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Applying new approaches to modeling diet and status: isotopic evidence for commoner resiliency and elite variability in the Classic Maya lowlands


Classic Maya states were characterized by a high degree of socioeconomic stratification. This paper investigates the degree to which status, as defined by grave goods and tomb construction, influenced dietary patterns of elites and commoners throughout the Classic Period (200e900/1000 AD) of the southern lowlands. We compile a database (N ¼ 102) of previously-published stable isotope ratios (d13C
collagen, d13C apatite, and d15N collagen) from Maya bone mineral and collagen, and interrogate these
data through two new isotopic modeling techniques: a simple carbon isotope model (Kellner and Schoeninger, 2007; Froehle et al., 2010) and a multivariate isotope model (Froehle et al., 2012). We find that Maya elite diet varied significantly through time in terms of maize consumption and trophic level, while commoner diet remained remarkably stable. These findings provide new information relevant to studies of ancient Maya class structure and to studies of subsistence strategies of the pre-Columbian Americas.