The Space of Liminality: Between Ritual and Theater in Late Classic Ancient Maya Cave Rites

Author(s): Holley Moyes; Kelsey Hanson; Erin Ray

Year: 2018


Performance theory recognizes that the boundaries between ritual and theatrical performances are often quite blurred, allowing shared methods of analysis between the two. While many have argued for a theater-state among the ancient Maya, few have ventured beyond the large ceremonies conducted in great plazas to consider the more esoteric nature of public, semi-public, and private rites taking place in the natural landscape. Ancient Maya caves were used exclusively as ritual spaces, yet there has been little consideration of the performance characteristics of these sites. The ritual performances conducted in and around caves create a space for thinking about these venues as "theaters" with audiences, performers, backdrops, and lighting. In this paper we analyze architectural modifications to caves found in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve in Western Belize. We argue that architecture structured space and determined the parameters of its use, illustrating how some features channeled movement; some restricted space, while others focused attention. Our study sheds new light not only on the performance characteristics of ritual cave use but on the nature of the participants as well.

Cite this Record

The Space of Liminality: Between Ritual and Theater in Late Classic Ancient Maya Cave Rites. Holley Moyes, Kelsey Hanson, Erin Ray. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443869)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -95.032; min lat: 15.961 ; max long: -86.506; max lat: 21.861 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21284