A Monkey Peace

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A new study on a spider monkey’s skeleton is shining new light on the intricate relations and geopolitics between ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

In 2018, an archaeological team discovered the monkey’s remains in the ancient city of Teotihuacán, located in central Mexico. The finding perplexed the team because Teotihuacán is a dry region and spider monkeys live in forested areas, which were located in the Maya territory roughly 800 miles to the east.

A recent analysis of its remains showed that the animal was female and between the ages of five and eight years old at the time of its death. Researchers suggested that humans captured the monkey and kept it in captivity for about two years before later sacrificing it around 300 CE.

While the poor creature’s story shows the earliest evidence of primate captivity and relocation in the Americas, it also offers some insight into relations between Teotihuacán and the Maya.

The authors theorize that the Maya captured the monkey and offered it to Teotihuacán as a gift during a period of friendly relations about which scientists know very little.

Previous findings have also shown that the two cultures interacted and traded with each other.

However, an alternative scenario proposes that the Teotihuacán captured the primate during their conquest of Maya cities. Historians said that relations between the two civilizations frayed from 350 to 400 CE, when evidence of a Teotihuacán military presence in Maya lands appears.

Even so, the authors noted that the findings help piece together how “powerful, advanced societies dealt with social and political stressors that very much reflect today’s world.”

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