Most of what we know about Mayan civilization relates to kings, queens and their elaborate temples. To understand what life was like for the 99 percent, one researcher turned to ancient animal bones stored at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Ashley Sharpe, a doctoral student at the museum on the UF campus, says the picture researchers have painted of the Maya people isn't broad enough.
"When you think about the Romans and the Greeks, we know a lot about all of the different social classes -- from the Caesars down to the commoners -- but although there were tens of thousands of middle-class and lower-income Maya in big cities, we still don't know much about the everyday lives of most people."
For the first time in Maya archaeology research, 22,000 animal remains at the museum, one of the largest collections of its kind outside of Central America, were used as clues about life in the Maya lower classes. The bones revealed that the civilization known for its art and astronomy also had political and economic systems that were more complex than previously thought - systems similar to modern societies. The details are described in a new study appearing online this month in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.