Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Lori Wright – Reconstructing Infant and Children's Diets of the Ancient Maya at Tikal, Guatemala

Monday, December 3, 2018

4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

Lori Wright, Texas A&M University. 

In my bioarchaeological research on the ancient Maya of Central America, I study how cultural behaviors and health each leave their mark on the human skeleton, emphasizing: 1) the reconstruction of prehistoric diets and mobility through stable isotopic analyses of bones and teeth, and 2) the evaluation of health status using pathological lesions and signs of growth arrest during childhood.

In recent years, I have explored distinctions in diet and health among social groups and through time at the ancient Maya city of Tikal, Guatemala. I document childhood diets by measuring carbon stable isotope ratios of tooth enamel and I identify the skeletons of foreign migrants using strontium and oxygen isotope ratios, which vary with geological substrates and rainwater composition, respectively. My strontium isotope work at Tikal has refuted the epigraphic identification of one of TikalÕs Early Classic rulers as a foreign child, and demonstrates that a sizeable proportion of Tikal skeletons are individuals who spent their childhoods elsewhere.

Since my early student years, I have been interested in teeth as time capsules of human developmental history.  I have studied enamel hypoplasias and Wilson bands in tooth enamel from a variety of archaeological sites.  Tooth enamel records the developmental history of a child in its crystalline structure, both in terms of morphology and chemistry.  My newest research direction uses this microstructural anatomy to estimate deciduous tooth crown completion times.

Part of the Pre-Columbian Lecture Series

Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies