You are here: Home / Research Topics / Research Highlights / Individual Highlight

Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Maya Gouge Made of Honduran Rosewood

Photo of Ek Way Nal jadeite gouge with rosewood handle.Ek Way Nal jadeite gouge with rosewood handle.Snapshot : Handles for wooden tools belonging to Maya elite were crafted from high-quality rosewood.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Wiemann, Michael C. 
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2019
Highlight ID : 1592


High-quality jadeite artifacts found at classic Maya sites in Belize were used by the elite in their rituals and ceremonies. The unexpected finding of a jadeite gouge with a rosewood handle, in a submerged salt working site, provides information about the utilitarian use of the tool. The gouge is crafted from high-quality stone, and the wood used for its handle, Dalbergia stevensonii, is used for quality tools even now. Excavations of the wooden salt kitchens at the site in 2020 (funded by a National Science Foundation grant) will address how some small, family-run businesses are organized and why some succeed, while others fail—factors important in the American economy today. The recognition that rosewood is a superior material for high-quality implements has persisted for thousands of years. Sea-level rise has kept artifacts hidden, but also preserved them. The researchers hope that forest preservation policies will continue to preserve the resource for generations to come, although illegal trade in rosewood in neighboring Guatemala and Honduras are critically endangering this species.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • none
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Indiana University
  • Louisiana State University
  • Texas A&M