Speleothem Breakage, Movement, Removal and Caching: An Unreported Aspect of Ancient Maya Cave Modification.


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Publication Date

January 1997


Recent investigations have documented extensive human breakage, movement, resetting, removal, and caching of speleothems which reflects an unreported aspect of ancient Maya cave utilization. The movement, resetting, and caching of speleothems make it clear that much of the breakage was purposeful. Speleothems appear in excavation contexts at surface sites, and the Petexbatun Regional Archaeological Project demonstrates that reported examples represent only a small portion of formations actually present. Many of the contexts at surface sites indicate that speleothems had a sacred or special meaning, and ethnographic sources indicate that the meaning is associated with rain, fertility, healing, and power. Preliminary results of neutron activation analysis indicate that it may be possible to determine the cave of origin of speleothems found in cultural contexts.

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Geoarchaeology, Vol. 12 (1997).