Site occupation and phenotypic variation at Colha, Belize
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The purpose of this research project is to use regional biodistance analysis to better understand site occupation history and burial patterns amongst a prehistoric population from the lowland Maya site of Colha, Belize. Regional biodistance analysis is a technique used by bioarchaeologists to better understand familial relationships between archaeological populations. It has been used to study migration patterns, marriage customs, and burial practices. This research project contributes to the body of knowledge concerning Maya culture. This research will use intracemetery analysis, a type of regional biodistance analysis, to analyze occupation history and burial practices at Colha. In particular, nonmetric traits will be used to determine phenotypic variability. The Colha site is known for large-scale lithic manufacture, standardized tool production, and early evidence for craft specialization. This suggests that there may have been continued occupation of the site over a long period of time by the same family group who possessed the skills needed to produce the lithics. If this is the case, there should be low phenotypic variability among the skeletal population because of limited introduction of new genetic material. Also, most of the skeletal materials were found in Lots 110, 223 and Lot 107, which was a crypt, from Operation 2031. The individuals from Lots 110 and 223 may represent a family group because of their location underneath the floor of the same house. It is also possible that the crypt represents a form of ancestor veneration conducted by the same family. If this is the case, there should be low phenotypic variability between these different lots. This would be further evidence of continued occupation of the site by a family group. Thirty-three cranial nonmetric traits were gathered from 30 individuals to determine phenotypic variability. Mean Measure of Divergence and Fisher’s Exact Test were used to analyze the traits. The sample was divided into three different groupings of two to compare the individuals. In all tests, results were statistically insignificant which indicates that there is high phenotypic similarity among the individuals from Colha Operation 2031.