Archaeologists working at the Maya site of Vista Alegre on the Yucatan coast are developing a new perspective on the Maya market system. Vista Alegre is about 100 miles from Chichen Itza, and hundreds of years older. The site was part of a complex network that is revealing a robust system of sea traders, dotting the coastline at 30 mile intervals. Study of the bones of these coastal Maya show that they were healthier than the inland Maya due to their diet of protein rich seafood. Their funeral remains also show their society was more egalatarian, with less elongated head shaping and dental modifications free of jade and obsidian.
The coastal Maya were more of a melting pot of people traveling up and down the coast. Ancient war wounds on the bones of the coastal people show more women killed in violent acts, and many survived battle. The probable explanation for this is that the conflicts on the coast were from pirate raids. And the layout of the sites on the coast points to defenses against marauders.
Recently, researchers uncovered salt works along the Belize coast, and the artifacts uncovered there point to a salt making industry all along the Maya coast. And trading canoes would be laden with salt all along the coastal area. These canoes would also carry Quetzal feathers, jade, shells, and obsidian to transport across Mesoamerica.
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