Human skeletal remains of the ancient Maya in the caves of Dos Pilas, Guatemala


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This study focuses on the assessment of the depositional activity that occurred in six caves of the Petexbatun region of the Peten, Guatemala through a quantitative analysis of the human skeletal material recovered from them. Five of these caves are associated with the site of Dos Pilas; the sixth cave (Cueva de Los Quetzales) is located beneath the site of Las Pacayas. The cave is an important aspect of the Maya worldview, as evidenced in the artifactual and skeletal material found in caves by archaeological exploration. My study is specifically focused on the assessment of the primary and/or secondary burial of Maya dead within these caves via analyses of the relative skeletal element frequencies, the minimum and probable number of individuals, and the identification of human cut marks. Based on these lines of evidence and data from preliminary reports, between 100 and 150 individuals of both sexes and various age groups were primarily deposited/buried in these caves. Secondary activity may be inferred based on evidence of human-made cut marks on several elements. There is no osteological evidence to support the hypothesis of human sacrifice. I was unable to determine the status of the individuals deposited in the caves. The best interpretation is that several types of depositional activity occurred within these caves over time.

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