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Earth Ovens ( Píib ) in the Maya Lowlands: Ethnobotanical Data Supporting Early Use



Carmen Salazar Daniel Zizumbo-Villarreal Stephen B. Brush Patricia Colunga-GarcíaMarín patricia.colunga@gmail.com Unidad de Recursos Naturales, Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán Mérida México Human and Community Development Department University of California Davis USA Earth Ovens ( Píib ) in the Maya Lowlands: Ethnobotanical Data Supporting Early Use . Earth oven cooking is very important among the Yucatec Maya. It is used for daily, festive, and ceremonial occasions, contrasting with other Mesoamerican cultures that use this technique sporadically. In this paper we present an ethnobotanical analysis of the use of earth ovens in a Maya community in Yucatan, Mexico, and discuss its possible antiquity, probable reasons for its continuity, and its current and past importance. We found four oven types in daily use as well as in ritual and celebratory contexts. These involve both men and women in a way that favors transmission of traditional knowledge to the next generation and promotes social bonding and ethnic identity. Of the 46 plant species used in their construction or for the dishes cooked in them, 82% are native and produced in traditional agricultural systems: milpa ( kool in Maya) maize-bean-squash association and conuco ( pach pakal in Maya) based on tubers such as manioc ( Manihot esculenta Crantz). Research suggests that this food preparation technology has the same antiquity as its associated agricultural systems (approximately 3400 to 3000 B.C.E.). Earth ovens were probably used to cook roots and meat in the Archaic and then to cook tamales (vegetal-wrapped maize dough) beginning in the Preclassic. Continuity of traditional agricultural and cultural practices has favored preservation of earth ovens.



Economic BotanySpringer Journals

Published: Sep 1, 2012

DOI: 10.1007/s12231-012-9207-2

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