Study of the skeleton of a ritually sacrificed female spider monkey discovered at the Plaza of the Columns in Teotihuacán, Mexico, suggests that it was an early diplomatic gift from the Maya elite to the rulers of this Mesoamerican state.
The spider monkey was found along with a golden eagle, rattlesnakes, and artefacts made of jade, shell, and obsidian. Fragments of ceramics and Maya-style murals were also uncovered.
Analysis of its remains, led by Nawa Sugiyama from UC Riverside and recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2212431119), suggests that the spider monkey lived in a humid environment in Maya territory until around 3 years old. It then lived in captivity until its death around 5-8 years old, eating an anthropogenic diet including maize and chilli peppers.
The monkey lived around AD 250-300 and its skeleton therefore bears witness to the much-debated diplomatic relations between the Maya and Teotihuacán in the period before Teotihuacán’s military involvement at Maya sites by AD 378, indicated by epigraphic records.