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Ancient Mayan Entrepreneurs

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posted on Apr, 5 2005 @ 08:07 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ancient Mayan entrepreneurs working along the coast of what is now Belize distilled salt from seawater and paddled it to inland cities in canoes, all without government control, researchers reported on Monday.

They found evidence of 41 saltworks on a single coastal lagoon and the remains of a 1,300-year-old wooden canoe paddle.

Their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows the extent of trade just before the Mayan civilization in that region mysteriously fell apart.

"The discovery of the saltworks indicates that there was extensive production and distribution of goods and resources outside the cities in the interior of the Yucatan," they wrote.

"To me the exciting thing is that, in addition to the paddle ... these saltworks that we have found in the lagoon indicate the importance of non-state-controlled production in pre-industrial societies," said Heather McKillop of the Department of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University, who led the study.

"I think at some point there was a complex system of production and trade that is only beginning to be figured out, including, probably, overland transport using human porters and also travel up and down river and lagoon systems using canoes," she added in a telephone interview.

Although Mayan art depicts canoe traders, the discovery of the paddle fragment is the first wooden artifact from the period, McKillop said.

McKillop and colleagues discovered the salt factories by snorkeling in the clear waters of the Punta Ycacos Lagoon on the coast of Belize. They date to between 600 and 900 AD.

"They were abandoned about AD 900, at the same time as the inland cities were abandoned," she said.

Ceramic pots at the sites suggest Maya workers boiled seawater to collect the salt.

The trade clearly went both ways. In the salt-producing areas, McKillop's team also found artifacts that would have been made inland.

"There are little figurine whistles and also some pottery with stamped decorations around the shoulders of jars and outsides of vessels," she said.

Before her team's search, four other salt workshops had been found in the lagoon but the extent and details of the regional salt-making operations were unclear.

This really fascinating! It makes me wonder just how far the Mayan empire reached.

posted on Apr, 5 2005 @ 08:29 AM
Native Americans (of all groups) had quite extensive trade networks. The Mound Builders, for instance, were trading all up and down the Missisippi river, and the Jumanos (who lived in the hot, arid deserts of Texas/Mexico), were roving traders, bringing goods from the Caddos over to the Pueblos and up to the Comanches.

I've looked at a piece of hematite that was found at Paint Rock that came (by foot) from a place three hundred miles away, and good flint (for spears, knives, and arrowheads) can be traded over distances as far away as 500 miles.

Pottery wasn't quite as portable, nor were textile goods. Hides did get traded around.

I have a picture of maps that showed the North American trade routes, and if you had wanted to (in the days before Columbus showed up), it would be possible for a a necklace from Florida to end up in Oregon.

I was pretty amazed.

posted on Jun, 10 2005 @ 02:54 PM
That is really interesting!

I have something to share. My Step Father recently found an Arrow Head in Ford Co. TX .
It is an Obsidian , or Glass , very beautiful I might add, it seems to me that it may have been re-worked , or reused .
As far as I know , which isn't much, there isn't any sources of Obsidian around here , so it must have come from Mexico .

I'm sure that there must have been a lot of trade going on between tribes.

Unfurtunatly as I was about to take a Picture of it for this post , I droped it and it shattered!!! I'm SOOO SAD about it !!!!

Not exaclty what I had in mind !!! Murphy's Law in action I guess.

[edit on 10-6-2005 by lost_shaman]

posted on Jun, 10 2005 @ 03:08 PM

Originally posted by Byrd

I have a picture of maps that showed the North American trade routes, and if you had wanted to (in the days before Columbus showed up), it would be possible for a a necklace from Florida to end up in Oregon.

I was pretty amazed.

For many years foresters wondered about small isolated stands of Ponderosa Pine that stretched down the Mississippi River nearly to the mouth. It was quite an academic debate for awhile, with arguing the native range once covered that area and these were remnants, and others contending seeds must have been washed down from the Rockies. DNA analysis finally showed all the trees came from the same genetic phenotype -- meaning the origin trees were all in close proximity to each other. The new theory is pine nuts were carried by trading parties from the Rockies down the river system and some were accidently spilled along the way. Subsequent research finally located the original stand of P. Pine in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon. Quite a distance for food seeds to travel.

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