An ancient cylindrical stone artifact displayed against a black background with a color scale for size reference.

“Unearthing Ancient Mayan Beekeeping Secrets in Quintana Roo!”

The Mayan people of the Yucatan Peninsula have long been known to practice beekeeping, dating back to pre-Hispanic times. Ancient texts and chronicles reveal that the indigenous people used honey in their food, as a trade commodity, and in various ceremonies.

Recently, during archaeological work on Section 6 of the Mayan Train (Tulum – Chetumal), a team of specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) uncovered three "jobón" lids. These artifacts were discovered in the Los Lagos region, covering the municipalities of Bacalar and Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in Quintana Roo.

Traditionally, these types of archaeological finds have been associated with the northern part of the state. However, this discovery supports the theory that Mayan beekeeping, or meliponiculture, may have extended to the southern parts of Quintana Roo.

The "panuchos", as the locals call the lids, are round, made of limestone, and measure 20 by 25 centimeters. Archaeologists believe they date back to the Postclassic period (950 – 1539 AD). Unfortunately, only one of the lids is in good condition, with the other two showing significant signs of erosion.

The team stumbled upon the lids while excavating what they initially thought was a stone wall. Upon discovering the lids, they realized they were actually remnants of a bee yard. This term comes from the native species Melipona beecheii, or xunán kab in Maya, a defining feature of the local population.

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In addition to the "jobón" lids, the team also found other utilitarian archaeological materials. These included ceramic, lithic, and flint items, a decorated bowl, a limestone grinding stone, a grinding table, an axe, a hammer, and a star-shaped shell bead.

The area, known as Front 5, provides a glimpse into the everyday life of non-elite Mayan people. It is likely that these were residential complexes on the outskirts of ceremonial precincts, such as the Archaeological Zone of Chacchoben and the Los Limones site.

To date, 261 monuments have been identified in the area, most of which are remains of residential areas near the towns of Sabanitas and Station. These monuments, currently under analysis, include foundations, stone walls, and some small bases.

Image: INAH