Architectural Ambivalence: An Interpretation of the Nohoch Tunich Bedrock Outcrop Complex, Pacbitun, Belize

Author(s): Jon Spenard

Year: 2015


Archaeological investigations of the Nohoch Tunich Bedrock Outcrop Complex (NTC) located near the pre-Hispanic Maya site of Pacbitun, Belize, revealed a karst landscape that was heavily, yet subtly modified during the Terminal Classic period (A.D. 700-900). Analysis of construction techniques reveal that the modifications were made to conform to a purposefully crude aesthetic aimed at maintaining and enhancing the wilderness essence of the outcrop, while transforming it into a cultural space. Maya perceptions of the wilderness inform this discussion. Rather than being evil, morally corrupt, and dangerous as is commonly asserted, recent studies indicate that the wilderness was also considered the source of beauty, pleasure, and paradise. Comparisons to similar landscape modifications and use by the Aztec suggest that the changes made to the NTC may be the result of transforming that outcrop into a pleasure park-like place, although on a less grandiose scale. Rather than conflicting with the position of the current cave archaeology paradigm, application of this Aztec pleasure park model allows for maintaining that karst features were used for ritual purposes, but that also those spaces could have been parts of larger conceptual places, particularly when clustered close together like those of the NTC.

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Cite this Record

Architectural Ambivalence: An Interpretation of the Nohoch Tunich Bedrock Outcrop Complex, Pacbitun, Belize. Jon Spenard. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395435)


Spatial Coverage

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