The Maya extracted natural resources through hunting, fishing, timber harvesting, mining, and salt extraction. The Maya hunted birds, mammals, and reptiles, fished for fish, shellfish and lobster, mined jade, hematite, and obsidian, and extracted salt.

Wild food plants: There are a wide range of wild food plants in the Central American region including papaya, avocados, sapodilla, and pinapple, and many spice and herp plants.

Mammals: Animals were hunted with blow guns, bows and arrows, spears, and snares.

Hunted animals included manatee, deer, tapir, agouti, rabbits, monkeys.

Birds: Curassow, Chukka lukkas, doves and pigeons.

Reptiles:  included snakes, tortoises, lizards, and perhaps crocodiles and tortoises. No doubt the Maya had considerable respect for the snakes within their territory; coral snakes of various Micrurus species, jumping pitviper (Atropoides mummifera), rainforest hognosed pitviper (Porthidium nasutum), and especially the barba amarila (Bothrops asper) or fer-de-lance, and cascabel (Crotalus durissus) or Neotropical rattlesnake.

Species that graced Maya tables, were probably the Central American river turtle (Dermatemys mawii), the jictea or Mesoamerican slider turtle (Trachemys scripta), Morelet’s crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii), the boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), and in some places green (Iguana iguana) and black iguanas (Ctenosaura similis). Black iguanas are still hunted around Sarteneja by Guetemalan immigrants, and the now Endangered, Central American river turtle is legally ritually harvested ??? over Easter. This practice

Marine species may have included the American saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), and the marine turtles, green, hawksbill, and loggerhead, found in coastal Belize. Amphibians were not normally eaten because of their small size but were important to the Maya as symbols of life giving rain and fertility. Indeed much of Maya mythology involved reptiles, and in Maya cosmology the Earth was the back of a large crocodile (Campbell ????).

Fishing: Fire clay net weights have been found and fish hooks for catching seafood including fish, molluscs, and crustaceans.


Amphibians and reptiles of Northern Guatemala, the Yucatan and Belize. Jonathan A. Campbell. Animal Natural History Series. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.