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January 2014


A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Brandeis University Department of Anthropology, Javier Urcid, Advisor In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy, by Donald A. Slater May 2014 This dissertation examines ancient Maya cave ritual within the context of a perceived animate landscape (herein referred to as "cosmoscape") and its linkage to socio-religious power, ideology, and memory which can be enhanced temporally and spatially by the agentive dispersion of synecdochically charged fragments of material culture. Fieldwork for this project was conducted in previously undocumented caves located in the Yaxcaba municipality of Central Yucatan, Mexico. Given the cultural importance assigned to caves in Mesoamerica long before the rise of sedentary agricultural communities, it is likely that cave ideology would have been tightly woven into the fabric of the Maya belief system by the dawn of civilization. The role of caves can thus be interpreted as a source of power that would have been unquestioned - becoming part of the doxa of ancient Maya society. Working within the linked paradigm of power, agency, and cosmoscape, it becomes clear why some caves within the Yaxcaba region were incorporated into elite architectural complexes at ancient settlements. In such a location, elites had the ability to physically control these important spaces. Yet, this begs the question "did elites also control other significant caves located away from population centers in the region?" To address this inquiry, four of the 97 caves documented during this project were selected for a detailed comparison - Ikil Cave 1 and Cenote Ceh' Yax which are situated withinelite architectural complexes at ancient settlements, and Aktun Kuruxtun and Aktun Jip which are located in more peripheral settings. Similarities and differences were assessed based on the investigation of each cave's artifact assemblage, structural modifications, and spatial use patterns. In summary, this study demonstrates that there is indeed much overlap between the cultural qualities of these two subsets of caves. It thus appears that the hinterland caves of Aktun Kuruxtun and Aktun Jip were also dominated by those who had the labor resources and political clout to greatly modify these spaces, while wielding sufficient spiritual and ideological control to restrict access even when physical control was not possible. Thus, power begets power, creating a situation where those in the upper ranks of social organization gain control of significant features across diverse cosmoscape settings where they were able to access potent spiritual resources, legitimize their status, and constantly replicate this process in an effort to maintain power. keywords: Rock Art (Archaeology), Mesoamerican Archaeology, Maya Archaeology, Mesoamerican caves, Petroglyphs and Pictographs, Mesoamerican Religion, Petroglyphs, Maya Religion, Mesoamerican Cave Archaeology, and Maya Cave Archaeology. Open Access - Permission by Author(s) See Extended description for more information.




Thesis / Dissertation; serial





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