Contemporary Tzotzil Cosmological Concepts as a Basis for Interpreting Prehistoric Maya Civilization


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American Antiquity

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A heretofore little-known aspect of Tzotzil religion centers around belief in sacred mountains, the mythological origin places of patrilineal groups. The companion animals of the corresponding kin groups are distributed throughout the 13 levels of the sacred mountain according to age and status. Ceremonial relations are maintained with the “spirit world” by means of periodic pilgrimages to the tops of these mountains. There are many suggestive analogies between these contemporary Tzotzil practices and those of the ancient Maya as recorded in the Popul Vuh and The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel and as inferred from archaeological studies. The sacred mountains of the Tzotzil are suggested as functional counterparts of some of the smaller pyramids in Classic Maya archaeological sites. These ancient pyramids may have been the centers of rule of patrilineal groups which, as progressive layers were added with lineage successions, may have become centers for ancestor worship where priest-rulers were buried.

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