The Death Within: Bone as Material among the Maya

Author(s): Andrew Scherer

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Decipherment, Digs, and Discourse: Honoring Stephen Houston's Contributions to Maya Archaeology" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Houston’s "The Life Within" is among the most perceptive and nuanced statements on Classic Maya materials and the animate quality of things. Here, I draw inspiration from this future-classic work to more deeply probe Maya understandings of bone – a material most generally treated by archaeologists as either a window into ancient bodies and beings, or, more simply, a malleable material from which to fashion a range of utilitarian and (occasionally) decorative and ceremonial objects. Yet there is much more to be said about how past peoples perceived this complex material. A key paradox of bone is that it is both emblematic of death yet represents a vital element of living beings. Although this paradox may seem a universal truism, in this paper I highlight what is especially distinct about Maya philosophies of bone as they relate to matters of the living and the dead.

Cite this Record

The Death Within: Bone as Material among the Maya. Andrew Scherer. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451710)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23351