Changing Patterns of Ritual Activity in an Unlooted Cave in Central Guatemala


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Latin American Antiquity

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The Cave of Hun Nal Ye, located in central Guatemala, was discovered unlooted by a local landowner in 2005 and was immediately subject to investigation by the authors. The cave contained ritual remains dating to between the Terminal Pre-classic and Terminal Classic. In addition to allowing a detailed reconstruction of ritual activity in the northern highlands, its presence along the Great Western Trade Route allows archaeologists to examine hypotheses about interregional trade during the Classic period. In particular, changes in the ritual assemblage between the Early and Late Classic indicate that the cave was an important trade shrine for merchants and travelers passing between the highlands and lowlands until ca. A.D. 550, at which point it became a local shrine used to reinforce elite power. These changes are then linked to larger patterns occurring in other parts of the trade route, especially to Tikal and the kingdoms along the Pasión and Usumacinta rivers.

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