The Oscellated turkey was more than a source of protein for the Maya
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Wednesday June 21, 2017

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Wild turkey as represented in the Dresden codex

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The Oscellated turkey was more than a source of protein for the Maya

Let's talk turkey! Thanksgiving is a major US holiday and having a stuffed turkey is essential to the meal. For Belizeans, the turkey is most favored as a Christmas time treat. But did you know the ancient Maya saw them as more than just a feasting mouthful? The Oscellated turkey, to be precise, was more than a source of protein for the Maya. Through archaeological, epigraphic, and historical sources we know that the turkey, in particular the male due to his bright plumage, played important roles in rituals, particularly those that celebrated the passage of time into the new year. Archaeological records suggest that wild turkeys were eaten sporadically and were more likely used in ritual contexts. The Maya called this turkey 'kuutz'.

Photograph courtesy Institute of Archaeology (NICH) Belize

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