It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
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.
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.