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Male-Female Sexuality in the "Fruit Bearing" Maya New Year Celebrations: Understanding the Past and Present Heritage through Participatory and Archaeological Studies

Author(s): Eleanor Harrison-Buck ; Astrid Runggaldier ; Alex Gantos

Year: 2016

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Summary

Among contemporary Tz’utujil Maya, the Mam are the “Year Bearers” of an ancient 260-day ritual calendar still used today in highland Guatemala, celebrated annually when the seasons change from dry to wet. This spring celebration corresponds with Semana Santa (Holy Week) and is when the maize is planted and cacao and other fruits are harvested. Preceding Easter, young male initiates travel on foot down from the highlands to the cacao groves that have existed in the coastal lowlands since ancient times. For the Maya, maize and cacao are personified male and female, respectively. These gendered goods are paired as regenerative beings and reflect the life cycles of plants and humans that are planted (born) and harvested (sacrificed) in hopes of being reborn again. Male-female exchange partners are historically linked to sacrificial rites, even today despite heavy Christianization. Following Strathern (1988), we suggest male-female pairings are simultaneous expressions of movement and regenerative powers, where same-sex and cross-sex relations constitute a mutual interdependency. For the Maya, this distinct way of knowing the world emphasizes one’s reciprocal relationship with it. Our understanding of this gendered relational ontology comes from our own archaeological work and participation in contemporary Tz’utujil rituals and pilgrimage events.


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Male-Female Sexuality in the "Fruit Bearing" Maya New Year Celebrations: Understanding the Past and Present Heritage through Participatory and Archaeological Studies. Eleanor Harrison-Buck, Astrid Runggaldier, Alex Gantos. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403633)


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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