tDAR Logo tDAR digital antiquity

Discerning Patterns of Intentional and Unintentional Movement of Human Bones in Maya Caves

Author(s): Gabriel Wrobel ; Amy Michael

Year: 2016

» Downloads & Basic Metadata


The caves of Central Belize were used extensively by the Maya, primarily during the Late Preclassic and Classic periods (approx. 300 BC to AD 900). Archaeological investigations of human bone deposits in these caves typically seek to identify specific mortuary rituals, often based on analogy with ethnohistoric, epigraphic, and artistic sources, and to interpret these behaviors within broader sociopolitical and environmental contexts. However, because of the long history of cave use in the area and repeated deposition on ground surfaces, many of these complex deposits are palimpsests, which complicates analyses in a number of ways. Bioarchaeologists aid in cave studies by identifying and differentiating a variety of influences acting in concert to move and displace bones, including intentional behaviors associated with elaborate and prolonged mortuary rituals and taphonomic processes (particularly water flow and looters’ activity). We discuss current bioarchaeological approaches to the study of Maya mortuary caves and provide case examples in which we compare contrasting data derived from in situ and lab analyses of bones found in the terminal and middle chambers of Actun Kabul.

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Cite this Record

Discerning Patterns of Intentional and Unintentional Movement of Human Bones in Maya Caves. Gabriel Wrobel, Amy Michael. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403354)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America