1,700-year-old stays belonged to the Americas’ first captive monkey

A sacrificed spider monkey is shedding new mild on an historic Mesoamerican relationship. 

The stays of a 1,700-year-old monkey discovered within the historic metropolis of Teotihuacan exterior modern-day Mexico Metropolis recommend the primate was a diplomatic present from the Maya. The discover is the earliest proof of a primate held in captivity within the Americas, researchers report November 21 in Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences

Unearthed in 2018 on the base of a pyramid in Teotihuacan, the monkey’s skeleton lay beside the corpses of different animals — together with an eagle and a number of other rattlesnakes — in an space of the town the place visiting Maya elites could have resided.

Proof of animal sacrifices, together with of predators like jaguars, have been discovered within the metropolis earlier than. However “as much as that time, we didn’t have any cases of sacrificed primates in Teotihuacan,” says Nawa Sugiyama, an anthropological archaeologist on the College of California, Riverside.

Chemical evaluation of the spider monkey’s bones and tooth confirmed that the feminine had probably been captured in a moist surroundings at a younger age someday within the third century. The monkey then lived in captivity for just a few years earlier than assembly her finish between the years 250 and 300.

The highlands round Mexico Metropolis are a good distance from the pure habitat of spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroy), which require moist tropical forests to thrive. This reality, together with the presence of Maya murals and vessels, suggests to Sugiyama and her colleagues that the spider monkey was a present from elite Mayas to the folks of Teotihuacan. 

The discover is an instance of diplomatic relations between two cultures that typically had violent interactions. Maya hieroglyphs indicated that army forces from Teotihuacan invaded the Maya metropolis of Tikal in 378, marking the beginning of a roughly 70-year interval through which Teotihuacan meddled in Maya politics (SN: 10/22/21).

The “placing” discovery of the monkey exhibits that relationship between these two cultures far predates the invasion, says David Stuart, an archaeologist and epigraphist on the College of Texas at Austin who was not concerned within the research.

“The battle of 378 had an extended historical past main as much as it,” he says. “The monkey is a extremely compelling illustration of this lengthy relationship.”

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