying to understanding migration as a demographic process.