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By William J. Folan

Coba

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The area has extensive deposits of sascab (calcareous sand) and features characteristic of karstic topography. Mining and Quarrying in the Maya Lowlands Mining has been a much-neglected aspect of Maya culture although a great many mines and quarries have been located in most Maya cities in both the north and the south. As far as the north is concerned, there were only a few substances mined in any quantity by the ancient Maya. The most important of these, beside salt (Eaton and Ball 1978; Andrews 1977), is the sascab (calcareous sand) used by the Maya for the fill of buildings when in block form and, when in granular form, was mixed with lime (often produced by burning chunks of sascab) to make mortar.

5 Sascabera interior. (Photograph by V. 7 Sascabera with an hourglass-shaped support. (Photograph by V. ) Sascabera with a barrel-shaped support. (Photograph by V. 9 Sascabera with tool scars in face of deposit. (Photograph by V. ) Sascabera with tool scars in roof of mine. (Photograph by V. ) 31 SOILS As Morley (1956) pointed out, poor, lateritic soils are the major problem for cultural development in the humid tropics. Simple drainage works could extend the usable agricultural area (Stuart 1964:298-302, Figure 7), and this seems to have been carried out in much of the Maya area (Adams et al.

Even today, the freshwater langosta is prized as a food item, and little river snails are edible. The abdomen of the carpenter ant, when swarming, is part of man's diet. The wild bees for which Coba is noted and a few honey-making wasps were major sources of sweet foods in Yucatan. The arthropods have played an important role as vectors of disease. Among the endemic diseases they spread are mosquito-borne malaria, the fly-borne leishmaniasis, and trypanosomiasis (Chagas's disease), transmitted by species of assassin bugs (Reduviidae), which are a constant menace in certain areas of rural Coba.

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