The Axis Connecting Classic Maya Economy and Ritual at Xunantunich, Belize


The ancient Maya formalized avenues of movement between and within urban centers through the construction of sacbeob that both defined space and connected places on the landscape. In this paper, we discuss the ways in which a formally constructed sacbe at Xunantunich functioned as an axis connecting economic and ritual activities. The architectural arrangement of Classic Xunantunich emphasizes a north/south directionality. The site’s sacbe, however, was constructed on an east/west alignment. This site plan emphasizes a cruciform pattern, which we argue was intentional, and may symbolically represent the axis mundi. In the west, the sacbe is associated with a marketplace and ballcourt. The openness of this area reflects public participation in economic and ritual activities. As the sacbe narrows towards the east, access becomes more restricted. The sacbe terminates at a hilltop group (Group D) where excavations revealed evidence for repetitive ritual activities. We argue that the Xunantunich sacbe may have served as a processional route for periodic rituals that would have reinforced the connection between economic and religious activities, while at the same time legitimized hierarchical relationships within the society.

Cite this Record

The Axis Connecting Classic Maya Economy and Ritual at Xunantunich, Belize. Bernadette Cap, M. Kathryn Brown, Whitney Lytle. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444297)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20656