Rising clouds, blowing winds: Late Classic Maya rain rituals in the Main Chasm, Aguateca, Guatemala


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World Archaelogy

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Abstract Introduction Investigations of the Main Chasm at Aguateca, Guatemala Geomorphological characteristics Empirical phenomena of winds and clouds Archaeological materials Social and political implications of rain ceremonies Conclusion Acknowledgements References Full Article Figures & data References Citations Metrics Reprints & Permissions View PDF Abstract Archaeological investigations in the Main Chasm, a deep chasm that runs through the Late Classic (ad 600–900) Maya site of Aguateca, Peten, Guatemala, revealed evidence of a variety of ritual practices, suggesting that chasms, like caves, represent potent cosmological and religious places where ancestral and supernatural spirits can be reached. This paper focuses on one area of the chasm, where a combination of natural phenomena (i.e. clouds, wind), geomorphology of the locale and high frequency of musical instrument fragments indicates that rain ceremonies were a primary practice. This paper examines the complexities involved in the manipulation of the transformative properties of water and air and their associated meanings as manifested in the ritual practices within the chasm. The associated artifact assemblage and context also suggest that the activities may correlate temporally with a major political event and imply socially that upper-class people were involved in the ritual performances.

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