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Abstract Detail

Economic Botany Section

Zidar, Charles [1], Elisens, Wayne [2].

Depiction of Bombacoideae on Maya ceramics in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize.

Ceramics from the Maya Classic Period (250-900 AD) and the Southern Lowlands region were examined for iconographic images of Malvaceae subfamily Bombacoideae. Bombacoids were relatively easy to recognize as images on Mayan cultural artifacts, had inferred importance to the ancient Maya, and had known significance to the Maya in historical times. Among ten species of Bombacoideae native to Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, at least six were utilized by the Maya and have Mayan names. We were able to discern four or five bombacoid species representing four genera: Ceiba, Pachira, Pseudobombax, and Quararibea. Images of growth form, trunk spines, flowers, and fruit/seed hairs are most commonly represented. Trunk spines of Ceiba pentandra, the Maya ‘World Tree’, were depicted commonly on burial urns and incensarios. Flowers of Pseudobombax ellipticum, a plant used to make ceremonial beverages, were most similar to floral images portrayed on vessels, bowls, and plates; although the morphologically similar flowers of Pachira aquatica also may be depicted. Plants representing Quararibea funebris or Q. guatemalteca, which were used during preparation of cacao beverages, were discernable on drinking vessels. Endocarp hairs of Ceiba pentandra used as a stuffing material were portrayed on polychrome vessels. Our observations of bombacoid images on ceramics indicated that several species were culturally significant to the Maya and most likely had utilitarian as well as ritualistic functions.

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1 - Missouri Botanical Garden, PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO, 63166, USA
2 - University of Oklahoma, Botany & Microbiology and Oklahoma Biological Survey, 770 Van Vleet Oval, Norman, Oklahoma, 73019, USA


Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for BSA Sections
Session: 42
Location: Magpie B/Cliff Lodge - Level B
Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Time: 10:45 AM
Number: 42003
Abstract ID:169