Linda Schele Drawing from Tikal, Altar 5. Disinterred bones rest between two kneeling dancers. Late Classic. Current Location: Museo Nacional de Antropología y Ethnología, Guatemala City, Guatemala. copyright FAMSI. An Indexed Bibliography of
Prehistoric and Early Historic Maya Human Osteology

Marie Elaine Danforth, Stephen L. Whittington, and Keith P. Jacobi
Ver este informe en Español.

Search the Maya Osteology Bibliography


Reprinted with permission of the copyright owners from Bones of the Maya: Studies of Ancient Skeletons, edited by Stephen L. Whittington and David M. Reed, pp. 229-231, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 1997.

In his discussion of the burials recovered at Piedras Negras, William Coe noted, "Observations and measurements, when feasible, have been given in the hope that someday there will be sufficient data for a revealing synthesis of Maya skeletal remains" (Coe 1959:121). Over 35 years later, such a synthesis still remains to be produced. Although some might argue that sufficient data will never exist because of poor bone preservation in the region, it also seems that researchers are not always fully aware of the rather substantial literature on prehistoric Maya skeletal biology that has emerged during the last 150 years in the United States, México, and other countries.

With this bibliography, we attempt to remedy this situation by presenting an exhaustive, indexed list of those publications that appeared in print or on microfilm by the end of 1994. Included are references concerning paleodemography, paleopathology, skeletal morphology, and cultural modifications. We hope that this work, the product of extensive exploration of diverse sources from nearly a dozen countries, will allow other researchers to exploit more readily the valuable comparative data and interpretations available in this literature.

We located the publications in various manners. Many of the older references came from review articles of Maya burial practices (Blom 1954; Ricketson 1925; Ruz 1965, 1968; Thompson 1939; Welsh 1988). Several Latin American journals were systematically searched, including Anales de Antropología (1964-1983), Anales del Instituto de Antropología e Historia (1909-1975), Ancient Mesoamerica, Antropología e Historia de Guatemala, Boletin de la Escuela de Ciencias Antropológicas de la Universidad de Yucatán (1973-1990), Estudios (Universidad de San Carlos) (1993-1995), Estudios de Cultura Maya, Latin American Antiquity, Mexicon, Revista Mexicana de Estudios Antropológicos (1927-1977), and Yaxkin (1977-1987). We also examined several extant bibliographies of physical anthropological and Latin American anthropological literature (Cobb 1944; Genovés et al. 1964; Krogman 1943, 1945; Stewart 1952, 1970; Valle 1971; Villanueva and Serrano 1982). Other useful sources of citations were the San Diego Museum of Man Paleopathology Citation Database, which is in development, and Paleopathology Newsletter. Finally, a number of references came from personal correspondence, searches of on-line library databases, postings to computer newsgroups, and reviews of others' bibliographies.

From these sources, we further investigated those citations with promising titles and ones that we knew discussed human burials. With only a few exceptions, we personally examined each publication. Our criteria for including citations in the bibliography were: 1) the material had to present data concerning Maya populations, although cultural affiliation was liberally interpreted; 2) the material had to consider osteological evidence, thereby eliminating a variety of entries, including ethnohistoric or artistic treatments of health questions, purely archaeological discussions of mortuary customs, and references in which the author discussed the presence of human remains but gave no further information; and 3) the material had to be published in print or microfilm format by the end of 1994. Research reports distributed only to funding or government agencies and unpublished manuscripts available only by contacting the author directly were excluded. Dissertations awarded in the United States that are available from University Microfilms International have been included, but master's theses, honors papers, and most Latin American and European dissertations do not appear in this bibliography. Abstracts of papers presented at the annual meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and the annual meetings and European members' meetings of the Paleopathology Association are listed because they are published either in regular issues of, or as supplements to, their respective journals.

We indexed the contents of each reviewed publication according to the type and quality of information contained so that users of the bibliography can judge whether they might be valuable to the particular research being conducted. Below each entry will be a statement if it is a publication with a primary emphasis on Maya skeletal biology, a publication with only scattered information of interest or if we were unable to locate and review the work.

We are fairly confident that we have not missed any significant studies published as a monograph, in a major journal, or as an appendix to a major archaeological report. While many brief references to osteology were located in published site reports and have subsequently been included in the bibliography, there is no systematic way to find every last one. Although we also made every effort to ensure the accuracy of each reference, many of the older materials, especially museum publications, have quite complicated citation information appearing in different formats in various bibliographies and library catalogues. Thus, users of the bibliography are encouraged to search for references of interest under all the types of citation information provided.


We would like to extend our thanks to Rose Tyson and Dan Elerick of the San Diego Museum of Man for sharing their Paleopathology Citation Database. Others who graciously provided assistance include Julienne Barker (American Dental Association); Paul Bary and The Latin American Library at Tulane University; Sharon Bennett; Chris Carrelli; Diane Chase (Central Florida); Eve Cockburn (Paleopathology Association); Della Collins Cook (Indiana); Dumbarton Oaks; David Freidel and Charles Suhler (Southern Methodist); Morris Fry (Tozzer Library, Harvard); Veronique Gervais (Caen); Paula Gabbard (Columbia); David Glassman (Southwest Texas); Thomas Hester, Daniel Potter, and Khristaan Villela (Texas at Austin); David Hunt, Maya Riopedre, and Javier Urcid (Smithsonian Institution); Barbara Jones, Libby Soifer, and Christine Whittington (Fogler Library, Maine); Virginia Massey; Frances Matheny, William Erwin, Brenda Adams-Gordon, Matthew Gordon, and Ginger Pendarvis (Southern Mississippi); D. Andrew Merriwether (Pittsburgh); Lourdes Márquez (Museo Nacional de Antropología, México); Sandy Rapp (Utah); Eugenia Robinson (Tulane); Frank and Julie Mather Saul; Pam Smith (Mississippi Dental Association); D. Gentry Steele (Texas A&M); John Weeks (Minnesota); Christine White (Western Ontario); and Lori Wright (McMaster). Partial support for this project was provided by a University of Southern Mississippi Summer Research Grant.

View all entries in the Maya Osteology Bibliography at once

Search the Maya Osteology Bibliography by keyword

Return to top of page