The Ch'ulel of Architecture of Power: Preclassic Ritual Behavior in the Northern Maya Lowlands

Author(s): Nancy Peniche May; Lilia Fernandez Souza

Year: 2018


How does a building become architecture of power? How can this power be release or lost? There are many ways in which a building can be imbued with certain attributes that allow expressing and regulating unequal power relations. Along with the form and style of buildings, ritual is perhaps one of the most important means. Through ritual performance, actors imbue the building with the ch'ulel, ensouling and animating it; obliged the ch'ulel to leave the building, killing the animate construction, and make it possible for the ch'ulel to reborn, favoring it to become more powerful. In the lowlands, the performance of rituals that had as purpose to animate, kill or make reborn buildings is a long-standing tradition that dates back to the Middle Preclassic period. This paper focuses on Structure 1714-Asub of Xaman Susula, a public building interpreted as architecture of power, precursor of the Classic palaces that had administrative and ritual functions but lacked domestic functions of palaces. During the archaeological explorations, we found material remains of ritual behavior that indicates that Structure 1714-Asub was alive and powerful. This building was likely manipulated by actors to wield power over other members of their community.

Cite this Record

The Ch'ulel of Architecture of Power: Preclassic Ritual Behavior in the Northern Maya Lowlands. Nancy Peniche May, Lilia Fernandez Souza. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444264)

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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): 21833