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PITS AND BONES: Identifying Maya ritual behavior in the archaeological record

  • Julie L. Kunen (a1), Mary Jo Galindo (a2) and Erin Chase (a3)

In this article, we examine the traditional classificatory terms of cache and burial as they are used in Lowland Maya archaeology and argue that, rather than forming mutually exclusive categories, these ritual deposits are members of a continuum. After discussing the intertwined concepts of dedication and termination and the cosmology of caches, we summarize burgeoning evidence that not all deposits classified as caches are votive offerings. We also discuss the role played by household refuse in ritual contexts. We then describe the investigation of a pit excavated into bedrock beneath a residential structure at the Maya site of La Caldera, in northwestern Belize. Our interpretation of the ritual importance of the pit is based on a series of behaviors that activated, terminated, and then reactivated the ritual pathway defined by the feature. We suggest that this behavioral approach to special deposits is more compelling than attempts to classify the material traces of ritual actions according to narrowly defined terms.

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Ancient Mesoamerica
  • ISSN: 0956-5361
  • EISSN: 1469-1787
  • URL: /core/journals/ancient-mesoamerica
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