Little Finds Big Results: The Utility of Small Artifacts in the Spatial Analyses of Looted Sites


Ethnographically cave use in Mesoamerica is well-documented and there are many accounts of modern rituals occurring in or near caves. These analogies provide excellent evidence for understanding the meaning of caves and provide supporting evidence to demonstrate that they functioned as ritual spaces in ancient society, yet analogies have little resonance when considering ancient rites occurring deep within caves. For this type of question we are much more dependent on the archaeological record itself. To complicate matters, most cave sites have been heavily looted destroying artifact assemblages and disturbing contexts. In spite of these challenges, caves still contain a great deal of information and new methods of recording provide new data for analyses, hence new interpretations. In this paper we examine the use of small finds in archaeological analyses using two case studies from ancient Maya cave sites in Belize, Chechem Ha Cave and the cave at Las Cuevas. In both instances, spatial analyses using GIS reveal the contexts and structure of rituals occurring within the sites allowing us to better understand the nature of ritual practice as well as its changes over time. This has broader implications in understanding how ritual practice articulates with larger socio/political processes.

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Cite this Record

Little Finds Big Results: The Utility of Small Artifacts in the Spatial Analyses of Looted Sites. Holley Moyes, Shayna Hernandez, Lauren Phillips. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395426)


Cave Maya Ritual

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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