Ephemeral Rites: Understanding Ancient Maya Cave Ritual using Geochemical Signatures from Platform Surfaces at Las Cuevas

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Breaking Barriers: Proceedings of the 47th Annual Chacmool Archaeological Conference


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The cave at Las Cuevas located in Belize, is somewhat unique as it features an extensively architecturally-modified entrance chamber including platforms, staircases, and terraces. Most of the architecture has been plastered and much of it is still intact. Our research aims to discover the ritual function of the platforms in the cave entrance by using unique methodologies. We hypothesize these platforms may have been used for bloodletting and ritual performance. Using geochemical analysis in addition to more traditional archaeological methods, we have had promising results that support our initial hypothesis. Analyses were conducted in the field using portable XRF (pXRF) and samples were collected for Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), and to test for the presence of hemoglobin. Here we present the preliminary results of these analyses and discuss their importance for understanding past ritual practice.


Conference Proceeding