This meta-analysis uses seven previously published fish assemblages from sites in the northern Maya lowlands to evaluate if environmental or human social factors, such as elite status, provided impetus for the increased emphasis on coastal trade during the Terminal to Postclassic periods. Following the political decline of sites in the central and southern Maya lowlands during the Terminal Classic period, the northern Maya lowlands rose in prominence. As political systems changed, so too did economic systems. Using species area curves, richness, nestedness, non-metric multidimensional scaling, evenness, and differences in habitat, this paper addresses to what degree fish trade in the northern Maya lowlands was driven by habitat differences, site distance from the coast, time period, or social status. The results indicate social factors, rather than environmental, explain more of the variation in the fish taxonomic composition at each site. The different taxonomic communities are explained less by specific environmental factors, recovery methods, or identification procedures than by site distance from the coast and social context of the site (i.e., elite versus non-elite). These data demonstrate that meta-analyses can explain how access-based differences—such as site distance from the coast or due to the social context of a particular assemblage—are expressed among large faunal datasets within complex societies.
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Vol. 40 • No. 4