Capturing the Fragrance of Ancient Copan Rituals: Floral Remains from Maya Tombs and Temples

Author(s): Cameron L. McNeil

Year: 2018


Pollen analysis of Classic-period temple and tomb spaces in Copan’s Acropolis revealed a range of plants important to ancient Maya ritual practice. Some of these species were not represented in macroremains in ritual or household contexts. Scholars have described temple spaces as thick with the odor of burned offerings and copal, but added to this would also have been the fresh and heady fragrance of blooming buds and greenery, adding a fecund perfume to the areas of ritual supplication. These botanical adornments and offerings were undoubtedly tied to mythical associations, as they are in some modern Maya ritual houses. Analysis of pollen from sediment cores, and macroremains from middens, aided in the interpretation of ritual botanical materials, emphasizing the importance of understanding the complete ecological context of a community in the interpretation of species commonly found in ritual spaces. Few archaeological projects in the Maya area take floor samples for pollen analysis from buried temples and tombs. As this paper will demonstrate, this is a tremendous loss regarding our understanding of ancient Maya ritual practice, nearly as great a loss as the failure to take residue samples from vessels.

Cite this Record

Capturing the Fragrance of Ancient Copan Rituals: Floral Remains from Maya Tombs and Temples. Cameron L. McNeil. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443615)

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Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20608