It is well known that the development of the ancient Maya civilization had significant and long-lasting impacts on the environment. This study assesses a large collection of faunal remains (>35,000 specimens) recovered over a span of several kilometers in and around the archaeological site of Ceibal, Guatemala, in order to determine whether the composition of animal resources was continuous throughout the site's history between 1000 BC and AD 1200, or whether there were any changes that could be attributed to sociopolitical or environmental causes. Results show a steep uniform decline in the number of freshwater mollusks across the site that occurred during the Preclassic to Classic transition, when large region-wide political changes, including the development of more complex and centralized political organization, took place throughout the Maya region. Evidence of species introductions (e.g., turkeys from central Mexico and possibly the Dermatemys river turtle from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec) and variations in resource exchange (e.g. marine shells) over time indicate that Ceibal was one of likely many communities involved in long-distance animal exchange networks. The results of the faunal analysis at Ceibal show how the ancient Maya had a complex and ever-changing relationship with the local wildlife, with outcomes that can still be observed in the environment today.
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