The Archaeobotany of Ritual: The Role of Palm (Arecaceae) in Ancient Maya Caves


The past several decades of research have identified caves as important loci for Precolumbian and historic Maya ritual activity. To the ancient Maya, caves served as portals to the underworld, functioning as sites where ritual practitioners could be in closer contact with important deities and enact rites associated with natural forces. The Belize River Valley has been a significant area for cave exploration and excavation, and Stela Cave in particular, located in the Cayo District in western Belize, has provided a rich source of data for understanding this ritual role of caves. The Maya utilized Stela Cave from the Late Preclassic period through the more recent historic period, and excavations yielded numerous archaeobotanical remains. Among this assemblage we have identified substantial amounts of palm wood (Arecaceae). In this presentation we discuss the archaeobotanical assemblage from Stela Cave, focusing on the role of palm and its importance in Precolumbian Maya cave ritual.

Cite this Record

The Archaeobotany of Ritual: The Role of Palm (Arecaceae) in Ancient Maya Caves. Andrew Wyatt, Cameron S. Griffith, Rebecca Friedel. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430733)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17520