Caves and Crystalmancy: Evidence for the Use of Crystals in Ancient Maya Religion.


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Publication Date

January 1999


Modified and unmodified fragments of rock crystal have been recovered from a number of caves in the southern Maya Lowlands, suggesting that these stones were used in ancient ritual. A review of the archaeological literature suggests that crystal appears with some regularity, and ethnohistorical sources suggest that crystal was considered to be a precious stone. Ethnographic literature reports the utilization of crystals to be restricted to ritual specialists for use in curing and divining. This article suggests, on the basis of similar ethnohistorical accounts, that the situation was analogous prehistorically, which may allow archaeologists to use crystal artifacts to track the activities of ritual specialists. The power of crystals was apparently believed to be derived from the power of the earth so that crystals found in caves, which are also connected to the earth, might be considered to be especially powerful. Some evidence suggests that caves may have been an important source of these "power" objects.

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Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 55 (1999).