Darkness at Noon and a Whole Lot More: The Temazcal at Ceren

Author(s): Payson Sheets

Year: 2017


When people entered the temazcal at Cerén and shut the door, they created utter darkness at any time during the day. Their preparations were elaborate, involving obtaining permission from members of Household 2, who had a service relationship in maintaining the structure. They provided pine firewood and water in ollas for creating steam and as well as for ablutions after partaking. Creation of a fire in the domed firebox heated and smoked up the interior; then a plug was removed from the roof to clear out the smoke. Next, water was poured over the firebox to create steam, and when all were inside, darkness rose as they shut the door. Copal was burned to access spirits, deities, or other supernaturals. Our usage of the 1:1 replica of the temazcal has been instrumental in revealing unanticipated consequences of the darkness: we were stunned with how the dome transformed our verbal communication. Whether words were spoken or sung, voices were greatly amplified and tones were significantly lowered. This soundscape must have played a major role in the supernatural powers invoked by participants. Interior size allows for at least a dozen people, indicating that the temazcal probably served various functions for different groups.

Cite this Record

Darkness at Noon and a Whole Lot More: The Temazcal at Ceren. Payson Sheets. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431044)


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): 14917