Glimpses of the Dark Side of the Petexbatun Project: The Petexbatun Regional Cave Survey


Link to Full Text

Download Full Text

Publication Date


Publication Title

Ancient Mesoamerica

Volume Number


Issue Number



The Petexbatun Regional Cave Survey (PRCS) is the first large cave study to be undertaken as part of a major archaeological expedition. The survey's primary objective was assessing the extent to which surface architecture at Dos Pilas was configured by features in the sacred landscape. All three of the major architectural complexes at the site had a direct relation to caves, and a number of important secondary buildings and even residential units were deliberately laid out to incorporate caves. Excavation revealed evidence of Preclassic utilization of all of the major caves, indicating that their status as sacred landmarks had been established long before the eighth century florescence of the site. The importance of the caves in site configuration was mirrored in the artifact assemblage. Despite the survey's much smaller size, the cave investigations recovered 20–50% more of the overall assemblage at Dos Pilas in an array of artifact categories. A review of the archaeological literature suggests that the importance ascribed to caves at Dos Pilas in both site configuration and local economy can be found elsewhere and probably reflects a much wider pattern of utilization.

Document Type