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Biological sex estimation using ancient DNA in Classic Maya contexts: some findings from Naachtun (Guatemala)

Estimation du sexe biologique au moyen de l’ADN ancien en contexte Maya classique : un aperçu depuis Naachtun (Guatemala)
Hemmamuthé Goudiaby, Xavier Roca-Rada, Kalina Kassdjikova, Lars Fehren-Schmitz et Bastien Llamas

Résumés

Les récentes avancées en paléogénomique ont ouvert de nouvelles perspectives sur l’étude des pratiques funéraires et des structures sociales en Mésoamérique. Cette note présente les premiers résultats d’un programme en cours dans une petite résidence sur le site de Naachtun (Guatemala) numérotée 5N6. Les possibilités d’estimation du sexe offertes par les analyses de l’ADN ancien révèlent une prédominance de sujets féminins parmi les morts de ce petit groupe. Elles mettent également en valeur la fiabilité des méthodes ostéologiques d’estimation du sexe. Ces résultats laissent entrevoir de vastes possibilités pour le futur de la discipline mayaniste.

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1Whether as a central parameter or a secondary aspect, sex estimation is key to understanding ancient funerary practices. Having an idea of how biological sexes are distributed among a deceased population is fundamental to understanding codified behaviour patterns. However, like many other tropical and subtropical areas, the Maya region is affected by a range of environmental factors that negatively impact the preservation of human bones (e.g., humidity, acidic soils, active flora and fauna). Consequently, the poor condition of human remains often prevents reliable biological sex estimations in ancient Maya contexts.

2The 5N6 residential unit is a small compound located near the monumental core of the ancient Maya city of Naachtun (Guatemala). From 2014 to 2016, it was excavated in order to investigate the complete burial sequence, which would provide an in-depth view of the funerary patterns and dynamics in the residence. The operations were extensive and intensive enough to explore all the buildings down to the bedrock, as well as approximately 55% of the area of the central courtyard, using test pits. The excavations revealed a total of 11 burials, all associated with more or less dramatic changes to the architectural environment – ranging from doors that were sealed immediately after the burials to the construction of an entirely new structure.

3Unfortunately, as expected in such a context, the skeletal remains were damaged and very fragile. To try and circumvent this limitation, discriminant function analyses were performed and pilot samples selected from the seven best-preserved individuals for ancient DNA (aDNA) sequencing. In this note, we describe the first results and implications of this ongoing investigation.

Archaeological context

4Located in northern Petén (Guatemala, figure 1), the city of Naachtun was an important centre in the Maya Lowlands during the Classic Period (250-950/1000 CE). It was involved in various important episodes of the region’s history (Nondédéo et al., 2019a; 2019b) and enjoyed sustained economic prosperity that persisted well after the downfall of other cities and political entities, thanks to long-distance trading networks established by high-ranking families (Nondédéo et al., 2012).

Figure 1

Figure 1

Map of the Maya area showing the location of Naachtun |
Carte de l’aire maya indiquant la localisation de Naachtun

5The 5N6 residential unit (figure 2) is a small cluster consisting of seven dwelling structures located near Naachtun’s monumental core. There is a considerable discrepancy between the architecture of the buildings and the material culture that was discovered in the residential unit. The overall building quality is comparatively poorer than in similar-ranking compounds at the site. An effort was made to decorate doorsteps and platforms with dressed stones, but most of the walls were made of crude, unworked blocks hidden behind a thick plaster layer. Only three structures, on the western and northern sides, displayed a more complex architecture with vaulted stone roofs. The others were made of a masonry base about 50 cm high, completed with pole-and-thatch superstructures. No traces of stucco, polychrome friezes or elaborate ornaments on the front of the benches were found during the excavations.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Plan of the residential unit 5N6 showing the distribution of the burials. The individuals sampled for this study are highlighted in red (61 contains two individuals) |
Plan de l’unité résidentielle 5N6 indiquant la distribution spatiale des sépultures. Les individus sur lesquels des échantillons ont été prélevés pour cette étude sont indiqués en rouge (61 abritait deux individus)

  • 1 http://research.mayavase.com/kerrmaya.html

6In contrast to the architecture, the material culture was of excellent quality, displaying both a high level of education and involvement of the inhabitants in various artisanal activities. A broken jadeite polisher was discovered in the eastern structure (Andrieu 2015:511; figure 3a) and an unpolished jade bead was found in the southern building, the most recent (figure 3b). Such objects are rare in the archaeological record and usually appear in intermediate-elite residential compounds similar to 5N6 (Andrieu et al., 2014:152). Other occupational evidence includes two large chert palettes deposited on the southern structure’s floor (figure 3f). Both present polished, concave surfaces produced by repeated use (Andrieu, 2016:353). A broken shell cup containing remnants of red pigment was found in the western structure (figure 3g). Such containers, used for painting, are documented in the iconography (see for instance the K1221 vase in Justin Kerr’s database1). A machacador, or "bark beater", used to make paper, was present in the southern building (figure 3d). Together with the considerable number of painted pottery sherds (some decorated with pseudo- or real glyphs) and a basic counting operation on a broken pot, which could have been a draft or a learning support (figure 3e), this assemblage portrays a fairly literate social environment. The 5N6 residential unit probably housed middle-to-upper elite crafters who specialized in the production of shell artefacts, pottery painting, paper making and possibly jadeite polishing. They may have sometimes worked for higher social strata – which would explain the generally elevated quality of the material culture (Haviland and Moholy-Nagy, 1992) – while not really being a part of it, which would account at once for the relatively central location of their home and the lower quality of its architecture. All in all, they are probably good representatives of what a specialized, intermediate-elite group looked like at Naachtun during the Classic period.

Figure 3

Several classes of goods recovered during the excavation. From a to c: greenstone-related objects; a: greenstone polisher; b: unpolished greenstone pearl; c: greenstone hatchet. From d to e: writing-related objects; d: bark beater for papermaking; e: ceramic sherd with basic numbers. From f to g: painting-related implements; f: polished chert palettes; g: shell cup with red pigment. From h to i: music-related objects; h: broken drum decorated with pseudo-glyphs; i: whistle figurine shaped in the likeness of a woman |
Différents types de mobilier mis au jour durant la fouille. De a à c : mobilier lié à l’industrie de la pierre verte ; a : polissoir ; b : perle en jadéite non polie ; c : hachette de pierre verte. De d à e : mobilier lié à l’écriture ; d : battoir à écorce pour la fabrication du papier ; e : tesson ayant servi de brouillon pour un calcul basique. De f à g : matériel de peinture ; f : palettes de silex poli ; g : coupelle à pigment rouge en coquillage. De h à i : instruments de musique ; h : tambour décoré de pseudo-glyphes ; i : figurine-sifflet anthropomorphe représentant une femme

7Thanks to the intricate relationship between burials and architecture, the compound’s sequence is also quite clear. The individuals that could be reliably dated span the years from 575 to 778 CE (table 1). The residence probably started its development during the Early Classic Period (250-600 CE), but it is more firmly anchored in the Late Classic (600-950 CE).

Table 1

Table 1

List of the seven sampled individuals with basic contextual parameters |
Liste des sept individus pour lesquels des échantillons ont été prélevés, indiquant quelques données de contexte basiques

8In terms of burial customs, each context represents different variations of local burial traditions (see Goudiaby, 2020; 2022; Goudiaby and Nondédéo, 2020; Goudiaby et al., 2021 for detailed descriptions of the operations and burials). The local norm at Naachtun – to be understood as the dominant practice (Bocquentin et al., 2010) – is represented statistically by 80% of the individuals discovered in the site for whom an archaeo-thanatological study could be performed (n=64). The individuals lay on their backs, heads to the north, upper members either extended or flexed and crossed and lower members extended. This norm does not seem to vary according to sex. Age may be a factor, but the number of subadults is far too low to verify the observation for this category. Our preliminary studies seem to suggest that chronology has more influence, with Early Classic burials being less standardized than later ones. This would confirm a hypothesis that was formulated in the 1990s (Krejci and Culbert, 1995).

  • 2 This individual was too damaged for a clear picture to be obtained in the field, but see Goudiaby a (...)
  • 3 "Foundation" refers to burials that demonstrably occurred before the construction of the structure (...)

9The burials can be divided into several "groups" based on their temporality. The oldest are Burials 53 (575-652 CE, figure 4) and 54 (606-680 CE2). Both individuals were2placed in the graves before the structure covering them was built, which corresponds stratigraphically to an initial wave of "foundation3" burials. Then comes a second wave that corresponds to the building of the 5N-6 structure. Three graves were located beneath it, numbered 40 (an empty or emptied stone-lined pit that was included among the burials for inventory purposes), 41 (645-715 CE, figure 5) and 45 (651-720 CE, figure 6). At this point, the architectural evolution of the residence was almost complete, although three more burials occurred: Burials 43 (664-770 CE, figure 7), 51 (undated, but ceramic vessels in the grave correspond to those in Burial 43 in terms of chronology; Patiño Contreras, 2016; figure 8) and 61 (772-887 CE; a double burial of an adult and a juvenile, figure 9).

Figure 4

Figure 4

Drawing of Burial 43. Note the cylindrical vase decorated with jaguar spots, usually interpreted as a symbol of power |
Relevé de la sépulture 43. Remarquer le vase cylindrique dont le décor imite les taches d’un jaguar, habituellement interprété comme un symbole d’autorité

Figure 5

Figure 5

Drawing of Burial 41. The deer metapodial is usually interpreted as a female implement (Carr, 1996; Ardren, 2002:78) |
Relevé de la sépulture 41. Le métapode de cerf est habituellement interprété comme un marqueur féminin (Carr, 1996; Ardren, 2002:78)

Figure 6

Figure 6

Drawing of Burial 45. This burial contained a "Tikal Dancer" plate depicting a figure known as the Maize God (Taube, 2008) |
Relevé de la sépulture 45. Celle-ci contenait une assiette ornée d’un motif particulier, le "Danseur de Tikal", supposé représenter le dieu du maïs (Taube, 2008)

Figure 7

Figure 7

Drawing of Burial 43. The green stone "hatchet", about 5cm long, may actually be a tool used to burnish pottery |
Relevé de la sépulture 43. La "hachette" de pierre verte, d’environ 5 cm de long, pourrait en fait être un brunissoir à céramique

Figure 8

Figure 8

Burial 51, located beneath an extension of Structure 5N-5’s northern bench |
Relevé de la sépulture 51, localisée sous une extension de la banquette nord de la structure 5N-5

Figure 9

Figure 9

Burial 61, a very unusual double burial. Taphonomic evidence suggests that the younger individual died before the adult (Goudiaby et al., 2021) |
La sépulture 61 constitue une double inhumation inhabituelle. La taphonomie suggère que l’individu le plus jeune est décédé avant l’adulte (Goudiaby et al., 2021)

10Taphonomic details will not be discussed here (for an in-depth discussion see Goudiaby, 2018a; Goudiaby and Nondédéo, 2020; Goudiaby et al., 2021), and four of the burials are not included. Burials 28 and 32, two immatures buried in the south-western corner of the residence (Cotom et al., 2012), were discovered in a test-pit a few years before the first author’s intervention. Since the exact excavation protocol is uncertain, it was decided to postpone the sampling until an initial batch of results could be obtained. Burial 89, discovered in the western structure (5N-5), was severely looted and could not be sampled. Finally, Burial 93 may have been related to the Unit, but was discovered in an isolated structure to the west that warrants further investigation (Goudiaby, 2020).

Determination of biological sex

Visual and metric methods

  • 4 Sex estimation methods that are based on the postcranial skeleton, pelvic bones aside, remain a min (...)

11At the time when Unit 5N6 was first excavated, only two ways of determining each individual’s sex were readily available: either the visual method using the coxal bone (Brůžek, 2002), or Wrobel’s discriminant functions that rely on a set of eighteen morphometric measurements taken on the long bones4 (Wrobel et al., 2002). The visual method could only be applied directly in the field: the coxal bones would not withstand extraction, and on-site consolidation was not an option at the time since the necessary chemicals were not accessible. Because discriminant functions are based on long bones, they are better suited to such damaged contexts. However, to be reliable, they require a high degree of sexual dimorphism in the population and sufficient measurements, including on distal extremities that are often destroyed by roots and stones. Primary sexual diagnosis is much more reliable than the two methods previously mentioned, but was out of the question for the same reasons (Brůžek et al., 2017). Generally speaking, methods that require well-preserved remains and/or numerous subjects are of limited efficiency in the Maya area. Therefore, by the end of the excavation, we had only a lacunar and uncertain idea of sexual distribution within the unit (see table 3 sections IV and V).

Ancient DNA

12This lack of data was the reason for extracting samples for aDNA analysis, as a means to resolve the question of the population profile. For this purpose, teeth were sampled from each individual included in the study. In order to avoid contamination, decayed (presence of cavities) or broken teeth were avoided (O’Rourke et al., 2000:222). Although petrous bones may yield better results for aDNA studies and may be less destructive (Pinhasi et al., 2015; Sirak et al., 2017), the majority of the subjects discovered in the residence simply did not have a sufficiently well preserved temporal portion of the skull.

13The extraction and processing of the ancient DNA was conducted in clean-room facilities at the University of California’s Paleogenomics Laboratory (UCSC), in Santa Cruz, USA, applying strict precautions to minimise contamination (Llamas et al., 2017). Tooth samples were processed while wearing a face mask, visor, hooded coverall, hair-net and gloves, in purpose-built aDNA facilities with positive air pressure and HEPA filtering. Tooth roots were UV-irradiated and wiped with 2% sodium hypochlorite, then 80% ethanol, and powder was collected from the cementum, which is richer in DNA than dentin, using a dental drill. The powder was pre-digested as recommended by Damgaard and colleagues (Damgaard et al., 2015). DNA was extracted using an optimised method to retrieve fragments of degraded ancient DNA (Dabney et al., 2013) and generate partially UDG-treated single-stranded DNA libraries (Kapp et al., 2021). Paired-end shotgun sequencing using Illumina two-colour chemistry (300 cycles) was performed by service providers at UCSC.

14Bioinformatic processing of the sequencing data was conducted at the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD). Raw reads (sequenced DNA fragments) from the shotgun sequencing run were processed and mapped against the human reference genome (GRCh37d5) using the nf-core/eager v2.4.0 pipeline (Li and Durbin, 2009; Li et al., 2009; Quinlan and Hall, 2010; Korneliussen et al., 2014; Jun et al., 2015; Schubert et al., 2016; Ewels et al., 2016; Chen et al., 2018; Fellows Yates et al., 2021; Neukamm et al., 2021). To facilitate reproducibility, the execution command is included in figure 10. To determine data authenticity, nuclear DNA contamination of male samples was estimated using ANGSD (Korneliussen et al., 2014) (table 2) and the parameters were calculated at read termini for endogenous DNA, fragment size distribution and post-mortem damage rate (Neukamm et al., 2021) (table 3).

Figure 10

Figure 10

Execution command for the nf-core/eager v2.4.0 pipeline |
Commande d’exécution pour le pipeline nf-core/eager v2.4.0

Table 2

Table 2

Nuclear DNA contamination estimation of Burial 45 |
Estimation de contamination de l’ADN nucléaire pour la sépulture 45

Table 3

Table 3

Genetic and visual / morphometric sex estimation using five different methods. The metrics for method V are available in Goudiaby, 2018a:284, 291, 300, 311 |
Estimation du sexe au moyen de cinq méthodes (génétiques et visuelles / morphométriques). Les mesures prises pour la méthode V sont consultables dans Goudiaby, 2018a:284, 291, 300, 311

  • 5 https://github.com/nf-core/modules/tree/master/modules/nf-core/sexdeterrmine

15Genetic sex was assigned using three different methods (table 3 sections I-III): (i) calculating X- and Y-ratios (number of reads mapping to each of the sex chromosomes relative to the autosomes) using SexDetERRmine5. An X-ratio of 1.0 is considered indicative of the presence of two X chromosomes and 0.5 is considered indicative of a single copy of the X chromosome. A Y-ratio of 0.5 indicates the presence of a single copy of the Y chromosome; (ii) calculating Rx ratios (Mittnik et al., 2016) (ratio of the number of reads mapping to the X chromosome to the number of reads mapping to autosomes, all normalized against the overall number of reads to the reference genome; an Rx ratio falling below 0.6 indicates the male sex); and (iii) calculating the X chromosome read dosage (Mx) (Gower et al., 2019), using counts of reads mapping to the X chromosome and autosomes and on the assumption that the number of sequenced reads should reflect the chromosome copy numbers and chromosome lengths: two binomial models are constructed and a likelihood ratio test is then used to distinguish between the male and female models. An Mx closer to 0.5 or to 1 means that the individual is determined, respectively, as male or female.

Results

16The population profile established using each method is summarized in table 3. As expected, the visual method yielded fewer results. Its dependence on a good state of preservation of fragile pelvic bones is a considerable limitation. However, when applicable, the results are near-identical to those obtained using discriminant functions. Discrepancies do appear when comparing the results of these two methods with aDNA. In practice, genetic sex determination was consistent across the three different DNA methodologies, even though individuals 53 and 61B did not have enough sequenced reads to calculate Mx, as this method is only effective with at least 5,000 mapped shotgun reads. However, Burial 41, in which the individual was visually and morphometrically identified as male, is in fact female. The misidentification was corrected by the aDNA analysis. In this case, it is likely that the incorrect visual determination was due to an observer error or to unclear morphology, and that the discriminant functions were scrambled by intermediate values.

17Ancient DNA analysis reaches its fullest potential when applied to contexts where other methods prove inapplicable. In the case of Burials 53 and 54, the destruction of the bones by taphonomic agents did not allow for any other method. In the case of 61B, the subject’s age prevented sexual determination, as we did not consider any metric or visual method reliable enough to be used on immature remains. Unfortunately, the genetic sex of the individual in Burial 51 could not be determined due to poor DNA preservation.

Discussion

18The initial results we have presented in this note suggest that female individuals are predominant in the 5N6 residential unit. However, we do not have sufficient data to determine whether this is a normal feature of Naachtun’s burial customs – and in the Maya area as a whole – or whether this residence is a particular case. Although any discussion about gender goes well beyond the scope of this note, a few preliminary observations can be made.

  • 6 Number of skeletons included in the first author’s Ph.D. dissertation database (Goudiaby, 2018b). T (...)

19It is important to underline that in ancient Maya records, there is a significant degree of uncertainty regarding the identification of biological sex in mortuary contexts (figure 11), for the reasons previously mentioned in the introduction. Out of a sample of 1,555 skeletons6, which includes subadults, adults for whom sex could not be determined and totally unknown individuals, approximately 61% fall into the category of indeterminate subjects (Goudiaby, 2018c:3-18). Among the adult individuals for whom sex could be reliably ascertained as either male or female, the distribution is reasonably balanced with approximately 23% identified as males and 16% as females. However, the primary issue persists, as roughly 30% of the adult population (69% of the sample) remains unsexed. These proportions remain near-identical even when taking account of more recent and meticulously conducted excavations, making it a challenge that cannot be disregarded. A wider-ranging database (over 10,000 entries), currently under analysis in collaboration with Dr. Vera Tiesler (Autonomous University of Yucatan), yields similar results. Preliminary observations presented at the 2023 edition of the SAA meeting also show similar proportions (Goudiaby and García Basto, 2023).

Figure 11

Figure 11

Age and sex distribution among the population from 11 Maya Lowlands sites (expressed in %, n=1555) |
Distribution des individus par âge et sexe pour 11 sites des Basses Terres mayas (expression en %, n=1555)

20The distribution of these unsexed skeletons between male and female categories could significantly affect interpretations, even without considering the occasional errors that may occur during the determination process. Interestingly, when reducing the scale to site-by-site analysis, the proportions are still roughly identical. A slight bias towards adult males appears at certain sites, like Tikal (Goudiaby, 2018c:16), where such observations could result from a set of external biases: nature of the contexts, incorrect determinations, etc. At the regional level and at the time of writing, we still do not know much about sex-related burial practices. This preliminary study suggests that, provided enough data can be gathered, significant advances are possible to remedy this "blind spot" at different scales (individual, local, regional).

  • 7 The ancient Maya tended to select the dead according to a set of parameters that is not yet fully u (...)

21Thanks to aDNA analysis, an entirely different view emerged of the situation in Unit 5N6, from a 50-50 sex distribution (two males, two females) to five females and one male. As always in the Maya area, because of particularly selective burial practices, the sample size is small7. Nevertheless, these results already raise questions as to the sex distribution of artisanal production within households, the prevalence of female individuals among the dead and, probably, among the forebears and ancestors in the afterlife, etc. One can imagine the implications if a similarly changed situation were to be found on a larger scale, across sites or areas.

22The sex information also sheds an interesting light on certain burials. It is impossible to determine whether the sex of the child in Burial 61 (female) is of any significance in the unusual configuration of the deposit. However, the sequence that was followed obeys very clear rules that reflect the ancient Maya worldview, most notably in terms of spatial distribution (Schele and Miller, 2005:42; Goudiaby et al., 2021:122). It could prove to be an important finding should similar contexts be discovered in the future. We have not found any similar cases in the available literature.

23The incorrect sex estimation for Burial 41 was corrected thanks to aDNA analysis, which opens up interesting prospects if we take into account the male individual in neighbouring Burial 45. His place in the burial sequence, his age and his placement underneath the same lateral bench of the 5N-6 structure bring him close to the woman deposited in Burial 41. Both the radiocarbon dates and the grave goods place them in the same chronological framework. Stratigraphically, both graves are sealed by the same intact plaster floor. Is there a biological link between them? Analyses of the mitochondrial lineages and kinship based on autosomal data will help to gain some insights. Ancestry and relatedness among the individuals under study make up one of the most intriguing aspects of this archaeological context. We have refrained from discussing the full results in this note as they are part of an ongoing comprehensive aDNA project that will include a newly-excavated residential unit (7L2 "Esperanza") for comparison purposes.

Conclusion

24Ancient DNA use is not widespread yet in the Maya region, although this has been rapidly changing with the advent of new methods that compensate for the difficult tropical context (Verdugo et al., 2020; Kennett et al., 2022; Tiesler et al., 2022). Hot, wet and acid environments adversely affect the quality of aDNA preservation (Roca-Rada et al., 2020). Nevertheless, studies such as the ones cited above, as well as our own, demonstrate that the acquisition of aDNA in such conditions is not only possible but recommended (Llamas and Roca-Rada, 2023; Villa-Islas et al., 2023), as it opens up fresh perspectives over an entire field of ancient Maya archaeology.

25Household archaeology in the Maya area is a field that has seen a great deal of speculation and controversy. Various models for household organization, lineage and ancestry have been proposed (Haviland, 1988; see for instance Gillespie, 2000; Joyce and Gillespie, 2000; McAnany, 2013). Many of these supplement archaeological evidence, or lack thereof, with ethnographic studies. Thanks to aDNA, researchers are able, for the first time, to compare these models and theories with archaeological evidence of a strictly material nature. We have great hopes of these advances, since they eliminate the distortions and biases that result from comparisons between modern and past social structures – a topic that remains hotly debated far beyond the Maya area (Gosselain, 2016; Roux, 2017).

26Reducing the number of unsexed individuals in archaeological populations would certainly shed new light on ancient Maya mortuary practices as a whole. It would allow us to address controversial issues such as gender roles, social status and power from firmer foundations. As always, aDNA analysis should go hand in hand with detailed contextual analyses in order to make the most of its potential. Such studies will pave the way towards renewed perspectives on the lives and times of the ancient Maya.

Data availability

27Raw data and detailed descriptions of every burial are available in the following repository, first and third volumes (Naachtun burials and complete database, respectively): https://theses.hal.science/​tel-01998173.

28The genetic data obtained through shotgun sequencing in this article will be made available in fastq format on request.

Acknowledgements: Our gratitude goes to every person who helped with this study. Special thanks are owed to Dr. Philippe Nondédéo, Dr. Grégory Pereira, Hélène Lacomme and Isaac Barrientos. We are deeply obliged to the workers of the Uaxactun community for their unfailing perseverance during the long field campaigns. The Naachtun Project is supported by the Ministère de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères (French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs), the CNRS, the Perenco Company, the Pacunam Foundation, the Foundation Cino del Duca, the LabEx DynamiTe and the Archéologie des Amériques laboratory (ArchAm, UMR 8096). The Centro Francés de Estudios Mexicanos y Centroamericanos (CEMCA) provided institutional support. All investigations and analyses were carried out with the permission of the Institute of Anthropology and History (IDAEH), Guatemala. Special thanks to Dr. Vera Tiesler for her support and always fruitful advice, and for sharing her considerable database. Finally, we would like to thank our two anonymous reviewers whose comments, suggestions and insights greatly helped to improve this research note.

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Notes

1 http://research.mayavase.com/kerrmaya.html

2 This individual was too damaged for a clear picture to be obtained in the field, but see Goudiaby and Nondédéo (2020:37) for a description.

3 "Foundation" refers to burials that demonstrably occurred before the construction of the structure that covers them.

4 Sex estimation methods that are based on the postcranial skeleton, pelvic bones aside, remain a minority (Stock, 2020). They have been tested in a variety of contexts (Moore, 2013), including recently in modern populations (Verma et al., 2020; Kiskira et al., 2022). Wrobel’s attempt for the Tipu cemetery (Belize) is backed by aDNA and pelvic bone analyses (Elwess et al., 2015). To our knowledge, this study is the first to validate Wrobel’s discriminant functions with aDNA outside the original Tipu context.

5 https://github.com/nf-core/modules/tree/master/modules/nf-core/sexdeterrmine

6 Number of skeletons included in the first author’s Ph.D. dissertation database (Goudiaby, 2018b). This corpus includes the following sites: Altun Ha, Altar de Sacrificios, Calakmul, Cancuen, Copan, Caracol, Kohunlich, Naachtun, Palenque, Rio Bec, Seibal, Tikal, Uaxactun.

7 The ancient Maya tended to select the dead according to a set of parameters that is not yet fully understood, but that seem to include age and social status (McAnany, 1998; 2013; Barnhart, 2002). The burials that have been discovered in residential spaces represent a subset of the buried population, estimated at about 10% (Chase and Chase, 2004; Goudiaby, 2018a:247-253).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1
Légende Map of the Maya area showing the location of Naachtun |Carte de l’aire maya indiquant la localisation de Naachtun
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 1,9M
Titre Figure 2
Légende Plan of the residential unit 5N6 showing the distribution of the burials. The individuals sampled for this study are highlighted in red (61 contains two individuals) |Plan de l’unité résidentielle 5N6 indiquant la distribution spatiale des sépultures. Les individus sur lesquels des échantillons ont été prélevés pour cette étude sont indiqués en rouge (61 abritait deux individus)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 241k
Légende Several classes of goods recovered during the excavation. From a to c: greenstone-related objects; a: greenstone polisher; b: unpolished greenstone pearl; c: greenstone hatchet. From d to e: writing-related objects; d: bark beater for papermaking; e: ceramic sherd with basic numbers. From f to g: painting-related implements; f: polished chert palettes; g: shell cup with red pigment. From h to i: music-related objects; h: broken drum decorated with pseudo-glyphs; i: whistle figurine shaped in the likeness of a woman |Différents types de mobilier mis au jour durant la fouille. De a à c : mobilier lié à l’industrie de la pierre verte ; a : polissoir ; b : perle en jadéite non polie ; c : hachette de pierre verte. De d à e : mobilier lié à l’écriture ; d : battoir à écorce pour la fabrication du papier ; e : tesson ayant servi de brouillon pour un calcul basique. De f à g : matériel de peinture ; f : palettes de silex poli ; g : coupelle à pigment rouge en coquillage. De h à i : instruments de musique ; h : tambour décoré de pseudo-glyphes ; i : figurine-sifflet anthropomorphe représentant une femme
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 1,3M
Titre Table 1
Légende List of the seven sampled individuals with basic contextual parameters |Liste des sept individus pour lesquels des échantillons ont été prélevés, indiquant quelques données de contexte basiques
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 232k
Titre Figure 4
Légende Drawing of Burial 43. Note the cylindrical vase decorated with jaguar spots, usually interpreted as a symbol of power |Relevé de la sépulture 43. Remarquer le vase cylindrique dont le décor imite les taches d’un jaguar, habituellement interprété comme un symbole d’autorité
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 598k
Titre Figure 5
Légende Drawing of Burial 41. The deer metapodial is usually interpreted as a female implement (Carr, 1996; Ardren, 2002:78) |Relevé de la sépulture 41. Le métapode de cerf est habituellement interprété comme un marqueur féminin (Carr, 1996; Ardren, 2002:78)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 768k
Titre Figure 6
Légende Drawing of Burial 45. This burial contained a "Tikal Dancer" plate depicting a figure known as the Maize God (Taube, 2008) |Relevé de la sépulture 45. Celle-ci contenait une assiette ornée d’un motif particulier, le "Danseur de Tikal", supposé représenter le dieu du maïs (Taube, 2008)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-7.png
Fichier image/png, 895k
Titre Figure 7
Légende Drawing of Burial 43. The green stone "hatchet", about 5cm long, may actually be a tool used to burnish pottery |Relevé de la sépulture 43. La "hachette" de pierre verte, d’environ 5 cm de long, pourrait en fait être un brunissoir à céramique
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-8.png
Fichier image/png, 794k
Titre Figure 8
Légende Burial 51, located beneath an extension of Structure 5N-5’s northern bench |Relevé de la sépulture 51, localisée sous une extension de la banquette nord de la structure 5N-5
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-9.png
Fichier image/png, 670k
Titre Figure 9
Légende Burial 61, a very unusual double burial. Taphonomic evidence suggests that the younger individual died before the adult (Goudiaby et al., 2021) |La sépulture 61 constitue une double inhumation inhabituelle. La taphonomie suggère que l’individu le plus jeune est décédé avant l’adulte (Goudiaby et al., 2021)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-10.png
Fichier image/png, 787k
Titre Figure 10
Légende Execution command for the nf-core/eager v2.4.0 pipeline |Commande d’exécution pour le pipeline nf-core/eager v2.4.0
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-11.png
Fichier image/png, 369k
Titre Table 2
Légende Nuclear DNA contamination estimation of Burial 45 |Estimation de contamination de l’ADN nucléaire pour la sépulture 45
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-12.png
Fichier image/png, 162k
Titre Table 3
Légende Genetic and visual / morphometric sex estimation using five different methods. The metrics for method V are available in Goudiaby, 2018a:284, 291, 300, 311 |Estimation du sexe au moyen de cinq méthodes (génétiques et visuelles / morphométriques). Les mesures prises pour la méthode V sont consultables dans Goudiaby, 2018a:284, 291, 300, 311
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-13.png
Fichier image/png, 749k
Titre Figure 11
Légende Age and sex distribution among the population from 11 Maya Lowlands sites (expressed in %, n=1555) |Distribution des individus par âge et sexe pour 11 sites des Basses Terres mayas (expression en %, n=1555)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/docannexe/image/13952/img-14.png
Fichier image/png, 65k
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Référence électronique

Hemmamuthé Goudiaby, Xavier Roca-Rada, Kalina Kassdjikova, Lars Fehren-Schmitz et Bastien Llamas, « Biological sex estimation using ancient DNA in Classic Maya contexts: some findings from Naachtun (Guatemala) »Bulletins et mémoires de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris [En ligne], 36 (1) | 2024, mis en ligne le 02 avril 2024, consulté le 27 mai 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/13952

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Auteurs

Hemmamuthé Goudiaby

UMR 8096 Archaeology of the Americas, Paris, France ; h.goudiaby[at]outlook.fr ; https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6414-4033

Articles du même auteur

Xavier Roca-Rada

Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

Kalina Kassdjikova

UCSC Paleogenomics, Department of Anthropology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, USA

Lars Fehren-Schmitz

UCSC Paleogenomics, Department of Anthropology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, USA

Bastien Llamas

Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia ; UCSC Paleogenomics, Department of Anthropology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, USA ; Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia ; National Centre for Indigenous Genetics, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia ;Indigenous Genomics, Telethon Kids Institute, Adelaide, Australia

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