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Sacred Worlds and Pragmatic Science in the Aftermath of Conquest: The Hidden Caves of Cerro del Convento

Author(s): Stacie King ; Shanti Morell-Hart ; Elizabeth Konwest

Year: 2017

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In the 16th century, Dominican priests attempted to eradicate various non-Catholic ritual practices in Nejapa. Native peoples apparently regularly visited Cerro del Convento, a Sierra Sur landmark, to perform rituals and leave offerings. In the late 1500s, priests from the Dominican doctrina in Nexapa visited Cerro del Convento to destroy and burn all evidence of "idolatry". Between 2009 and 2013, members of the Proyecto Arqueológico Nejapa Tavela surveyed and excavated at Cerro del Convento to document the occupation and use of the site. Our work shows that the rockshelters associated with Cerro del Convento were visited as early as the Late Formative (500 BC). The mesa top served as a residential and ceremonial center during the Classic and Postclassic period, a time of increased conflict and military incursion. During the Late Postclassic and Early Colonial periods, the caves and rockshelters became pilgrimage destinations and were used for storing of agricultural products. We argue that the Dominican efforts to eradicate idolatry may have had a more pernicious function of exposing hidden reserves of foodstuffs. Cerro del Convento remained an important regional landmark precisely because it met both the sacred and pragmatic needs of indigenous peoples during the turbulent years of conquest.

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Sacred Worlds and Pragmatic Science in the Aftermath of Conquest: The Hidden Caves of Cerro del Convento. Stacie King, Shanti Morell-Hart, Elizabeth Konwest. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430937)


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): 15394

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