Cosmic Vision: Queering Ancient Maya Scared Landscapes

Author(s): Zachary Nissen

Year: 2016


As a method of deconstructing and disrupting what is normative, archaeologists have used queer theory to explore aspects of the formation and intersection of identities. In this paper I illustrate how queer theory can be used beyond the study of identity by exploring the relationships between people and places. Comprising 25 cenotes, or karstic sinkholes, Cara Blanca, Belize represents one of the highest concentrations of cenotes in the Southern Maya Lowlands. A highly sacred landscape, Cara Blanca served as a pilgrimage destination during a period of several prolonged droughts (about 800-900 CE). Within this unique environment, Cara Blanca Pool 20 stands out as an exceptional example of the affective relationships between ritual practitioners and sacred landscapes. Consisting of a cenote and a "modified" natural limestone hill, I argue that the landscape of Pool 20 would have connected the human world to the supernatural realms of the heavens and the underworld. Breaking down this connection between people and place, I illustrate how queer theory can be used to explore affect and how a focus on moments of disorientation or confusion in archaeological fieldwork can be used to queer, or deconstruct, established interpretations of ritual and space.

Cite this Record

Cosmic Vision: Queering Ancient Maya Scared Landscapes. Zachary Nissen. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404582)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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