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Ancient Maya wood selection and forest exploitation: a view from the Paynes Creek salt works, Belize

Robinson, Mark E., McKillop, Heather I.
Journal of archaeological science 2013 v.40 no.10 pp. 3584-3595
Avicennia germinans, archaeology, bogs, building construction, deforestation, foraging, forest resources, forests, fuels, landscapes, national parks, peatlands, wood, Belize
Ancient building construction wood preserved in a peat bog below the seafloor in a shallow mangrove lagoon in Paynes Creek National Park, Belize, provides an exceptional record of Classic Maya wood use. Identifications of construction wood at Early Classic Chan B'i, and Late Classic Atz'aam Na, are reported and discussed to assess forest exploitation and species selection over time. Black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) dominates the Early Classic assemblage. The Late Classic assemblage is characterized by greater variability and an absence of mangrove species. When considered in the environmental context, identified species conform to principles of optimal foraging. The change in the wood assemblage over time suggests overexploitation of forest resources, resulting in deforestation of the local landscape and subsequent adaptation of foraging behavior. Deforestation is linked to the wider social context in which growing inland populations created demand for salt, putting greater pressure on the forest resources exploited by the Paynes Creek salt works for fuel and timber.