In the Maw of the Earth Monster: Studies of Mesoamerican Ritual Cave Use

Overview

As portals to the supernatural realm that creates and animates the universe, caves have always been held sacred by the peoples of Mesoamerica. From ancient times to the present, Mesoamericans have made pilgrimages to caves for ceremonies ranging from rituals of passage to petitions for rain and a plentiful harvest. So important were caves to the pre-Hispanic peoples that they are mentioned in Maya hieroglyphic writing and portrayed in the Central Mexican and Oaxacan pictorial codices. Many ancient settlements ...

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Overview

As portals to the supernatural realm that creates and animates the universe, caves have always been held sacred by the peoples of Mesoamerica. From ancient times to the present, Mesoamericans have made pilgrimages to caves for ceremonies ranging from rituals of passage to petitions for rain and a plentiful harvest. So important were caves to the pre-Hispanic peoples that they are mentioned in Maya hieroglyphic writing and portrayed in the Central Mexican and Oaxacan pictorial codices. Many ancient settlements were located in proximity to caves.

This volume gathers papers from twenty prominent Mesoamerican archaeologists, linguists, and ethnographers to present a state-of-the-art survey of ritual cave use in Mesoamerica from Pre-Columbian times to the present. Organized geographically, the book examines cave use in Central Mexico, Oaxaca, and the Maya region. Some reports present detailed site studies, while others offer new theoretical understandings of cave rituals. As a whole, the collection validates cave study as the cutting edge of scientific investigation of indigenous ritual and belief. It confirms that the indigenous religious system of Mesoamerica was and still is much more terrestrially focused that has been generally appreciated.

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Product Details

Table of Contents

1 Introduction : a history of Mesoamerican cave interpretation 1
Pt. 1 Central Mexico 19
2 Rites of passage and other ceremonies in caves 21
3 The cave-pyramid complex among the contemporary Nahua of Northern Veracruz 35
4 Constructing mythic space : the significance of a Chicomoztoc complex at Acatzingo Viejo 69
Pt. 2 Oaxaca 89
5 Pre-Hispanic rain ceremonies in Blade Cave, Sierra Mazateca, Oaxaca, Mexico 91
6 Sacred caves and rituals from the Northern Mixteca of Oaxaca, Mexico : new revelations 117
Pt. 3 The Maya region 153
7 Some notes on ritual caves among the ancient and modern Maya 155
8 Shamans, caves, and the roles of ritual specialists in Maya society 186
9 Cave stelae and megalithic monuments in western Belize 223
10 A cognitive approach to artifact distribution in caves of the Maya area 249
11 Cluster concentrations, boundary markers, and ritual pathways : A GIS analysis of artifact cluster patterns at Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize 269
12 Ethnographic notes on Maya Q'eqchi' cave rites : implications for archaeological interpretation 301
13 A Lacandon religious ritual in the cave of the god Tsibana at the holy lake of Mensabok in the rainforest of Chiapas 328
14 Beneath the Yalahau : emerging patterns of ancient Maya ritual cave use from Northern Quintana Roo, Mexico 342
15 Caves, karst, and settlement at Mayapan, Yucatan 373
16 Concluding comments 403
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