This study investigates the animal use of the ancient inhabitants of Moxviquil, a small urban center in the Jovel Valley of highland Chiapas, Mexico, that was occupied during the Late Classic (AD 600-900) and Early Postclassic periods (AD 900-1250). Zooarchaeological remains were recovered from the monumental zone, from a neighboring hilltop residential group, and from the funerary cave located immediately below the residential group. Rather than a hard boundary between house and wilderness, sacred and profane, the distribution of different species and elements reflect the ways in which animals and animal products were interwoven through the fabric of cultural practice. Domestic spaces reflect the selective husbandry and hunting of animals for everyday living, compared to the high-status crafts and dedicatory contexts of royal residences, and the carefully constructed microcosm of ritual activities represented in the funerary cave. Following Rapoport (1982) and Barthes (2012), we use a framework of low-level, mid-level and high-level meanings to understand everyday hunting and domestication practice, status and exchange relationships, and medicinal and ceremonial uses. Considering the meanings of particular animal species can provide a holistic perspective on the cultural practices that shaped royal, residential and ritual spaces at Moxviquil, and provide a perspective on broader issues of agro-urbanism and resiliency in highland Maya polities.
Maya, zooarchaeology, hunting, husbandry, exchange, ritual, Chiapas.