At Water’s Edge: Ritual Maya Animal Use in Aquatic Contexts at Cancuen

Author(s): Arthur Demarest; Erin Thornton

Year: 2015


Excavations at the Late Classic Maya site of Cancuen (Petén, Guatemala) uncovered small-scale hydraulic systems including stone-lined canals and reservoirs within the site’s architectural core. The abundance of other nearby potable water sources, along with the elaborate form of the system demonstrate that it served an ideological rather than practical function. This interpretation is supported by the artifactual material deposited in the reservoirs, as well as by the fact that the hydraulic system connects and flows between several of the site’s ritual architectural complexes. Moreover, the reservoir located in front of the site’s royal palace contained the remains of at least thirty slain individuals, who may represent members of the royal court massacred during the site’s collapse. This paper reports the animal remains found within the site’s reservoirs to further explore the nature and extent of ritual and disposal activities within these aquatic contexts. Inter and intra-site comparisons are also used to contextualize the results within broader discussions of how we identify ritual activity in the zooarchaeological record, and the role of water in ancient Maya ideological and political systems.

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Cite this Record

At Water’s Edge: Ritual Maya Animal Use in Aquatic Contexts at Cancuen. Erin Thornton, Arthur Demarest. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397811)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Fauna Maya Ritual

Geographic Keywords
Central America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.702; min lat: 6.665 ; max long: -76.685; max lat: 18.813 ;