Bioarchaeological analysis can help identify patterns of mortuary ritual and social experience of ancient Maya peoples. However, there is limited bioarchaeological and mortuary evidence for the relationship between the development of social complexity and social experience. Particularly, how is social organization reflected in patterns of burial practice and skeletal markers of stress. This thesis uses osteobiographies to contextualize the mortuary and biological profiles of 20 individuals interred at the Maya site of Holtun, Guatemala to examine bioarchaeological variation during the Preclassic (800 B.C. – 250 A.D.) and Late Classic (550 A.D. – 900 A.D.) periods. This work highlights the integration of comparative osteobiographic analyses from small samples into the exploration of individual identities and social experiences. By incorporating architectural contexts, mortuary evidence, and osteology, the individual becomes the focus of study. When each individual is examined for mortuary features, sex, age, and evidence of stress, these lives in focus become salient portraits of ancient humans as complex social beings with intertwined identities at Holtun, essentially deploying a bioarchaeology of personhood. Results of this thesis identified common trends of the mortuary program and biological health status of individuals throughout the chronology of Holtun. Individuals were most commonly interred in simple graves or cists in an extended supine position with head oriented to the north. Additionally, very few indicators of childhood stress or systemic pathology were identified, though females at Holtun seemed to disproportionately suffer from carious lesions compared to males. In addition to these trends, evidence for intentional body modification, individual mortuary assemblages, and daily activity stress markers all indicate variation in the social identities of these individuals. Overall, this study affirms the strength that a small sample can have in contributing to the exploration of social organization and identity reflected through a contextualized osteobiographic approach. These results enhance our understanding of increasing mortuary and biological variation during the Preclassic and Late Classic period southern Maya lowlands, and offer new insight into the complex development of social organization and individual social experience at Holtun, Guatemala.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Palacios, Horvey, "Bioarchaeological and Mortuary Patterns at Holtun, Guatemala: Integrating a Comparative Osteobiographic Approach" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 741.