The Ritual Reuse of Maya Cave Shrines after Abandonment

Author(s): Brent Woodfill

Year: 2015


Caves are among the most sacred geographic features in Mesoamerica and have been used throughout history as the setting for multiple ritual events. In this paper, the author looks at several shrines in central Guatemala that were rediscovered long after they were abandoned by the original ritual practitioners and regained importance. The renewed activity often reflects very different functions of the rituals performed there—in caves along a major trade route cutting through the region, for example, later ritual focuses on public performance and community cohesion instead of earlier petitions for safe passage. The ritual practitioners involved in the latter ceremonies do engage with the paraphernalia from earlier ceremonies, however, performing ceremonies and leaving dedicatory offerings adjacent to ancient caches and occasionally removing objects, likely to serve as heirlooms to be venerated.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

The Ritual Reuse of Maya Cave Shrines after Abandonment. Brent Woodfill. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395424)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;