Semester of Graduation

Spring 2022


Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Geography and Anthropology

Document Type




Trading, fishing, and spinning thread were important parts of the ancient Maya world. Iconography and archaeological excavations have shown the importance of the three activities. The ancient Maya had an extensive trade network along the Belize River. The site of Moho Cay was an important trading area within this network. Excavations at Moho Cay show the importance of trade, fishing, and spinning at Moho Cay. The excavations done in 1979, led by Dr. McKillop and the team of Trent University, yielded a large sample of spindle whorls and fishing weights. Analysis of these spindle whorls and fishing weights is the focus of this thesis. Studying the two textiles in conjunction can show the possible relation the two had when being used at the site. Spindle whorls would have needed cotton to spin yarn. The nets and lines of the fisherfolk would have needed cotton yarn to make their nets and lines for the fishing weights to go on. The variation of measurements found in the fishing weights show there was a need for both line and net fishing at the site. The variation of measurements found in the spindle whorls shows the need for different thread and fiber types. Spinning and fishing had ritual, economic, and tributary significance to the ancient Maya. This thesis discusses the data found when analyzing the spindle whorls and fishing weights and goes over what the results of the data could mean for the use of these textiles at Moho Cay. Various sizes of spindle whorls were used at Moho Cay which could suggest the use of different fibers used for spinning. The size of the sample of 25 spindle whorls could also suggest a more standardized production of spinning yarn. Different sizes and weights of fishing weights were found which shows the use of different fishing methods at the site. The amount of size of 124 fishing being excavated also shows a more standardized practice of fishing rather than just for subsistence.

Committee Chair

Heather McKillop