Cahal Pech Mortuary Practices in Regional Perspective

Author(s): Anna Novotny

Year: 2016


In Patricia McAnany’s influential work Living with the Ancestors, she argued that the practice of venerating ancestors by placing human burials in eastern structures originated with commoners and was appropriated by the ruling elite as potent political displays. Within the Belize Valley, sites at all levels of the settlement continuum had eastern structures that contained numerous human inhumations, suggesting ancestors may have been politically powerful for elites and non-elites. However, ongoing research into ancient Maya mortuary practices shows distinct regional variability in mortuary treatment throughout the lowlands. In this paper, I compare and contrast, first, inhumations from an eastern structure at Cahal Pech, Structure B1, with mortuary practices of the Belize River Valley. Second, I contextualize Belize Valley practices within broader lowland Maya mortuary practices by looking to the middle and upper reaches of the Mopan River Valley. Data are drawn from settlement patterns, individual mortuary contexts, as well as the bodies interred within eastern structures along these rivers. The goal of this paper is to situate ancient Maya mortuary practices of Cahal Pech and the Belize Valley within broader traditions of the eastern Maya lowlands.

Cite this Record

Cahal Pech Mortuary Practices in Regional Perspective. Anna Novotny. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403745)


Spatial Coverage

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