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The importance of animals was paramount in the Maya civilisation of antiquity. They served as a source of meat, hides, and feathers in addition to having symbolic religious meaning. Among these was the raising of sacred stingless bees (called Xunan-Kab in Mayan) for the purpose of producing honey for trade, ceremonial use, and food. Centuries-old codices contain records of this, and recently, archaeologists uncovered implements that Maya beekeepers used between 950 and 1539 CE.

 The discovery was made while building the Maya train in the southeast state of Quintana Roo. There, the National Institute of Anthropology and History archaeologists in Mexico discovered three panuchos, or carved limestone lids. These objects, which are roughly 8 by 10 inches, were originally used by the Maya to plug the hollowed-out logs that held their bees.

According to archaeologist Carlos Fidel Martínez Sánchez, "Only one of them is in a good state of conservation, while the other two have a high degree of erosion." Additionally, he disclosed that the discovery was made during the excavation of what was initially believed to be a drystone wall. However, after discovering the lids, the archaeologists understood they had discovered the remnants of a meliponary, or an apiary dedicated to the endangered Melipona beecheii, a species of bee that is still farmed in the Yucatán peninsula.

The melipona bee is unique in more ways than just not having stings. Their honey's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities have been used for centuries by Maya healers to treat digestive, respiratory, and postpartum ailments. It has also drawn the interest of foodies and chefs worldwide due to its citrusy, floral flavour, runnier, syrupy texture, and higher fructose content than glucose. However, a lot more bees are required to produce it because there are fewer of it.

The archaeologists discovered various artefacts at the site in addition to the apiary stone lids, including beads, ceramics, flint, an ax, and a hammer. According to archaeologist Raquel Liliana Hernández Estrada, the finding suggests that housing complexes in outlying cities are connected to ceremonial sites. Furthermore, the artefacts revealed details about the everyday lives of the Maya commoners rather than the ancient elites of the area. 

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