Alternative Title

The Role of Caves in the Wars of the Ancient Maya



Download Full Text (1.7 MB)

Publication Date

December 2014


By studying archaeological and epigraphic sources, James Brady, Christopher Helmke and Pierre Colas have found that, among the Late Classic Maya, in contexts of war, caves of one's enemies could act as valued targets for destruction due to the great politico-religious significance they possessed. This is, in short, a very important contribution to the issue of the war between the ancient Maya. However, a modern conflict occurred between two indigenous communities in Mexico, which involved features of the natural landscape, suggests that the issue of the role of caves in the Classic warfare was much more complex. Whereas some aspects of this dispute modern indigenous and pre-Hispanic parallels found in classic Maya inscriptions, in this paper I argue the idea that in Classic times the enemy's caves were also used ritually and this use could sometimes trigger confrontations. In general, the article invites reflection on the complexity of the culture of the Mayan people.


Maya caves, Maya religion, Classic Maya wars, Maya epigraphy, Maya rituals

Document Type



Spanish and English





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.