The children of Kaminaljuyu: Isotopic insight into diet and long distance interaction in Mesoamerica Academic Article uri icon


  • Known for its spectacular tombs and adobe talud-tablero architecture, the highland Guatemalan city of Kaminaljuyu is key to models of long distance interaction in Mesoamerica. We use stable isotopic data from human bone, dentine and tooth enamel to reconstruct Kaminaljuyu's dietary history. Stable carbon isotope ratios and alkaline earth ratios of enamel carbonate indicate a decline in maize consumption from Preclassic to Classic periods, perhaps due to the desiccation of Lake Miraflores, which was used to irrigate Late Preclassic fields. Stable oxygen and strontium isotope ratios in enamel shed light on the geographic origin of Early Classic skeletons, and show that the central skeletons in the tombs were local children. However, four decapitated skulls and two peripheral skeletons show enriched oxygen ratios, similar to Lowland Maya sites. Strontium isotope ratios indicate that most of these are from an area underlain by Cretaceous limestones; one is from a metamorphic region. Two individuals may have traveled to or from Central Mexico. The greater evidence for lowland individuals among the tomb skeletons implies that political connections with the Maya area were more significant to elites at Kaminaljuyu than was direct contact with Central Mexico. 2010 Elsevier Inc.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Wright, L. E., Antonio Valdes, J., Burton, J. H., Price, T. D., & Schwarcz, H. P.

citation count

  • 59

complete list of authors

  • Wright, Lori E||Antonio Valdes, Juan||Burton, James H||Price, T Douglas||Schwarcz, Henry P

publication date

  • January 2010