Project ESR7: Ethnobotany with the Chimalapas Zoque (Oaxaca, Mexico). Reconstructing pre-Columbian Macro- Mayan medicine

PhD Fellow: Matthias S. Geck

Supervision: Dr. Marco Leonti and Prof. Micaela Morelli

Host Institution: University of Cagliari

Co-supervisors: Dr. Laura Casu University of Cagliari; Dr. Alberto Reyes García, Herbario Nacional de México (AC11).

This project will conduct a quantitative cultural biodiversity study with the Chimalapa Zoque focusing on medical ethnobotany and local healing concepts. Such data will provide the missing link needed for a cross-cultural comparison with related groups to get a better insight into pre-Columbian Mesoamerican Materia Medica and therapeutical practices.

About the project
The Chimalapas Zoque inhabit one of the most biodiverse and best preserved ecological areas of Mexico. Notwithstanding they’re direct descent from the ancient Olmec civilization, the Zoque are among Mexico’s least studied cultural groups. Much of they’re cultural heritage is rapidly being lost due to a complex series of demographic, political and socio-economic factors. This project thus aims at preserving some key aspects of this heritage for future generations, through recording local medical knowledge and practices. The obtained data, in combination with results of previous studies, will further be used for elaborating an ethnopharmacopoeia for the diverse cultures constituting the Macro-Mayan language family. Finally, combining methods of cross-cultural comparison with phytochemical and pharmacological assessments of dominant species allows for testing the hypothesis that effective medicinal plants are more likely to be consistently used across geographic and cultural boundaries.

Duration: 3 years – start March 1st 2014.