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Chemical Signatures of Middens at a Late Classic Maya Residential Complex, Guatemala

Authors


  • Scientific editing by Nicholas Dunning

Corresponding author;E-mail: markus.eberl@vanderbilt.edu

Abstract

Phosphorus (P) and other chemical elements have been used to identify residential middens at archaeological sites. This study discusses the relationship of soil chemical elements and middens at Group Chispa, a Late Classic residential complex at a commoner village in the Maya lowlands. The complex was extensively excavated and soil sampled. Ceramic sherd densities, which serve as a proxy for artifact densities, correlate only partially with phosphorus and other chemical elements. One of the three middens in Group Chispa coincides with the highest concentration of P while the two others—including the most extensive one—have medium to low P levels. A spectrum of human activities that include the preparation of pigments explains the nontraditional distribution of chemical elements. High P levels remain useful to detect middens but they provide an incomplete picture and need to be contextualized by comprehensive archaeological data.

Ancillary