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PNAS highlights for the week of April 4 - 8

Ancient Maya Set Up Remote Salt Factories
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Ancient Maya entrepreneurs set up extensive workshops beyond royal control on the Caribbean coast, where they produced salt for river transport to inland cities, archaeological findings suggest.

From 600-900 A.D., the need for salt was great in large urban Maya populations in the interior of the Yucatan peninsula, in what is now Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. Heather McKillop reports the results of an underwater archaeological survey of the mangrove peat bog of Punta Ycacos Lagoon on the south coast of Belize. Before her search, a handful of salt workshops had been found in the lagoon and farther north along the coast, but the extent and details of regional salt-making were unclear.

The author's team of snorkeling researchers found evidence of 41 additional salt works, with remains of wooden buildings at more than half of them. Ceramic pottery remains suggest that Maya workers boiled seawater to retrieve salt, and recovery of a wood paddle ties the salt production to river delivery by canoes.

The workshops were far from royal Maya leaders in the cities, the author says, indicating an economy more complex than previously thought.

Reducing the "Toll" of Nerve Pain

According to a newly published study, the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) plays a critical role in inducing neuropathic pain--a debilitating condition in which nerves generate pain by themselves, without a painful stimulus.

TLR4 is expressed exclusively by microglia, immune cells of the central nervous system (CNS) that become activated soon after an injury. Following nerve injury in animals, TLR4 has been implicated in behavioral hypersensitivity--a model of neuropathic pain whereby the CNS overreacts to sensory input.

To determine if TLR4 contributes to neuropat
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Contact: Leikny Johnson
PNASNews@nas.edu
202-334-1310
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
5-Apr-2005


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