No CrossRef data available.
HEADS, SKULLS, AND SACRED SCAFFOLDS. NEW STUDIES ON RITUAL BODY PROCESSING AND DISPLAY IN CHICHEN ITZA AND BEYOND
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 March 2023
Chichen Itza stands as a monumental landmark of late Pre-Columbian Maya and Mesoamerican religious complexes. Among the enigmatic aspects of Chichen Itza's ceremonial innovations count skull racks (known as tzompantli in Nahuatl), where the heads of sacrificed victims would be exhibited. Here we combine the scrutiny of death imagery and human skeletal remains, including skulls with marks of bilateral or basal impalement and mandibles with perimortem decapitation from “New” Chichen, the Osario complex, and from Chichen's astronomical Caracol complex. Our combined skeletal and iconographic data confirm the increased practice of corpse processing and head exhibition at Chichen Itza when compared to Classic-period Maya centers. Most of these body treatments were not foreign introductions, as generally believed, but followed local practices, long carried out at the Yucatecan urban centers of Nohpat, Kabah, Uxmal, and Dzibilchaltun. Although on a minor scale compared to Chichen, these demonstrate the display of human body segments, not only skulls, which renders the term tzompantli problematic. In the context of the totalitarian rhetoric of Chichen's central spaces, the massified violence and corpse display herald late religious cults at the cadences of battles won, astronomical cycles, and the perpetual movement of the Feathered Serpent.
- Special Section: Archaeology in Chichen Itza
- Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press