Maya caves


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Encyclopedia of Caves (Third Edition)


Ancient Maya civilization extended across southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and western Honduras. Although this zone has a highland component, it is the limestone-covered Maya Lowlands that saw the rise of the great Classic cities, which are famous for their hieroglyphic inscriptions, fine architecture, and sculpture. The Lowland Maya offer an unusual case study of one of the world's great civilizations emerging in a tropical karst landscape. Moreover, the prevalence of caves in the environment shaped the development of the Classic Maya civilization. Although caves served some practical ends, for instance, sources of water in Yucatan, they principally provided religious sanctuaries and theaters of ritual activity. They also figured prominently in the Maya's mental world of myth and symbol. In their highly stratified society, the Maya's ritual use of caves was an institution that cut across class boundaries.

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