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The Mayans: Discoveries & Theories

The Creation and Sacrifice of Witches in Classic Maya Society.
Overview:

Worldwide, witch persecution occurs in times of trouble including untimely deaths, drought, floods, famine, and disease (e.g., Bacigalupo, 2005; Krug et al., 2002; Sanders, 2003). Supplications are made to no avail. It is not the fault of gods or ancestors; consequently, there is no other way to explain the disastrous events other than to blame mortals (Evans-Pritchard, 1979). Someone has brought misfortune to the community, and they must pay, often violently. Witches, whether or not the term exists in any given society, can be defined as people who are blamed and punished for perceived or real problems by community census. We explore this phenomenon in ancient Maya society after a brief discussion of witches and their treatment cross-culturally.

Lucero, L.J., Gibbs, S.A. (2007). The Creation and Sacrifice of Witches in Classic Maya Societ...jpg


Source: Lucero, L.J., Gibbs, S.A. (2007). The Creation and Sacrifice of Witches in Classic Maya Society. In: Tiesler, V., Cucina, A. (eds) New Perspectives on Human Sacrifice and Ritual Body Treatments in Ancient Maya Society. Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology. Springer, New York, NY
 

Attachments

  • Lucero, L.J., Gibbs, S.A. (2007). The Creation and Sacrifice of Witches in Classic Maya Societ...pdf
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Empowered Children in Classic Maya Sacrificial Rites
Abstract:

Sacrifice is a basic component of human religious experience, and well documented in many ancient cultures. In Mesoamerica, sacrifice took many forms although perhaps the most dramatic was the offering of human children. In Maya studies this topic has largely been overlooked despite data from a variety of sources. This paper explores the
perspective that children were not the subject of sacrifice due to their marginal status as less than adult, but rather the opposite – that due to their very young age which afforded them proximity to the ancestors and the gods, they were one of the most precious offerings available. When children are understood to have held a numinous power related to their recent time on earth, child sacrifice is revealed to be a religious rite of profound emotion and loss, consistent with the nature of the spiritual contract held by ancient Maya people.​

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Source: Ardren, T. (2011). Empowered Children in Classic Maya Sacrificial Rites. Childhood in the Past, 4(1), 133–145.
 

Attachments

  • Ardren, T. (2011). Empowered Children in Classic Maya Sacrificial Rites. Childhood in the Past...pdf
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The Role of Cenotes in the Social History of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula
Abstract:

Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has had a complex and dynamic history, which has seen processes such as the rise of the Maya civilisation, colonial conquests, indigenous rebellions and a range of commercial activities. The eninsula also represents a unique ecological place in the world: no rivers or major lakes exist on its surface - rather fresh water can only be found in its extensive underground flooded cave system, which is only accessible through cenotes (water sinkholes) that sporadically pierce the landscape's surface across the region. This paper seeks to reconcile the above observations, analysing how the Peninsula's dynamic history and its unique ecological landscape have interacted, producing certain environmental, social, political and economic outcomes. Thus, presented in this paper is an alternative perspective on the Peninsula's history, cast through an environmental historical lens that elicits nature's role as a historical actor.
Munro, P. G., & Melo Zurita, M. de L. (2011). The Role of Cenotes in the Social History of Mex...jpg

Source: Munro, P. G., & Melo Zurita, M. de L. (2011). The Role of Cenotes in the Social History of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Environment and History, 17(4), 583–612.
 

Attachments

  • Munro, P. G., & Melo Zurita, M. de L. (2011). The Role of Cenotes in the Social History of Mex...pdf
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Underwater Archaeological Exploration of the MayanCenotes.
Abstract:

Cenotes are natural geological formations, commonly known as sinkholes, which are often linked to subterranean galleries with groundwater. These natural wells constitute complex and dynamic hydraulic systems that have a long history of interaction with the surrounding civilizations. These ‘time capsules’ contain information pertaining to the symbolic and religious aspects linked to the Mayan culture, as well as to geological processes in the Peninsula of Yucatán. Archaeologists, geologists and biologists are working together to study these unique sites using specialized speleological diving techniques. However, the cenotes have also become a tourist attraction and a spot favoured by sports divers. Consequently, treasure hunting has become a constant threat. A sustainable management programme should permit both public enjoyment of these unique cultural heritage sites and ensure their preservation.

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Source: López, L. A. M. (2008). Underwater Archaeological Exploration of the MayanCenotes. Museum International, 60(4), 100–110.
 

Attachments

  • López, L. A. M. (2008). Underwater Archaeological Exploration of the MayanCenotes. Museum Inte...pdf
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Pilgrimage to the Edge of the Watery Underworld: an Ancient Maya Water Temple at Cara Blanca, Belize.
Abstract:

The Classic Maya (AD 250–950) landscape was imbued with sacred, animate qualities. Of particular significance were openings in the earth, such as caves and pools because, as portals to the underworld, the Maya could communicate with gods and ancestors to petition for plentiful rain and crops. The 25 pools of Cara Blanca, Belize embody such a place; their isolation from settled communities and the relatively sparse but unique architecture near pools suggest that it served as a pilgrimage destination. Growing evidence from exploratory dives and excavations at a possible water temple indicate that the Maya increased their visits in response to several prolonged droughts that struck between c.AD 800 and 900. Not only do we present results from a type of site that has been little explored, we also detail how non-elites dealt with climate change via ritual intensification and pilgrimage. It also serves as a lesson for how we deal with climate change today — that relying on traditional means rather than changing our course of action can have detrimental repercussions.​
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Source: Lucero, L. J., & Kinkella, A. (2015). Pilgrimage to the Edge of the Watery Underworld: an Ancient Maya Water Temple at Cara Blanca, Belize. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 25(01), 163–185.
 

Attachments

  • Lucero, L. J., & Kinkella, A. (2015). Pilgrimage to the Edge of the Watery Underworld an Ancie...pdf
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Cenotes and Placemaking in the Maya World: Biocultural Landscapes as Archival Spaces
Abstract:

In the Yucatán Peninsula, freshwater sinkholes known as cenotes are the only natural water systems beyond seasonal rainfall. In addition to their role as sustainable sources of water, certain cenotes were sacred to ancestral Maya peoples. Unfortunately, today, cenotes are threatened by pollution and contamination due to trash-dumping, intensive farming, and the effects of tourism. In response to these threats, InHerit: Indigenous Heritage Passed to Present (University of North Carolina), partnered with the Universidad de Oriente (UNO) in Valladolid, Mexico, and nine middle schools in Maya towns throughout Yucatán. Together, we developed curriculum resources focused on the environmental and cultural preservation of cenotes. Our initiative not only generated conservation activities but archival materials related to cenotes. These include photographs and landscape drawings by students, community oral histories about cenotes, and illustrations related to cenotes in the Maya codices—ancestral books of prophecy and fate authored by Yucatec Maya scribes before the sixteenth century. Through our multi-disciplinary exploration of the relationship between biocultural heritage and place, we investigate whether or not cenotes as landscape markers and archaeological caches, themselves, can also be archives—spaces with the capacity to collect, preserve, protect, and convey intergenerational memory and knowledge in the Yucatec Maya world.

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Source: Montes, K.N., Clark, D.J., McAnany, P.A., Alpuche, A.I.B. (2024). Cenotes and Placemaking in the Maya World: Biocultural Landscapes as Archival Spaces. In: Olko, J., Radding, C. (eds) Living with Nature, Cherishing Language. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
 

Attachments

  • Montes, K.N., Clark, D.J., McAnany, P.A., Alpuche, A.I.B. (2024). Cenotes and Placemaking in t...pdf
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Caves and Artificial Caves in Late Postclassic Maya Ceremonial Groups
Abstract:

Maya ceremonial groups are well-known for their monu-mental constructions, built as microcosmic images of the universe. Such ritual assemblages often represent cre-ation places from which the universe emerged (Freidel et al. 1993: 123–172; Schele and Mathews 1998: 36–40). Caves are critical places in Maya creation events and the subsequent universe; hence, one would expect to find these features incorporated into monumental construc-tions. Yet, many archaeologists ignore the subterranean features in their fieldwork and discount them in their in-terpretations. This chapter investigates some of the ways that the Late Postclassic (A.D. 1200 to 1540) Maya incor-porated caves into their built environment. This point will be primarily illustrated through an examination of Late Postclassic temple assemblages and related groups, al-though I will also discuss some Colonial and modern uses of caves as analogies for the interpretation of archaeo-logical materials.​

Pugh, Timothy W., Caves and Artificial Caves in Late Postclassic Maya Ceremonial Groups (2005)...jpg

Source: Pugh, Timothy W., "Caves and Artificial Caves in Late Postclassic Maya Ceremonial Groups" (2005). KIP Articles. 8069.
 

Attachments

  • Pugh, Timothy W., Caves and Artificial Caves in Late Postclassic Maya Ceremonial Groups (2005)...pdf
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