Under the Cover of Night: The Liminal Landscape in Ancient Maya Thought

Author(s): Jeremy Coltman

Year: 2016


For the ancient Maya, the landscape was wild, untamed, and dotted with caves, which were the darkest of spaces. On an empirical level, caves can reveal the ancient Maya experience of intimate darkness and nullified senses. Such experience belonged to the night, which was fraught with danger, temporally distant, and inhabited by a cast of anti-social beings. These beings belonged to the wilderness and dark forests that lacked internal order and spatial division. Much like the concept of chaos in Classical antiquity, the darkness of night symbolized the mythological past that predated the creation of the sun and the ordered world. This paper will explore the dark depths of night and will offer a reappraisal of the Maya “underworld” by way of a liminal landscape where basic human actions such as sleeping and dreaming intersect with the realm of creation, curing, and witchcraft, all of which coexist together under the cover of night.

Cite this Record

Under the Cover of Night: The Liminal Landscape in Ancient Maya Thought. Jeremy Coltman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 402933)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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