Beekeeping has been a deeply rooted practice in the daily life of the Mayan population of the Yucatán Peninsula since pre-Hispanic times, as evidenced by various codices, such as the Madrid or the Tro-Cortesian, as well as some chronicles of the Indies, which mention that the ancient indigenous people used honey both as food, an object of barter, and in ceremonies.

As part of the archaeological salvage work on Section 6 of the Maya Train, which spans from Tulum to Chetumal, a team of specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), under the coordination of archaeologist Raquel Liliana Hernández Estrada, recovered three jobón lids in Front 5, which includes the municipalities of Bacalar and Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in Quintana Roo, a region culturally known as Los Lagos.

These archaeological materials are mainly associated with the northern part of the state, according to various studies conducted by INAH archaeologists such as Luis Alberto Martos López, Manuel Eduardo Pérez Rivas, and María Flores Hernández. However, this discovery, according to researcher Hernández Estrada, supports the observations of chroniclers like Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, who documented the presence of meliponiculture in the territories that today constitute the south of Quintana Roo, suggesting that this Mayan practice extended to that area.

The findings represent the testimony of daily life in the periphery of the great ancient cities.
The findings represent the testimony of daily life in the periphery of the great ancient cities. Credit: Excavation team excavating front 5, section 6 of the Maya Train / INAH

Carlos Fidel Martínez Sánchez, another archaeologist on the team, explained that the lids, colloquially known as panuchos, are round and were made from limestone, measuring between 20 and 25 centimeters, and are believed to date from the Postclassic period (950-1539 AD). Of the three recovered lids, only one is in good condition, while the other two show a high degree of erosion.

The discovery was made during the excavation of what was initially thought to be an albarrada in the area known as Estación. However, upon finding the lids, the hypothesis changed, determining that they were the remains of a meliponary. This structure owes its name to the native species Melipona beecheii, known in Mayan as xunán kab, an identity element of the peninsular population.

In addition to the jobón lids, other utilitarian archaeological materials were found at the site, including ceramic, lithic, and flint artifacts, among which a bowl decorated in red and orange tones, a limestone metate hand measuring 40 centimeters long, a 50-centimeter-long metate, an axe, a percussor, and a star-shaped shell bead stand out.

Remains of ancient Maya beekeeping in Quintana Roo.
Remains of ancient Maya beekeeping in Quintana Roo. Credit: Excavation team excavating front 5, section 6 of the Maya Train / INAH

Archaeologist Hernández Estrada noted that Front 5 represents the testimony of the common life of people who did not belong to the elite, suggesting that these are housing complexes of peripheral cities to ceremonial precincts such as the Chacchoben Archaeological Zone and the Los Limones site. To date, 261 monuments corresponding to remains of housing areas have been counted, mainly near the localities of Sabanitas and Estación, which are being analyzed in the laboratories.

In Sabanitas, the registered monuments include foundations, albarradas, and some small bases, while in the Estación area, foundations and smaller bases, deteriorated by human activity, were also found.

The federal Ministry of Culture, through INAH, continues with the research and preservation of national heritage within the framework of the Maya Train project, led by the head of the archaeological salvage, Manuel Eduardo Pérez Rivas.

  • Share this article:

Discover more from LBV Magazine English Edition

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.