A New Study of the Gruta de Chac, Yucatán, México


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A new study at the Chac cave took place in the summer of 1998. Following E. Wyllys Andrews IV’s pioneering work at the water cave and building on a program of research at the nearby site of Chac II, excavation, mapping, ceramic classification, and radiocarbon dating at the Chac cave and its surrounding settlement have been completed. Pending neutron activation analysis of ceramics and clays will help to establish the origin of the enigmatic Chac polychrome and slateware. We now have new information indicating a close relationship between the Chac cave wares and early ceramic wares recently found at Chac II. The program of absolute dating completed is contributing to the construction of a more solid chronology that addresses the EarlyMiddle Classic (A.D. 500-700) settlement buildup in the Puuc region. These data indicate that Gruta de Chac was an important Classic period ceremonial and pilgrimage site associated with the Maya rain gods (Chacs). The cave played a significant role in attracting early settlers to the water-poor yet agriculturally rich Yucatán hill country. Some of these settlers may have been the founders of an emerging elite class whose substantive and symbolic control of a critical resource like water provided a politicoeconomic foundation for the dramatic cultural florescence of the subsequent Terminal Classic period.

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