The Ancestors You Choose: The Role of Predecessors at Xunantunich, Belize Group D

Author(s): Whitney Lytle

Year: 2021


This is an abstract from the "The Preclassic Landscape in the Mopan Valley, Belize" session, at the 86th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Ancestor veneration was a cornerstone for Maya social organization and vital to the maintenance of hierarchy. As the Maya became more politically and socially complex, ritual practices involving ancestors also rose in complexity. Critical to the concept of ancestors is the recognition of the bond between ancestors and spaces. This paper explores the perceptions of “ancestors” through a case study of the Xunantunich, Group D eastern shrine and adjoining courtyard. Group D is an enduring example of power reflected in the creation and manipulation of space. The Late Classic period creators of Group D utilized the communal perception of an important ancestral space, a Late Preclassic hilltop shrine, to legitimize a new ritual location. All too often ancestors are characterized through kinship alone when reality indicates a multitude of definitions, manifestations, sociopolitical roles, and variety of ways in which they are incorporated in ritual spaces. Using evidence from Group D, I suggest ancestors should be understood as more complex characters that can be revered as ancestors of an entire community due to their significant contributions and not solely based on kinship ties.

Cite this Record

The Ancestors You Choose: The Role of Predecessors at Xunantunich, Belize Group D. Whitney Lytle. Presented at The 86th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. 2021 ( tDAR id: 467084)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 32125