Maya Ossuaries: Body Processing and Collective Memory in the Terminal Classic


The allocation of space for the deceased is an integral component of understanding the relationship between a community and its mortuary practices.  This paper explores how Maya ossuaries, or deposits with the commingled remains of multiple individuals, form a distinct body processing method that increases in frequency during the Terminal and Postclassic period in the Northern Maya lowlands. Data from salvage excavations of a Terminal Classic disturbed ossuary in the archaeological zone of Yaxuná in central Yucatan are compared with ossuary deposits at Chichén Itzá, 20km to the north. Along with population decline at Yaxuná during Chichén’s rise to power came a number of new cultural practices associated with the larger mega-site.  New funerary practices including an ossuary with numerous fragmented human remains as well as urn burials signal profound cultural changes during this time. This research illuminates how ossuaries are integral to the history of this region by providing spaces for collective memory and enhancing the relationship between space, the body, and community within Maya society.

Cite this Record

Maya Ossuaries: Body Processing and Collective Memory in the Terminal Classic. Horvey Palacios, Traci Ardren, Julie Wesp, Travis Stanton. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 442946)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.197; min lat: 16.004 ; max long: -86.682; max lat: 21.984 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22355