How 'mobile' Maya civilization settled down revealed

A new study has provided a deeper insight into how Maya civilization's mobile, hunter-gatherer lifestyle turned into a sedentary way of life.

Washington: A new study has provided a deeper insight into how Maya civilization's mobile, hunter-gatherer lifestyle turned into a sedentary way of life.

Led by University of Arizona archaeologists Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan, the team's excavations of the ancient Maya lowlands site of Ceibal suggest that as the society transitioned from a heavy reliance on foraging to farming, mobile communities and settled groups co-existed and may have come together to collaborate on construction projects and participate in public ceremonies.

A public plaza uncovered at Ceibal dates to about 950 B.C., with surrounding ceremonial buildings growing to monumental sizes by about 800 B.C. Yet, evidence of permanent residential dwellings in the area during that time is scarce.

Most people were still living a traditional hunter-gatherer-like lifestyle, moving from place to place throughout the rainforest, as they would continue to do for five or six more centuries.

Inomata and his colleagues theorize that groups with varying degrees of mobility came together to construct the buildings and to participate in public ceremonies over the next several hundred years. Those processes likely helped them to bond socially and eventually make the transition to a fully sedentary society.

The transition was gradual, with the Maya making the shift to a fully sedentary agrarian society, reliant on maize, by about 400 or 300 B.C., Inomata said.

The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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