Diving Into a Mirror of Light

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Title: Diving Into a Mirror of Light A Diachronic Exploration of Cenotes
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Wheeler, Jessica Anne
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2009
Publication Date: 2009


Subjects / Keywords: Cenote
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theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: According to Miriam Kahn, space has been "relegated to a static physical backdrop, a kind of stage-setting removed from human action and interaction" (2000: 8). Rather than taking this avenue, I attempt to examine cenotes as specific settings of human action and interaction. This thesis attempts to deconstruct the powerful concepts of place imposed by outsiders and the perspectives of places held by their inhabitants. My thesis examines uses, perceptions, and conceptions of cenotes during the prehispanicperiod and contemporarily. In order to do this, I synthesize and interpret the material deposits from caves and cenotes dating to the prehispanic period and examine the iconographic and epigraphic representations of cenotes in the Madrid and Dresden codices. For the contemporary period, I rely on my ethnographic fieldwork in Valladolid, Yucat�n from December 2008-January 2009. During that time I examined tourist literature and other representations of cenotes and interviewed residents of the area. Through this work, I hope that cenotes will emerge as complex lived spaces that are "generated within historical and spatial dimensions, both real and imagined, immediate and mediated" (2000: 8).
Statement of Responsibility: by Jessica Anne Wheeler
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2009
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Andrews, Anthony

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2009 W5
System ID: NCFE004197:00001

Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: Diving Into a Mirror of Light A Diachronic Exploration of Cenotes
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Wheeler, Jessica Anne
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2009
Publication Date: 2009


Subjects / Keywords: Cenote
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: According to Miriam Kahn, space has been "relegated to a static physical backdrop, a kind of stage-setting removed from human action and interaction" (2000: 8). Rather than taking this avenue, I attempt to examine cenotes as specific settings of human action and interaction. This thesis attempts to deconstruct the powerful concepts of place imposed by outsiders and the perspectives of places held by their inhabitants. My thesis examines uses, perceptions, and conceptions of cenotes during the prehispanicperiod and contemporarily. In order to do this, I synthesize and interpret the material deposits from caves and cenotes dating to the prehispanic period and examine the iconographic and epigraphic representations of cenotes in the Madrid and Dresden codices. For the contemporary period, I rely on my ethnographic fieldwork in Valladolid, Yucat�n from December 2008-January 2009. During that time I examined tourist literature and other representations of cenotes and interviewed residents of the area. Through this work, I hope that cenotes will emerge as complex lived spaces that are "generated within historical and spatial dimensions, both real and imagined, immediate and mediated" (2000: 8).
Statement of Responsibility: by Jessica Anne Wheeler
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2009
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Andrews, Anthony

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2009 W5
System ID: NCFE004197:00001

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DIVING INTO A MIRR OR OF LIGHT: A DIACHRONIC EXPLORATION OF CENOTES BY JESSICA ANNE WHEELER A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Anthony Andrews Sarasota, Florida May 2009


This thesis is dedicated to my grandparents: Faye Anderson Wheeler July 29, 1926 December 1, 2008 William Harold Wheeler January 31, 1920 February 26, 2009 ii


Acknowledgements First and foremost, I want to thank the professors of the Anthropology Department for the incredible education and s upport they have given me. This includes the members of my baccalaureate committee: Dr. Anthony Andrews, Dr. Maria Vesperi, Dr. Uzi Baram, and Dr. Gabrielle Vail. It also includes Dr. Erin, with whom I have tremendously enjoyed working. In addition, I would like to thank Dr. Jos Alberto Portugal for the training in Spanish, which has done much to prepare me for working in Central America. I would like to thank Tony for his fant astic guidance and support throughout my four years at New College his support has opened up so many opportunities for me, professionally and personally. The same goes for Gaby, who went above and beyond the call of duty in introducing me to a new sc holarly world, for which I will always be grateful. I have been lucky enough to have st rong professional and personal relationships with Maria and Uzi. I chose to study anthr opology on a shaky understanding of what the discipline entailed; working with Maria made me love it. Uzi has been an invaluable ally in shoring up my confidence and helping me keep a sense of humor throughout this process. The chance to work with Erin was a wonderful privilege; she has been a wonderful support during this year and I greatly apprec iate her understanding and patience. I also want to thank my parents, Cu rt Wheeler and Peggy Wheeler, for providing me with the opportunity to achieve as much as I put my mind to and for supporting me in the academic decisions I have made. I would also like thank my siblings: Paige, Ashley, and Calvin, for believing in me so wholeheartedly. I would especially like to thank my fo rmer co-workers at Treviso, for becoming my family over these past two and a half years. Their encouragement kept me going through so many rough patches. Thank you to the New College community as a whole for giving me such an unbelievable, whimsical, tremendous place to grow and learn during these past four years. This experience has made me into a stronger, more thoughtful person and I cannot imagine my life without it. Finally, I would like to thank my friends for the love, support, and truths they have shown me. This goes double for the other members of the Anthro Dream Team (Kacie, Alexa, and Lisa). I have never met a more beautiful collection of individuals and I am continually grateful for their presences in my life. iii


Table of Contents Dedication ii Acknowledgements iii Table of Contents iv List of Illustrations v Abstract vi Introduction 1 Chapter 1 10 Chapter 2 58 Chapter 3 81 Conclusion 125 Appendix 1 130 Bibliography 131 iv


List of Illustrations Figure 1.1 Map of the Maya Area 11 Figure 1.2 Map of Gruta de Balankanch 37 Figure 1.3 Tlaloc Biconical Censers 39 Figure 1.4 Miniature manos and metates 39 Figure 1.5 Spindle Whorls 39 Figure 1.6 Map of Gruta de Chac 42 Figure 1.7 Chac Polychrome jar and sherd 42 Figure 1.8 Xcaret Structure Q-Ia 45 Figure 1.9 Xcaret Structure Q-II 45 Figure 1.10 Xcaret Structure R-I 45 Figure 1.11 Cenote Xlacah 48 Figure 1.12 Map of Mayapn 50 Figure 1.13 Map of Chichn Itz 53 Figure 1.14 Cenote Sagrado 53 Figure 1.15 Large spherical beads 53 Figure 2.1 Madrid 43b 65 Figure 2.2 Madrid 49b 65 Figure 2.3 Madrid 92a 65 Figure 2.4 Madrid 66 69 Figure 2.5 Madrid 91 69 Figure 2.6 Madrid 73 69 Figure 2.7 Dresden 27 73 Figure 2.8 Dresden 28 73 Figure 2.9 Dresden 29 73 Figure 2.10 Dresden 33 73 Figure 2.11 Dresden 34 77 Figure 2.12 Dresden 35 77 Figure 2.13 Dresden 36 77 Figure 2.14 Dresden 74 77 Figure 3.1 Mural at Palacio Municipal 94 Figure 3.2 Details of mural 94 Figure 3.3 Cenote Zaci 96 Figure 3.4 Cenote Zaci 96 Figure 3.5 Sculptures outside restaurant 98 Figure 3.6 Sculpture outside restaurant 98 Figure 3.7 Sculpture outside restaurant 98 Figure 3.8 Cenote Ziiz Ha 101 Figure 3.9 Cenote Sagrado 101 Appendix 1 Map of Yucatn Peninsula 130 v


DIVING INTO A MIRROR OF LIGHT: A DIACHRONIC EXPLORATION OF CENOTES Jessica Anne Wheeler New College of Florida, 2009 ABSTRACT According to Miriam Kahn, space has b een relegated to a static physical backdrop, a kind of stage-setti ng removed from human action a nd interaction (2000: 8). Rather than taking this avenue, I attempt to examine cenotes as specific settings of human action and interaction. This th esis attempts to deconstruct the powerful concepts of place imposed by outsiders and the perspectives of places held by th eir inhabitants. My thesis examines uses, perceptions, and conceptions of cenotes during the prehispanic period and contempor arily. In order to do this, I synthesize and interpret the material deposits from caves and cenotes dating to the prehispa nic period and examine the iconographic and epigra phic representations of cenotes in the Madrid and Dresden codices. For the contemporary period, I rely on my ethnographic fiel dwork in Valladolid, Yucatn from December 2008-January 2009. During that time I examined tourist literature and other representations of cenotes and interviewed residents of the area. Through this work, I hope that cenotes will emerge as complex lived spaces that are generated within historical and sp atial dimensions, both real and imagined, immediate and mediated (2000: 8). Dr. Anthony Andrews Division of Social Sciences Department of Anthropology vi


Introduction In the square of this little village was a great cenote or subterraneous well, which supplied all the inhabitants with water. At a distance the square seemed level and unbroken; but women walking across it with cntaros or water jars suddenly disappeared, and others seemed to rise out of the earth. On a nearer approach, we found a great orifice or opening in the ro cky surface, like the mouth of a cave. The descent was by irregular steps cut and worn in the rocks. Overhead was an immense rocky roof, and at a distance of perhaps five hundred feet from the mouth was a large reservoir of water. Directly over the water the roof was perhaps sixty feet high; and there wa s an opening above which threw down a strong body of light. The water had no current, and its source was a mystery. During the rainy season it rises a little, but never falls below a certain point, and at all times it is the only source of supply to the inhabitants. Women with their water jars were constantly ascending and descending; swallows were darting through the cave in every dire ction, and the whole formed a wild, picturesque, and romantic scene. John Lloyd Stephens, village of Telchaquillo (1962 I: 83-84) The quote above is one of many pieces of evidence that each new arrival to the Yucatn Peninsula was impressed by the unique nature of cenotes whether by their importance as water sources, their central role in cosmological maps, or their beauty as geographic features. De pending on the context, cenotes have served a variety of roles over the several thousand year s of the peninsulas habita tion. Expressions of their importance can be found in their archaeological remains, their depictions by prehispanic and contemporary residents in art and text, a nd their centrality in the contemporary tourist economy of the area. All of these characteristics make cenotes a fertile area of study. This work proposes to examine diach ronically and through multiple lines of evidence the various uses of a relatively fixed type of geological feat ure. The time period covered is long and the physical space th at the study examines varies. While cenotes (as part of a pan-Mesoamerican cave complex) ar e garnering more attention in the academic discipline of anthropology (A lexander 2008; Brady and Pruf er 2005; Prufer and Brady 1


2005) as technological advancem ents have improved fieldwork conditions, there still remains a great deal of work to do. As previously stated, this work is inte nded to be diachronic in a temporal sense while the geographic scope is considerably more limited. The first section will focus on prehispanic uses of cenotes both utilitarian and religi ous, by the contemporaneous residents of the peninsula, who are typically identified as part of the Maya cultural complex. There is evidence for both sacred and quotidian uses of cenotes during this time period. This work will explore the di stinction often made between sacred and profane in anthropological wo rk, and whether or not this di stinction holds true for the residents of the area discussed. To begin with, however, the cosm ological and religious associations of cenotes will be situated within a broader pan-Mesoamerican cave complex related to origin stories. The ar chaeological remains found within caves and cenotes will be analyzed in order to glean evidence as to their specific uses and precontact peoples conceptions of them as part of the physical and cosmological landscape. The second section of this work will examine pre-Columbian representations of cenotes and caves in iconography and text. By examining the contexts in which representations of cenotes are found, information can be gathered about how they were conceived, what they were being used for, and who used their representations. The primary documents used will be the pre-Columbian codices known as the Madrid and the Dresden, but information from stelae, architecture, and painting will also be incorporated. The third section of this work is ethnographic in intent. While not a full-scale ethnography, it is intended to raise questions an d potential future lines of study relating to contemporary understandings and uses of cenotes by present-day residents of the Yucatn 2


peninsula. Currently, m any cenotes have been converted into tourist sites, and are a significant source of revenue for local or statewide governments, pueblos, families, or individuals. Others have b een incorporated into development projects. By examining representations of cenotes in the municipio of Valladolid and th rough interviews with residents of the area, the contemporary issues surrounding cenote use will be explored. Thirdspace as a Theoretical Framework Miriam Kahn argues that in grappling to understand so cial life, late-twentiethcentury scholars have begun to give the same kind of intense analytical attention to space that nineteenthand early twentieth-century sc holars gave to histor y (2000: 7). This thesis is an attempt to give this kind of analy tical attention to a partic ular type of space. According to Kahn, space has been relegated to a static physical backdrop, a kind of stage-setting removed from human action and interaction (2000: 8). Rather than taking this avenue, I attempt to examine cenotes as specific settings for human action and interaction. Instead of perpetuating the abyss in one of anthropologys dualisms, I hope that my approach will both deconstruc t the powerful concepts of place that outsiders entertain and impose through an assemblage of representations and understand places from the perspective of thei r individuals relate to them, shape them, and create them (2000: 8). Kahn terms this the thirdspace, which emerges from the dialectic between physical perceived space and mental, conceived space (2000: 7). I approach this goal by crea ting a diachronic study that examines uses, perceptions, and conceptions of cenotes throughout the prehispanic and contemporary periods. A diachronic approach enables me to explore the changing nature of such uses, perceptions, and conceptions throughout th e prehispanic period, and between the 3


prehispanic and contem porary periods. As a result, I hope that cenotes will emerge as complex lived spaces that are generated within historical and spatial dimensions, both real and imagined, immediate a nd mediated (2000: 8). I attempt to avoid perpetuating the aby ss between insider/outsider perspectives by taking both into account and examining the ways they interact. This mediation is inevitable within archaeology, since the interp retation of material remains is carried out primarily by a specialized group of people te mporally, spatially, and culturally removed from the people who used and interp reted the artifacts. In situating cenotes as part of a larger Mesoamerican cave complex, I also in corporate the percepti ons of outsiders, non-residents of the area who in teracted economically, politica lly, and socially with its residents. Much work on cave features draws evidence from a large number of Mesoamerican cultural groups in order to in terpret the evidence fo r how such features were perceived by prehispanic Mesoameri can residents (Prufer and Brady 2005, Brady and Prufer 2005, Taube 1986). By critiqui ng these assumptions of homogeneity, I attempt to highlight cenotes as specific manifestations of cave features with related but unique attributes that shaped the ways in which they were used and conceived. The second way I attempt to avoid p erpetuating the abyss is through the inclusion of both tourism literature and the pe rspectives of contemporary inhabitants. I examine both the images of cenotes developed and disseminated by various sources for the promotion of tourism and, through interv iews, the perceptions and conceptions of cenotes held by members of the lo cal population. In many wa ys, these perceptions and conceptions mutually influence each othe r; the development of Mexicos tourism industry has encouraged some Yucatn pueblos to perceive their cenotes as opportunities 4


for econom ic improvement. As Kahn points out, these various notions of place, often at battle with each other, nonetheless involve, underpin, presuppose, respond to, and generate one another (2000: 8). The different facets of this project are linked by a focus on one particular type of geological feature. I am not suggesting any overarching assumption of continuity in the representations, uses, or conceptions of cenotes Rather, this project is an attempt at integrating three of the fields of anthr opology which I have worked within during my time at New College. As such, it covers a l ong period of time and uses multiple lines of inquiry and information in order to focus on a particular type of f eature. This desire comes from a belief in the necessity and importance of more multi-faceted projects combining a few different sub-disciplines wi thin anthropology in order to create more holistic understandings. As Eric Wolf points out, only by understanding these names [concepts] as bundles of relationships and by placing them back into the field from which they were abstracted, can we hope to avoid misleadin g inferences and increase our share of understanding (1997: 3). He critiques the social sciences, pointing out that even anthropology, once greatly con cerned with how culture trai ts diffused around the world, divides its subject matter into distinctive cases: each society with its characteristic culture, conceived as an integrated and bounded system, set off against other equally bounded systems (1997: 4). What can be abstr acted from Wolfs critique is central to this study. He decries the continual parsing and parceling out of ar eas of human life to different disciplines. After the critical tu rning point he identifies, concepts such as economy, politics, and ideol ogy were assigned to comple tely different disciplines, 5


undercutting the recognition of their interconnec tedness. This study attempts to address Wolfs concerns in s everal ways: 1) by uniting three sub-disciplines of anthropology (archaeology, epigraphy, and cultural anthropology), 2) by cr itiquing the idea of a pure distinction between economic and ritual uses of cenotes and 3) by critically examining and debunking the idea of a homogenous, strictly circumscribed Maya ethnic identity, during the prehispanic and contemporary periods. Defining Terms: Cenote and Maya Before beginning, it is often necessary to de fine concepts that will be central to the work at hand. In this case, two concepts should be strictly defined as they will be used in this study: cenote and Maya. While these terms are widely disseminated, they are also defined in different ways, more or less rigidly, by the authors who use them.1 As J. Eric Thompson points ou t, The line between covered cenotes and caves containing water is not easily drawn. One might say that if the entrance leads to the water table, the structure is a covered cenote; if the water is not sufficient to support a settlement, that is if it is not an interconnected part of the underground water system, then it should be classified as a cave, local nomenclature is not consistent (1975: x). During my fieldwork in Valladolid, I also found this to be the case; there ar e a number of words, both Castilian and Yucatec Maya used in referring to a single geological feature. Thompson identifies several of the Yucat ec Maya words used in reference to cenotes : 1 The term cave is used in a general sense by many Mesoamerican scholars as a category that subsumes caves, cenotes, rejolladas rock shelters, and other similar geographic formations (Prufer and Brady 2005). As Brady points out, Since cultural geography is a cultural construct, the elements within it must be defined in emic terms. Cave is being used here in the sense of the Maya word cen [sic], which means a hole or a cavity that penetrates the earth. As such it includes caves, grottoes cenotes, sinkholes, many springs, places where rivers emerge or disappear into the earth, crevices, and an y number of other holes (1997: 603). 6


dzonot of which cenote is thought to be a corruption; ac tn used for caves; and chen which is also used for well (1975: ix-x). More recently, Arqueologa Mexicana identified the term cenote as denoting cualquier espacio subterrneo con agua, con la nica condicin de que est abierto al exterior en algn grado2 (Beddows, Blanchon, Escobar, and Torres-Talamante 2007: 35). As the area of cave archaeology has grown, cenotes have often been subsumed under the gene ral heading of caves, which is useful for examining broader patterns but can inhibi t recognition of the ways in which the two differ. In this sense, cenotes are only a relatively fixed type of geol ogical feature, since what is classified or not classified as a cenote can vary from person to person. I will use the term cenote to denote a karst geologi cal feature, often but not always covered or explicitly subterranean, that consistently (that is to say, for most of the year) contains water as a result of its connec tion to the subterranean water table. When examining cenotes as part of the pan-Mesoamerican cave complex, this distinction will be less important. It will also lose some of its saliency during the ethnographic portion, since participants in Valladolid used the term loosely and interchangeably with terms such as pozo and rejollada Defining the term Maya is somewhat more contentious, since it is widely used but rarely critically examined. In addition, its examination is often rooted in exploring the implications for contemporary peoples who either consider themselves or are considered by others to belong to the group. This particular line of analysis will be utilized during the ethnographic section. Howe ver, it is also important to examine the implications of this classification for past peoples. Jon Shackt points out: 2 any subterranean space with water, with the sole condition that it is open to the exterior to some degree (my translation) 7


In their books and articles anthropo logists have generally applied the term [Maya] to all Indian peoples speaking languages of the so-called Maya linguistic stock, regardless of whether the term was actually used or even known by the people in question. The current rise of a Mayan consciousnessis commonly described in terms of a Maya revival as if a comparable notion of a shared Mayan peoplehood had existed at some point in the past, say, at th e time of the civilization that is now known as the Classic Maya (ca. 300-900 A.D.) (2001: 3). The assumption of a shared identity theref ore has an impact on understandings of both past and contemporary peoples. Schackt goe s on to say, The Classic Maya, however, were probably never ethnically (or politica lly united) and are unlikely to have known themselves as Mayas (2001: 3). Yet they ar e almost always classified in this way. Given the restrictions of archaeology as a discipline, it is often necessary to abstract overarching patterns from limited exam ples. Categories and typologies are in many ways necessary for the organization of information. However, it is just as important to recognize the subjec tive nature of all typologies and the internal differences between groups lumped into the same categor y. Since archaeologica l classifications are based on the material remains that survive, it is even more importa nt to think critically about them. Categorization can be a useful exercise, as long as the system upon which it is based is recognized and taken into account. Many textbooks fall into the trap of assuming great homogeneity based on similar material expressions. Lynn Foster argues, Maya civilization e volved, flourished, and declined over the millennia, but it consistently remained distinctively MayaThere is considerable unity across th e Maya region (2002: 3). Wh at archaeologists must be careful of is assigning people to a group based solely on material evidence, when the uses to which the materials were put could have varied greatly. I am not arguing for the 8


com plete abolition of archaeological typologies or categorization as an exercise. Rather, I want to point out the impor tance of critically examining them before their use. In this work, I will use the term Maya in reference to the pre-Columbian residents of the geographical area that t oday includes parts of Chiapas and Tabasco, Quintana Roo, Yucatn, and Campeche (all Mexican states), Guatemala, western El Salvador, and western Honduras. The people liv ing in these areas bui lt similar types of architecture, had comparable art styles, a shared cosmology, languages belonging to a single linguistic stock, and used a single writing system. Th is classification is not to negate or ignore the different ways in which people in differe nt areas or within one area could interpret and in teract with the mate rials and beliefs listed above. I obviously cannot moderate the ways in which it is used by other scholars, but in my own writing, this is the definition I will be using. In most ways, I believe, it corresponds to the definitions used by many scholars. In the ethnographic portion, I tried to leave it up to the participants as to whether or not they identified as Maya or of Maya descent. I will further explore the issue of defining Maya during the et hnographic section. This work is organized in a linear manner in the sense of time. It begins with the prehispanic period and moves forward into contemporary times. It begins with an analysis of the archaeological evidence for cave and cenote use, moves to the iconographic and textual representations of cenotes and ends with a consideration of the contemporary issues surrounding the uses of cenotes in the municipio of Valladolid. As previously stated, this work is an atte mpt to open up new lines of inquiry and new methodologies in the area of cave archaeol ogy, still a relatively young discipline. I hope that it will be able to do so. 9


Chapter 1: Archaeology of the Prehispanic Period The first era dealt with in this diachr onic study will encompass an extremely long period of time, ending with the begi nnings of conflict between Spanish conquistadores with the residents of the Yucatn peninsula. The time demarcations traditionally used for the pre-contact Maya civilization will be used. This section will deal primarily with parts of the Middle and Late Preclassic, Classic, and Postclassic periods. The Middle to Late Preclassic Period is considered to have lasted from c. 1000 B.C.E. 250 C.E. The Classic Period lasted from c. 250 C.E. 1000/1100 C.E., and the Postclassic Period lasted from c. 1000/1100 C.E. 1541 C.E. Th e Maya area (Figure 1.1) is also typically divided into three basic geogr aphical zones: the Pacific co astal plain, the highlands, and lowlands in the north. The Pacific coastal plain consists of the area along the Pacific coast from Chiapas, Mexico into southern Guatemala and El Salvador. The highlands include northern Chiapas, central Guatemala, and parts of Honduras. The lowlands encompass northern Guatemala, Belize, and the Yucatn peninsula. Knowledge of this terminology is necessary for any discussion of archaeological evidence in the Maya area. I will begin by briefly discussing the histor y of cave archaeology in Mesoamerica, and how broader theoretical shif ts in the discipline as a whole recently illuminated caves as important sites for understanding the li ves of prehispanic Maya peoples. I will continue by critiquing archaeology as a disc ipline in order to insure that the interpretations shaped by the limited data accessible remain flexible and open to reconfiguration. I will then situate cenotes as part of a larger pan-Mesoamerican cave complex by highlighting examples of the use and portrayal of caves in areas such as Central Mexico and the southern lowlands of the Maya area. Linguistic analysis, the 10


Figure 1.1: Map of the Maya Area ( /photos/aliarda/430407635/) 11


representations of caves in Mesoam erican art, iconography, and text, and settlement configuration provide exampl es of the profound meanings caves had in Mesoamerican belief systems. I will then narrow the focus to the Yucatn peninsula and cenotes specifically, evaluating them both in terms of the larger cave complex and as unique manifestations of a particular geological type that offer an additional element important in sacred and quotidian realms: water. Cave Archaeology as a Sub-Discipline The history of the field of cave arch aeology demonstrates the effects of the changes archaeology as a discipline underwent during the 1950s and again during the 1980s. J. Eric Thompsons 1959 study The Role of Caves in Maya Culture is usually identified as the first major publication on the subject. The paucity of research on caves during the early years of Maya archaeology is of ten linked to their identification as ritual spaces rather than as habitats. The ethnogr apher Karl Sapper had earlier (1925) observed that the Maya considered caves to be sacred spaces, and Thomps on regarded habitation and temporary refuge as unlikely uses for caves, since they are often too damp (Brady and Prufer 2005: 1). However, Thompson s interpretation of cave use did not automatically end archaeologists thinking of habitation as the major function[in the case of Naj Tunich, a cave in the southeas t Guatemalan Petn], the most persistent question archaeologists asked was why Naj Tuni ch should not be inte rpreted in terms of habitation (Brady and Prufer 2005: 3). Thompsons essay was included in a later edition of Henry Mercers 1896 book, The Hill-Caves of Yucatn This book was the first attempt at a comprehensive overview of the caves of the Yucatn Peninsula. 12


Theoretical Trends in Archaeology: The Post-Processual Transition In addition to the logistical impediments to cave archaeology dur ing the earlyto mid-twentieth century, archaeologys dominant theoretical focus also inhibited further exploration. Since cave features were classified as ritual sp aces, they did not come under the purview of processual archaeological projects. Processual archaeology views technology, subsistence and elements of social organization most directly tied to production (such as economy) as the m ost important aspects of culture to analyzebecause they are the most strongly linked to adaptation (Whitley 1998: 3). The discipline informed these types of research questions. The assignment of caves to the ritual sphere by Thompson mean t that they were often ignored, since the corollary of this last point is that cultural phenomena such as religion, ritual and art are epiphenomenal derivative or secondary in nature and thus anal ytically irrelevant (1998: 3). The post-processual approach, which r ecognizes that human mind and cognition were key factors in the creation of the archaeo logical record, and they must be invoked if an adequate explanation or inte rpretation of past behavior is to be achieved, has created a safe space for the reincorporation of the epiphenomenal into the central sphere of study (1998: 5). Post-processual archaeology al so focuses on the agency of individuals and groups, rather than passive transmissi on and reception of a set of behaviors and beliefs from one individual or group to another. Therefore, it takes into account the changes that can occur during the process of cultural diffusion and transmission, which is extremely necessary to keep in mind when analyzing a large geographical area over an extended period of time, as this study does. It also leaves open the possibility for 13


innovation within a group, although this pos sibility is not always addressed in scholarship. The sometimes scattered and inconsistent nature of archaeological data both hinders and encourages the development of generalized statements about groups being studied. On the one hand, the ability to generalize is re quired for arch aeology, yet this generalization necessarily must be tied to context if it is to yield meaningful interpretations of the past (1998: 33). In some senses, archaeology embodies George Marcuss call for a methodology that moves be yond the single-site location to multiple sites of observation and participation (1995: 95) by creating larger classificatory systems to organize similarities and interactions between different sites. Simultaneously, however, archaeological projects are typi cally a comprehensive survey of one circumscribed location. Archaeology as a disc ipline is thus situated uneasily between the general and specific, in a manner which utilizes both lines of inquiry for a fuller understanding of the past. Ethnographic Analogies: A Critique Archaeological investigation in the Maya area is often heavily influenced by ethnohistorical and ethnographic data. Understandings of the prehispanic past often take points of interest from et hnohistoric and ethnographic work s as jumping-off points for interpreting the material evidence available in the area. David Whitley points out that a common criticism of it [the methodological pr inciple of using ethnohistoric work in archaeological interpretation] is that such an approach simply projects the recent past on to the prehistoric and the co rollary of this criticism is that we cannot know whether the prehistoric past was like the recent pa st (Whitley 1998: 32). Whitley includes Tom 14


Huffm ans response to these criticisms, wh ich are that change of any kind is an empirical problem in archaeology, so if change has occurred between the recent and the prehistoric pasts it should be archaeologica lly recognizable (1998: 32). However, this statement restricts the types of change that can occur to those that are readily apparent in the material remains. This is a dangerous assumption to make, and a healthy skepticism should be employed when using the ethnohist oric/ethnographic approach. It is particularly important to keep the problems i nherent in this assumption in mind in this study. The use of similar material objects does not necessarily indicate the same set of beliefs and interpretations were being actively employed by the people of different locations or within the same location. Ar chaeologys reliance on material culture can therefore be problematic when trying to evaluate the symbolic or non-utilitarian uses of remains. However, careful use of this approach can be beneficial in providing points of inquiry into the past. Information on how contemporary peoples with a strong sense of cultural continuity use and interpret their material objects can provide opening points of inquiry into past peoples use and understanding of their mate rial culture. Keith Prufer and James Brady argue that careful scrutiny of source and subject can inform the extent and relevance of similarity between contem porary and past peoples (2005: 5). They note that this is particularly true in the Maya area, since perceived continuities between past and present forms of indigenous re ligion are supported by vast bodies of ethnographic, historic, and pre-Columbian te xts, making analogy an important heuristic tool (2005: 6). As this particular study is utilizing da ta gathered, analyze d, and interpreted by other scholars, it is more difficult to apply my own particular standards to the degree I 15


would wish. However, I will a ttempt to take a critical approach in the presentation of this data in order to address the concerns I pr eviously mentioned with the methodology used in data analysis and interpretation. Cognitive Archaeology and th e Post-Processual Approach The development of the post-processual approach to arch aeology revitalized scholarship dealing with topics other than human-environment interaction and direct cultural transmission (Whitley 1998; Prufer a nd Brady 2005: 4-5). The field of cognitive archaeology, as defined by Kent Flannery a nd Joyce Marcus, is th e study of all those aspects of ancient culture that are the product of the human mind: the perception, description, and classification of the universe (cosmology); the nature of the supernatural (religion); the principl es, philosophies, ethics, and valu es by which human societies are governed (ideology); the ways in which aspect s of the world, the supernatural, or human values are conveyed in art (iconography); and all other forms of human intellectual and symbolic behavior that survive in the archaeological record (Whitley 1998: 37). Flannery and Marcus also argue that it is important to understand the distinctions among cosmology, religion, ideology, and iconography, as well their interfaces. According to their definitions, cosmology is a theory or phi losophy of the origin and general structure of the universe, its components, elements, a nd laws, especially those relating to such variables as space, time, and causalit y (1998: 38). Cave and some cenote use falls under this heading in regards to settlement c onfiguration, rituals that were focused on remaking the world at the end of a desi gnated time period, and th e interpretation of them as liminal spaces that served as a link between the eart h and the underworld. Religion, on the other hand, can be defined as a specific set of beliefs in a divine or 16


superhum an power or powers, to be obeyed and worshipped as the creator(s) and/or ruler(s) of the universe (1998: 39). Ethnogr aphic analogs indicate that caves are and were often the domiciles of certain deities or revered creatures. Ideology is the body of doctrine, myth, and symbolism of a social movement, institution, class, or group of individuals, often with reference to some political or cultural plan, along with the strategies for putting the doctrine into ope ration (1998: 40). Th e highly intertwined nature between political and religious leadersh ip at Maya sites means that the enactment of ritual activities often ha d political and social aspect s, making it both religious and ideological. The final category, iconography, is defined by Flannery and Marcus as the way ancient peoples represente d religious, political, ideologi cal, or cosmological objects or concepts in their art is some of archaeologys best material evidence for understanding past ideational systems. It is important, therefore, to keep the differences between each of these theoretical areas in mind, but just as important to recognize the ways in which they overlap and reinforce one another. There is evidence that prehispanic cave use encompassed all of these areas. Cave archaeology in the Maya region has become an increasingly studied topic as fields such as cognitive archaeology took great er hold in the discip line of archaeology. According to Prufer and Brady, however, the area of religion is one th at has still not been adequately addressed. There are three issues central to the archaeol ogy of religion: the distinction between belief and ritual acti on, the need to recogn ize just how imbedded religion is in other social formations, and the use of hi storic analogs to understand archaeological contexts (2005: 5). The th ird issue has already been addressed, but the 17


first two should also be exam ined before at tempting to undertake a discussion of cave use in Mesoamerican societies. Ritual, Cosmology, Religion, and Ideology in the Cave Context Prufer and Brady criticize descriptions of religion fo r effectively identifying iconographic symbols of beliefs but then re ferring to amorphous rituals conducted by prehistoric peoples who shared suspected be liefs (2005: 5). According to them, belief systems can be connected to other systems of social meaning by the detection and analysis of ritual contexts, which provide insight into the actors and the activities involved in religious systems (2005: 5). The id entification of caves as ritual sites imbued with religious meaning is based first and foremost on a much more intimate appreciation of cave environments (2005: 10). Although popul arly thought of as habitats for early humans, there are several charact eristics of caves that preclude that possibility. They lack light sources, are extremely damp, can be difficult to access, and are easily filled with water during the rainy season (2005: 10-11). Prufer and Brady argue, therefore, that caves are singularly unambiguous religious contexts and all of the artifacts and paraphernalia found within the caves can be in terpreted within a framework of religious ritual (2005: 11). Archaeological evidence pr ovides insights into ritual activity that iconographic and epigraphic investig ations cannot; representations of ritual in text and art are idealized, rather than actual enactments (2005: 11). Since caves have been established as site s of ritual for the expression of religious beliefs, the material remains within them can be interpreted within that particular framework. Having an overarching framewor k allows archaeologists to examine the more specific contexts within the framework in which the objects could have served. 18


However, as Prufer and Brady point out, religion is embedded within a great deal many other social formations and is often reflected in domestic and public contexts across the spectrum of social actors (2005: 5). Although et hnography is often critiqued for its tradition of studying down, archaeology ironically, in some cases falls prey to the opposite phenomenon. Often elite contexts are easier to visually locate, given the preponderance of large-scale architecture marking their residences and public spaces. The sheer quantity of artifacts different groups had access to also play a role; it is often easier to find some type of remains when a greater number of objects were in use. While some caves are centrally located and could accommodate larger groups of people, other less accessible caves distributed among sm aller settlements probably served local purposes. Glassman and Bonor Villarejo suggest that the Caves Branch Rock Shelter in Belize was a ritual burial site used by lower-caste farming memb ers of the neighboring areas because of the differences between cultu rally ritual items from this site and those from the mass burial sites a nd tombs of prehispanic Ma ya elites (2005: 289). The point that religion is embedded within other social formations is particularly salient within the Maya area, since the type of rulership commonly re ferred to as divine kingship was in effect in many sites. Ic onographic and textual representations provide strong evidence for the interplay of religious beliefs with political and regulatory formations (Sharer and Traxler 2006: 89). The religious artifacts and paraphernalia found in certain caves, therefore, can also be interpreted meaningfully within a political context. Some of James Bradys work also focuses on the interplay between religion and economy; the artifact assemblages found within caves, classified as ritually significant, can also provide insight into the way such it ems were circulated a nd distributed. Caves 19


sites are p articularly suited to this exercise, since the deposits within them have been established as serving ritual functions. The post-processual approach, therefore, has not only reincorporated certain cultural areas that were excluded during the processual phase, but has also enabled the highlighting of the links among these various ar eas. Caves, while established as ritual contexts, are still able to pr ovide insight into politico-economic formations in the Maya area through the diverse and numerous connect ions between these societal elements. They also provide insight into the ways in which people of different economic strata utilized a similar type of area for expressi on of religious and cosmological beliefs. The Mesoamerican Cave Complex Cenotes are one particular manifestation of a much larger complex. In order to fully understand their significance, it is necessary to examine the broader context of cave use in Mesoamerica. Paul Kirchhoff devel oped a list of characteristics that defines Mesoamerica as a culture area distinct from other parts of North, Central, and South America. These traits include: urbanism; monumental stone build ings built on stepped platforms arranged around public plazas and associated with freestanding sculpture; agriculture based on maize, beans, and squa sh; hieroglyphic or pictographic writing; a 260-day ritual calendar; astronomical knowle dge; a rubber ball game; human sacrifice and autosacrifice; a quadripartite world in whic h the earth is horizontally ordered in four directions and centered by a fi fth in the middle; a tripartit e vertical division of the universe; and a pantheon of gods (Foster 2002 : 28-29). Although the various definitions of Mesoamerica as a culture area may vary sl ightly, they share th e same basic list of traits. Although this category can be restrictive, the geogr aphical and cultural concept 20


of Mesoam erica has proved too useful to be abandoned (2002: 29). Rather than demolish this conceptual category, archaeologists have added other traits to the list, such as long-distance trade in elite goods and shar ed creation myths (2002: 29). Among these characteristics, it is the shared cosmology a nd creation myths that will prove most salient to this discussion. Categorization and classi fication are not inherently negative methods for handling data, as long as they retain a flexibility and fluidity that enables the incorporation of new information and reorga nization of the body of information as a whole. The Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan The first part of this discussion will fo cus on the roles of caves at the Central Mexican site of Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan was one of the largest sites during the Classic period, with a population of more than 100,000 (Evans 2004: 264). Little is known of Teotihuacans internal political, economic, or social organization, but more than any other Mesoamerican center prior to Tenochtitla n, Teotihuacan maintained strong ties with other centers, and may have even established colonies (2004: 264-265). Teotihuacan is unique for its time in its spatial organizat ion; approximately 2,200 apartment complexes were laid along a grid running along the north -south ceremonial avenue named the Street of the Dead by archaeologist s (2004: 265). Evans suggests that an understanding of the evolution of rulership can be divined from examining three differences palace complexes in the city: Xalla the Ciudadela palaces, and the Street of the Dead complex (2004: 266268). The Pyramid of the Sun, which is found in the Street of the Dead complex, is particularly significant to this discussion. 21


Contact between Teotihuacan and Maya sites seems to have begun ca. AD 200400 (Sharer and Traxler 2006: 292). Sites such as Kaminaljuyu and Balberta entered into trade with Teotihuacan during the Early Cl assic. While Teotihuacan changed its reciprocal trade relationship into a more direct way to control commodities from the south-coast, the interaction was mutual. Ru lers from Kaminaljuyu adopted some of the Teotihuacan trappings of power, such as prestige goods and a vari ant type of taludtablero architecture (2006: 292). There is doc umented evidence of Maya residence at Teotihuacan, including a Maya architectural assemblage and Maya style-pottery from at least one residential compound. In addition, tombs from the Pyramid of the Moon held bones of elite individuals accompanied by Maya-s tyle trappings (2006: 293). Sharer and Traxler, therefore, argue that the Early Classic contacts between Teotihuacan and the Maya seem best explained as long-term reci procal interaction invol ving trade, diplomacy, and perhaps even political alliances (2006: 293). Contacts with Teotihuacan ended during the sixth century. There is evidence of burning and other signs of destruction dated to ca. 550 C.E., followed by populat ion decline and abandonment (2006: 293). Further evidence of contacts between Teoti huacan and sites in the Maya area will be discussed later. The presence of Teotihuacan goods and possible colonies at Maya sites, as well as the Maya residential compound at Teotihuacan provide strong evidence for their interaction. This interaction could also ha ve resulted in or been a result of shared or similar cosmology. The most-discussed exam ple of the importance of caves at Teotihuacan is the cave beneath the Pyramid of the Sun. Doris Heyden (1976) argues that the cave beneath the Pyramid of the Sun served as the Teotihuacan axis mundi the focal point of the residents cosmology and method 22


f or spatially ordering the site. She points out that when pe ople constructed a structure, they were creating their worl d in the image of the cosmos in imitation of the gods, at least in imitation of what they have lear ned about the cosmos through myth (1976: 6). Construction planning is particularly important given that the animation and deification of geographical features th e mountains, great rocks, caves rivers, pools, and springs is an important part of Mesoamerican wo rld view (1976: 10). This animation and deification has been established both through ethnographic analogs and iconographic and textual evidence from the prehispanic pe riod (Sharer and Traxler 2006: 92). The centrality of caves to Mesoamerican cosmology can be seen through linguistic analysis, settlement configuration, and material deposits. Heyden points out that structures similar to the shrine origin ally built over the Pyramid of the Sun cave can be found in other areas of the Teotihuacan Valley, at Oztoyahualco (whose name means in a circle of caves) and Oztoticpac (ove r a cave or caves) (Heyden 1976: 3). The place of origin of many Central Mexican ethnic groups is known as Chicomotzoc, which means seven caves (1976: 12). The number seven may not be significant since it varies in other accounts; what matters here is the relation of the groups to the oztotl cave their place of origin (1976: 13). Cave s were apparently significant enough as geographic features, therefore, to become incorporated into place-names, both for specific areas and in a more general cosmological sense. Analysis of settlement configuration also reveals that caves were significant in certain areas of Central Mexico. As previous ly mentioned, the construction of a structure enables a group of people to cr eate their world in the image of the cosmos. Karl Taube discusses Tepantitla Mural 3 as a representation of Teoti huacan, arguing that the cave 23


pool within Tepantitla Mura l 3 lies at the base of a cleft m ountainmuch as the mountain constitutes the central pivotal feat ure of Mural 3, Cerro Gordo dominates the plain of Teotihuacan (1986: 52). Tepantitla Mural 3, therefore, may be a representation of the geography of Teotihuacan. According to Taube, the rushes in the two mountain scenes presumably refer to some sort of cave spring from where the mountain water issues (1986: 52). He also points out that this scene is notably similar to the fabled Tollan, or place of the rushes, which accordi ng to Seler, was a place of birth and ancestral origin known as the cave of the we st, the fertile paradi se of Quetzalcoatl (1986: 52). Taube goes on to link three of the themes f ound in Tepantitla Mural 3 and other representations of Tollan to the cave under the Pyramid of the Sun. These themes are: subterranean watery passageways, fish, and a series of four chambers representing either the four cardinal directions or the previous four worlds (1986: 54). Fish are sometimes shown in depictions of Tollan and are part of the Aztec creation story (1986: 52-53). The cave underlying the Pyramid of th e Sun consists of a 100-meter-long tunnel penetrating a grotto which terminates in a four-petal-form chamber with two small rooms that branch off the tunnel (Heyden 1976: 3). In addition, the presence of U-shaped stone drains led Rene Millon to suggest that wa ter was ceremonially drained into the cave (Taube 1986: 54). A hearth in one of the hi ghest parts of the cave contained fish and shell remains (1986: 54). The presence of evidence relating to each of these themes leads Taube to suggest that the drain, fish remains, and four-lobed chamber may constitute part of a ritual complex pertaining to the emergence of mankind (1986: 54). As previously noted, religion was interc onnected with a number of other social formations. Recently, archaeological, iconographic, and epigraphic evidence has been 24


used to argue that the Pyram id of the Sun wa s the location for the investiture of Classic period rulersin conjunction with New Fire Ceremonies (Fash, Tokovinine, Fash 2008: 2). According to the authors, this findi ng helps to explain why rituals performed by Maya kings at this locus became central to legitimation strategies at several Maya kingdoms (2008: 2). The pyramids associations with water, including the evidence for water channels in the long artifi cial cave found within it, have led scholars to interpret it both as the dwelling place of Tlaloc and a place of emergen ce such as signaled in later Mesoamerican origin stories (2008: 3). The depictions of the bundle of years or xiuhmolpilli on the temple and its orientation to the Pleiades suggest that it was the site of the New Fire Ceremony at Teot ihuacan (2008: 4-5). The cr ossed bundles of years shown in the Borbonicus rendition approximate very closely the version depicted in the Classic Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions glyph T600 in the Thompson catalog (2008: 4). This glyph is found on Structure 16 and A ltar Q at the site of Copan, where it was translated as origins house by David Stuart (2008: 7). Its associati on with the founder of Copan on Altar Q suggests that his journe y there and the act of taking the Kawil3 legitimated his rulership. According to the authors, t he symbolism of the eighth century Copan Structure 16 and the text of Altar Q rep licate and directly reference the meanings associated with the Early Classic Sun Pyramid, its Adosada platform, and the cave with water beneath it (2008.: 9). The T600 sign would stand in for the xiuhmolpilli sculptures at the Adosad a and the grasping of the Kawil would be associated with the Storm God and the cave beneath the pyramid (2008.: 9). In this example, therefore, the cosmological significance of a particular ca ve could have translated into political 3 Stuart argues that the cham Kawiil passage on Altar Q signifies a more pronounced political change than the usual accession to rulership. (F ash, Tokovinine, Fash 2008: 8). 25


significance, by legitim ating the rulership of an individual who travels to the sacred location and undergoes a ceremony investing him/ her with political and religious power. Cave Use in the Maya Area The Pyramid of the Sun is one of severa l examples of the importance of caves, albeit one of the best-studied in Central Me xico. The scholarship clearly demonstrates that the cave was momentous in terms of cosmology and political power. The proposed sphere of influence of Teotihuacan and its links to Maya area sites may suggest some shared cosmological elements. Within the Maya area specifically, there is also ample evidence that caves were extremely significant in ritual-ceremonial contexts. Settlement configuration, the presence of stelae in caves, in dications of social di visions in the use of cave spaces, and cave desecration provide extraordinary evidence for the import of caves in Maya cosmology. Settlement Configuration at Dos Pilas Dos Pilas is one example of a site at wh ich caves played a consequential role in the organization of settlement and monumental archit ecture. The site is thought to have been founded in 629 C.E. in the name of Bal aj Chan Kawiil, the son of Tikals ruler Kinich Muwaan Jol II. Dos Pilas was overrun and abandoned after the defeat of its ruler Kawiil Chan Kinich in 761 C.E. (S harer and Traxler 2006: 383, 408). Members of the Petexbatun Regional Ca ve Survey found twenty-two caves with over eleven kilometers of passages in the immediate Dos Pilas area (Brady 1997: 604). Dos Pilass three principal architectural co mplexes (El Duende Pyramid, Bat Palace, and the main plaza) all had some type of associa tion with a cave feature. A cave named the Cueva de Ro El Duende passes directly beneath the hill on which the El Duende 26


Pyram id resides, and the presence of arti facts and human bone within the cave suggest that the residents of the site knew of its presence and utilized it accordingly. The Cueva de los Murcilagos possibly served as the out let for a single drainage system uniting all of the larger caves, and its entrance is lo cated within the Bat Palace complex itself, covered by a shrine with offerings (1997: 606) The main plaza does not appear to be associated directly with a cave, but it is oriented with the natural springs that give Dos Pilas its name (1997: 608). The association between the El Duende Py ramid and the Cueva de Ro El Duende is indicative of a broader arch itectural trend within the Maya area. Juan Luis Bonor Villarejo notes that, Uno de los aspectos que ms nos ha interesado desde que iniciamos el estudio de las cuevas del rea maya ha sido, sin duda, el observer la estrecha relacin existente entre las cavernas y las es tructuras piramidales (1989: 4).4 Bonor Villarejo designates three types of caverns associated with pyramidal structures: naturally-formed caverns, artificial caverns, and subterranean co nstructions such as tombs, which he argues take on the symbolic attributes associated with caves. In addition to tombs, la sustitucin simblica de la caverna natural por las fachadas zoomorfas que representan mandbulas de serpiente, jaguar al llamado Monstruo de la Tierra can be found in the Maya area (1989: 9).5 By creating symbolic associations between subterranean constructions, mouths of zoomorphic creatures, and naturally-formed caverns, even a site that lacked natural cave features could be cosmologically situated to sanctify and legitimate the site itself and its rulers. It is important to keep in mind, however, that esa 4 One of the aspects that has most interested us from the beginning of our study of caves of the Maya area has been, without a doubt, to observe the close relationship between caverns and pyramidal structures (my translation). 5 The symbolic substitution of the natural cavern by the zoomorphic facades that represent the jaws of a serpent, jaguar, or so-called Earth Monster (my translation). 27


evolucin de la que estamos hablando no im plicara, por tanto, el olvido del espacio fsico y m aterial de la caverna, sino que sealara una nueva adaptacin en el modo de utilizarla (1989: 11).6 Stelae in Three Belize Caves The material deposits left in caves also provide clues as to their function and meaning. The Western Belize Regional Cave Pr oject recorded four vertically standing megalithic monuments in three caves: Act n Tunichil Muknal, Laberinto de las Tarntulas, and Actn Chechem Ha (Awe, Gri ffith, and Gibbs 2005: 223). In addition to the Stela Chamber, the cultural remains in Actn Tunichil Muknal include more than one hundred whole and fragmented Late Classic Period pottery vessels, several metate and mano fragments, small pieces of jade, pyrite plaques from a mosaic mirror, chipped stone tools, and the skeletal remains of fourteen individuals (2005: 224-225). Within the Stela Chamber itself are two monuments along the central axis held in position by broken stalagmites and stalacti tes placed around their bases. One stela has nine carved scallops on one side, which the authors suggest resembles a sti ngray spine. Stela 2s top is carved into a point, possibly in an effort to make it re semble an obsidian bloodletter (2005: 227). Cultural remains surrounding the two monuments include: two thin obsidian blades with tapering points, a small slate artifact, a crustacean element, and fragments of five (possibly six) pottery vessels. The slate tabl et exhibits features similar to depictions of Chaak and Tlaloc in Postcl assic effigies (2005: 227). Laberinto de los Tarntulas contained one stela, which invest igators found lying on its side. The authors suggest, however, that it was once vertical and recently dislodged by looters, which 6 That evolution of which we are speaking would not imply, therefore, forgetting the physical and material space of the cavern, but rather w ould signal a new adaptation in the way of using the cavern (my translation). 28


would also account for the m inimal cultura l remains found at the site. The remains included potsherds (many with fresh breaks), flecks of charcoal, and ash (2005: 233). A ring of limestone blocks su rrounds the stela at Chechem Ha Cave, and an upright speleothem is placed in front. The speleothem contains ashes and flecks of charcoal in a small cavity at the top. Potsherds (primarily Late Classic jar forms but also fragments of three effigy censers) and animal bones composed most of the cultura l remains around this stela (2005: 236-237). All of the stela in the caves were probab ly erected within the Late Classic to Early Postclassic periods. The cham bers within which they are located are all difficult to access. The material remains s uggest that the burning of organic materials was an activity that accompanied most of the ceremonies conducted before these monuments (2005: 243). The depictions and presence of bloodletters, as well as the animal bones found in Chechem Ha Cave, also indicate that animal offerings and human autosacrifice may have been part of the ceremonies performed. Barbara MacLeod and Dennis Puleston argue that monuments such as the ones mentioned above correspond to the stone tr ees represented on pages 26-28 of the Dresden Codex in front of which the indicate d rituals were meant to take place (1978: 74). They also suggest that massive slabs of dripstone behind a flowstone pillar in Petroglyph Cave could have been used as drums, since they produce a sound of deep resonance when struck with the bare hands (1978: 75). MacLeod and Puleston also argue that caves were ideal sites for autosacrificial rituals, given the potential of conditions of total darkness and nearly tota l silence for triggeri ng states of altered consciousness (1978: 75). This finding would corroborate Awe, Gr iffith, and Gibbss 29


conclusion that the stela and rem ains at Act n Tunichil Muknal were part of a ceremony that included bloodletting. Social Divisions in Cave Spaces The site of Cahal Uitz Na, located in the Roaring Creek Valley, Belize, was upper valleys primary administrative center duri ng the Classic period (Halperin 2005: 75). The closest cave to the sites ceremonial core, Actun Nak Beh, is connected to the center by a causeway running from the main plaza to Entrance 1 of the cave. Entrance 1 resembles the morphology of a rockshelter in shape and size and faces a flat, alluvial floodplain large enough to have held a crowd of people (2005: 78). Entrance 2 and the cave interior, on the other hand, ar e much more restrictive and smaller in size. Halperin suggests that the causeway and Entrance 1 ar e part of a public space accessible to large groups of people, while the cave interior se rved as a medium in which elite members could spatially and metaphorically link them selves with the supernatural and thus naturalize their privileged stat us as leaders and tribute extr actors (2005: 81). The cave interior of Actn Nak Beh contained three bu rials, broken obsidian blades, a small jade bead, three broken speleothems, Early Classi c period dish sherds, a large piece of quartz crystal, a slate pendant, partial remains of a Belize molded-carved vase, chert flakes, Late Classic polychrome and monochrome serving vessels, and open-form bowls and dishes (2005: 80-81).7 In this case, a cave site served to delineate elite and public spaces. 7 The remains were associated with the burials and were differentiated accordingly: Burial 1 Early Classic dish sherds, broken obsidian blades, the jade bead, an d three speleothems; Burial 2 quartz crystal, slate pendant, obsidian, and remains of Belize molded-carve d vase; Burial 3 chert flakes, sliver of quartz crystal, remains of Late Classic polychrome and monochrome serving vessels and remains of fruit, pits of nance, the endocarps of the cohune palm, and pine charcoal (Halperin 2005: 80). 30


Cave Desecration The rem ains found in caves indicate their im portance as ritual lo ci; therefore, at many Maya sites, they were vulnerable to desecration by the sett lements enemies or rivals. At Naj Tunich, Balam Na, and Cueva de Ro El Duende, entrances to caves were blocked by various methods. Elite tombs at Naj Tunich and Balam Na were looted in antiquity, while destruction of monumental architecture appears to have accompanied the sealing of Cueva de Ro El Duende (Brady and Colas 2005: 152-154). According to the authors, the determination of the victor ma y have had nothing to do with the number of casualties inflicted; instead, the capture of objects or places important to the enemy may have been crucial in who claimed vict ory (2005: 161). The capture of a sacred cave, therefore, may have been a determining f actor in who claimed victory in a conflict. Brady and Colas note that an alternative explanation for the blocked cave entrances could be termination rituals: the practice of destroying buildings accompanied by complex ritual activities ( 2005: 161). These rituals includ e the deliberate damaging or destruction of architecture or artifacts, accompanied by burning and censing (2005: 161). The Ritual Use-Intensity Method The development of the ritual use-intensity method has provided a new way of evaluating cave-use patterns of periods of time. The method evalua tes the frequency of, length of, or number of pa rticipants involved in ritu al performance over time by quantifying and analyzing ma terial remains (Moyes, Awe, Brook, and Webster 2009: 177). Moyes et al. apply the ritual use-intensity method to Chechem Ha Cave in Belize in order to evaluate patterns of cave use fr om the Preclassic to Late Classic periods. 31


Ritual us e-intensity considers two types of material signature s: direct, which consists of material manifestations that ar e part of the ritual itself, a nd indirect, which consists of markers associated with the ritu al actions but not part of the ritual itself. In the case of Chechem Ha Cave, charcoal was used as an indirect proxy because light (provided by torches) was necessary for conducting ritual activities in the dark zones of the cave (2009: 183). Regardless of the purposes the ri tuals served or whether they changed in content over time, the presence of charcoal indicated whether or not the space was being used. Based on radiocarbon dates, Chechem Ha Cave was used beginning in the Early Middle Preclassic and has the earl iest radiocarbon dates for Ma ya ritual cave use in the lowlands (2009: 184). Based on the use-intensity index, it was determined that the cave was heavily used in the Earl y/Middle Preclassic period, which fell off after 820 C.E. The period of heaviest use dates from the Termin al Preclassic to the beginning of the Early Classic period. In the Early/Middle Preclas sic period, the high char coal counts contrast with the low ceramic counts, suggesting intensiv e site usage at this early period but little importation of ceramics (2009: 188). The ritu al-use intensity met hods incorporation of direct and indirect signatures could illuminate periods of cave use that have previously been overlooked because of the lack of ceramics or other obvious material markers. There is significant evidence, therefore, that caves were ritually and socially significant spaces. Classifying caves as ritu al spaces, however, does little to illuminate the types of activities they hosted or how they fit into the sacred landscape of the prehispanic Maya. This divide is where the indirect signature of the ritual use-intensity method breaks down; although it can provide in formation about whether or not the space 32


was being utilized, it can not specify what t ypes of activities were taking place and the purposes they served. Cave refers to a wide variety of geological features. These different contexts resulted in numerous di fferent conceptions of caves as ritually significant spaces. Agricultural Rites and Caves Christopher T. Morehart argue s that the presence of dome sticated crops at Actn Chapat, Actn Chechem Ha, and Barton Creek Cave are likely the remnants of rites conducted to appease deities associated w ith agricultural fertility and thus, the maintenance of life (2005: 174). He suggests th at these cultigens were part of first fruit and cha chaak ceremonies. Significantly, the thr ee caves containing domesticated crop remains are found in more rural caves as opposed to Actn Nak Beh, which lacked remains of domesticated plants. Rituals utiliz ing domesticated plants intended to revere earth deities and achieve agri cultural success may have been conducted in more rural caves, while more urban caves such as Act n Nak Beh were public performances that achieved a greater articulation with broade r hegemonic processes of Maya political systems (2005: 178). The majority of the remains from the three caves were maize cobs. Karl Taube points out that in the earliest recorded colonial Maya myths concerning the subject, maize is taken from the mountain of sustenance for a specific reason, the creation of human beings (1986: 57). The maize remains within the three caves thus may have also been a ssociated with creation rituals. Sweatbaths in Caves Another potential use of caves was as sweatbaths. Holly Moyes examines similarities between a crawl space at Chechem Ha Cave to sweatbaths from surface sites. 33


Architectural features co mmon to ancient sw eathouses include: small dimensions, low ceilings, a system of steam production, a dra ught hole, a water drainage system, and benches running parallel to a sunken drain (Moyes 2005: 192). Crawl 3 of Chechem Ha Cave has dimensions similar to the sweatba th at the site of San Antonio, Chiapas, Mexico: nine meters in length, with width ranging from 0.55 meters to 2.75 meters and a ceiling height between 0.70 me ters and 1.2 meters. Low wa lls line both sides of the passage and a central trench (2005: 195). Cave Burials Many caves were used for burials. Scott a nd Brady use burial to refer to the deliberate and intentional interment of the remains of a community member[they] may be primary or secondary and can be found on the surface or in the ground (2005: 266). Elite cave burials are among the ea siest to identify, but appear to have been rare. Sergio Garza and colleagues hypothesize that elite cave burial was more common during the Preclassic but was discontinued during the Clas sic period because caves were susceptible to sacking after military defeat (2005: 269). Individual non-elite remains in caves are more difficult to interpret because of the lack of associated offerings. Some caves served as ossuaries; their main function was to hol d burials (2005: 271). Rockshelters and the light zone areas of small caves were also utilized as ossuarie s. Other special deposits in caves include single, disarticulated human bones or trophies of carved femurs or skull cups (2005: 274). Caves as Clay Sources Another potential use of caves was as s ources of clay. MacLeod and Puleston suggest that underground clay sources were exploited for the manufacture of ceremonial 34


vessels later destined for tom bs (1978: 72). According to the authors, the cave clays are not quantity sources, and they have been mined in a manner suggesting that secrecy was more a consideration than efficiency, wh ich would place this us e in a ritual light (1978: 72). At Balankanch, the deeper reaches of the cave contain large sherds of broken bolster-rim basins or large jars used as excavating tools in the abundant preColumbian excavations in clay and minera l beds (Andrews IV 2005: 7). There were also at least a dozen pits found in deep beds of red clay and areas of fine, sandy sahcab (2005: 15). Chen Features of the Yucatn Peninsula Classification According to Clifford Brown, no greater natural influence on ancient Maya settlement patterns ever existed than th e karst topography of the Yucatn peninsula (2005: 373). Redell notes that the amount of karst de velopment varies greatly throughout the Peninsula (1977: 219). He di vides the peninsula into four geographic sections: the Northwestern Coastal Plain, wh ich contains few surface karst features; the Northeastern Coastal Plain, a pi tted karst plain in which the cenote is the dominant karst form in the north, shallow sinkholes in the Cob area, and long hor izontal cave passages to the north of Tancah; the Sierra de Ticu l, which has only caves and other minor karst features; and Sierra de Bolonc hn, whose landscape is comparab le to cone karst, with a fewer number of caves but greater vertical development (1977: 220-223). The different types of karst features Redell classifies are as follows: poljes large, flat-bottomed valleys; hoyas generally dry large funnel-shaped dolinas; aguadas wide, shallow ponds which may be completely dry during the dry season; ojos de agua fresh-water 35


springs rising through solution channels; sumid eros cave entrances at the end of arroyos; cenotes ; and caves (1977: 219-220). It is difficult at times to differentiate among these terms, and many are used intercha ngeably to refer to the same geological feature. Several features technically classifi ed as caves may hold water or have held it in the past. Therefore, the following section will discuss both caves that hold water and geological formations explicitly named and classified as cenotes Moyes et al. combine mountains, caves, a nd water as an ideol ogical nexus present throughout Mesoamerica. According to them, the archaeological r ecord indicates that many cave rites from the Classic period were water-related. This association is corroborated by the connections between de ities thought to reside in caves and agricultural success. They reference several examples of Chaak a Maya rain deity, pictured in caves, including on a Classic peri od vase and a life-size sculpture at the La Pailita cave in Guatemala. Cenotes therefore, seem to have been particularly potent manifestations of a greater water/cave ideological nexus. Gruta de Balankanch In 1959, a sealed and hidden section of the Gruta de Balankanch (Figure 1.2) was discovered. The Gruta de Balankanch is located four kilometers west of Chichn Itz. From the cultural remains, investigators deduced that the cave was at least intermittently used from the earliest known phase of what is presently called the Formative period until shortly before the Span ish conquest (2005: 8). The part of the cave investigated contains over a kilometer of passageways varying in form and size, which are interrupted at point s by large domed chambers. Fo ur passages of the unsealed outer section of the cave led to underground water pools, wh ich was one of the foremost 36


Figure 1.2 Map of Gruta de Balankanch (Andrews IV 2005: 2) 37


reasons for the caves long period of use, sin ce in this area, where the w ater table lay 2023 m. below the surface, water was obtainable only in the rare caves and cenotes which were open to this depth (Andrews IV 2005: 7). Balankanch is a site, therefore, where the ceremonial context of a cave was closely associated with a water source. Eight categories of artifacts were documented by investigators. They consist of: large hourglass-shaped clay censers with appliqu faces of the god Tlaloc (Figure 1.3), variant vessel forms with Tlaloc-effigy appli qu, large biconical censers, large cylindrical carved stone censers (some plain, some carved), miniature stone metates and manos (Figure 1.4), miniature di shes, carved clay spindle whorls (Figure 1.5), and a miscellaneous category that included pottery vessels, beads of bone, shell, and jade, mosaics of jade, shell, and pyr ite, a projectile po int, and a limestone celt (2005: 9-10). The ceramics with Tlaloc faces could refere nce the proposed relationship between Tlaloc or the Storm God and the cave underneath Teot ihuacans Pyramid of the Sun. If so, Balankanch could be associated with ritual s relating to the origins myth and/or ruler legitimacy. Large hearths and firepits with in the cave are other important evidence for ritual use: One of the puzzling features of the cave was the general distribution of sizable carbon deposits, clea rly firepits, in nearly a ll parts of the sealed chambers of the caves. The 90 larg e censers, except those smashed and scattered, were partly or mostly f illed with vegetable carbon, as well as bone, shell, and jade beads in vari ous stages of carbonization. One contained a clay spindle whorl (2005: 15). However, the deposits from the censers and other burned remains did not contain copal remnants (2005: 15). Their absence is particular ly intriguing given that in representations of caves/ cenotes in the Dresden Codex, the associat ed deity is often pictured holding rubber incense (Gabrielle Vail, personal communication). 38


Figure 1.3 Tlaloc Biconical Censers from Gruta de Balankanch (Andrews IV 2005: 20) Figure 1.4 Miniature manos and metates from Gruta de Balankanch (Andrews IV 2005: 37) Figure 1.5 Spindle whorls from Gruta de Balankanch (Andrews IV 2005: 50) 39


Miniature m anos and metates have been found at ma ny caves other than Balankanch (Andrews IV and Andrews 1975) Those found at Balankanch were almost surely made as offerings in the cave ceremonialnone showed evidence of actual use (Andrews IV 2005: 32). These offerings coul d also be related to rituals dealing with the origins myth and the cr eation of human beings. According to the Popol Vuh: And these were the ingredients for the flesh of the human work, the human design, and the water was for the blood. It became human blood, and the corn was also used by the Bearer, BegetterAnd then the yellow corn and white corn were ground, and Xmucane did the grinding nine times. Food was used, along with the water she rinsed her hands with, for the creation of grease; it became human fat when it was worked by the Bearer, Begetter, Sovereign Plumed Serpent, as they are called (Tedlock 1996: 146). The manos and metates found in the caves may be symbolic representations of the one used by Xmucane to create human flesh. Spinning and weaving are metaphorically linked to conception and childbirth in modern Maya communities and are am ong the activities commonly performed by women in the Maya codices (Vail and St one 2002: 218, 219). The spindle whorls found in Balankanch could reference conception and childbirth. If the manos and metates are related to the first act of human creation, the spindle whorls could be ritually significant in symbolically representing the continuation of the hum an species through procreation. The two categories of remains discussed above are particularly important given the long scholarly history of ignoring womens participation within the ritual sphere. Xmucane, who grinds the corn to create human s, is the grandmother of the Hero Twins. Fiber processing and cloth production are among the most common householdprovisioning tasks assigned to women in pr ehistoric Mesoamerica (Beaudry-Corbett and 40


McCafferty 2002: 52). Both of these m aterial remains, therefore, reference activities typically associated with women in the prehis panic Maya area in a specifically ritual context. Although Landa stated that women were pr ohibited from participation in ritual life because of their impurity, this assertion has been proven false by scholarship focused on engendering archaeological materials (Nas h 2002). Although archaeologists cannot unequivocally state that women participated in the rituals conducted in caves such as Balankanch, many of the activit ies represented were typically performed by women. In addition, caves themselves may have been li nked with certain female attributes in prehispanic Maya thought. At Cueva Petroglifos in the municipio of Oxkutzcab, Yucatn, Matthias Strecker recorded cuatro smbolos de fertilidad vulva (una U invertida con lnea central (1984: 23).8 There is strong ethn ographic evidence in the Maya area that caves are symbolic representa tions of the womb or vagina (Brady 1988: 52). The archaeological remains of Balankanch could be interpreted as aspects of rituals relating to human creation and procreation; female-oriented if not female-inclusive. Gruta de Chac The Gruta de Chac (Figure 1.6) is located in the Puuc area, about five kilometers south of Kabah. In 1962, archaeologists coll ected surface material and dug a single pit into one of the caves refuse pits (Andrew s IV 1975: 11). When John Lloyd Stephens visited the Gruta de Chac in 1841, resident s of the area were carrying water on their hands and knees for almost a kilometer and then 65 m up an almost vertical series of ladders to the entrance (1975: 7). The Chac Polychrome jar (Figure 1.7), constructed for suspension from the head, forms 77 percen t of the investigators total collection (1975: 12). Design panels on the upper bodies of the jars carried various combinations of 8 Four fertility vulva symbol s (an inverted U with a cent ral line) (My translation). 41


Figure 1.6 Map of Gruta de Chac (Andrews IV 1975: 9) Figure 1.7 Example of Chac Polychrome style ceramics (Andrews IV 1975: 15) 42


three d ifferent elements: a bar or band, thought to resemble the celestial bands in the codices; a flower; and what is thought to be a water symbol, once again resembling that element in the codices (1975: 14). When the band is bent down, a stylized frog is also portrayed in the space formed. Frog motifs ar e also present on seven sherds that lack design panels (1975: 14). The author argues the fact that these elaborate polychrome jars, instead of coarse unslipped and unpain ted vessels, were used under such likelihood of breakage indicates that the ca ve had sacred as well as util itarian attributes in ancient times (1975: 19). There is no evidence that expl icitly ritual activities were performed at the Gruta de Chac. However, it does provide evidence that even utilitarian water sources were venerated as having sacred associations. Chen Features on Cozumel Island Shankari Patel argues that a pilgrimage circuit involving land scape features was once the focus of religious devotion on Cozumel and that these features may hold critical data on the importance of the Ix Chel cu lt, based on the temples and archaeological remains associated with caves/ cenotes on the island (Patel 2005: 101). Cozumel Island is located off the eastern coast of Yucatn. According to Bishop Diego de Landa, the island was a pilgrimage center devoted to the deity Ix Chel (2005: 92). The main administrative and ceremonial center on the is land, known as San Gervasio, has a cenote temple. A sacbe led to a staircase descending into the cenote Two structures, which appear to be temples, are adjacent to the cenote. Another cenote associated with both a temple and sacbe is Celerain I. Fragments of incense burners were found on the floor of the temple. Patel proposes the buildings were associated with an island-wide sacbe network, which outlined a ceremonial circuit tying together the islands sacred geography (2005: 105). 43


In the sou thern portion of the island, at Chen Pita, a cache of fire opals sourced from hundreds of kilometers away was found under an altar. The cenote at Chankanaab held ceramics and jade axes dating to the Late Cl assic period and intact ceramic vessels were found in the cenote of Chen-Ha. Cueva Quebrada, an underwater cave system on Cozumel, held pottery, human bones, and vari ous other artifacts (2005: 101). Ix Chel was described by Landa as the patron of ch ildbirth and midwives (Vail and Stone 2002: 209). The importance of caves and cenotes at her pilgrimage site implies that these geological features were associated with procreation, as Brady suggests. Xcaret The site of Xcaret on the central coast is located oppos ite Cozumel Island and is seven miles south of Playa del Carmen. It is possible that Xcaret is the prehistoric and colonial port of Pole, which was the first major town in the progression of the Itza migration into Yucatan (Andrews IV and Andrews 1975: 10). The site probably remained an important port throughout the Po stclassic period, as east coast settlements increased in number and Mesoamerican maritime trade expanded during this time (1975: 10). Its proximity to Cozumel suggest s that it was significant as a commercial center and way station for pilgrimages (1975: 1011). Four cave shrines were recorded in the vicinity of Xcaret, la beled Groups Q (Figures 1.8 and 1.9), R (Figure 1.10), S, and Y. All of the shrines are found in inland caves with year-round fresh-water springs, or cenotes (1975: 44). Two complete incensario cups, two fragmented, and fragments of an idol were found in the Group Q cave. There is also evidence of very dense settlement, including a considerable number of small mounds, several chultuns, field walls, and a possible sacbe in the vi cinity of Group Q (1975: 45). The cenote at Group 44


Figure 1.8 Structure Q-Ia Ground Plan Figure 1.9 Figure 1.10 Structure Q-II Ground Plan Structure R-I Cave Shrine (All images from Andrews IV and Andrews 1975: 57) 45


Q m ay have been used both for water collecti on and ritual performances. In front of the Group R cave entrance, a small rubble mound preserved a miniature shrine. A shrine inside the cave contained a be nch, with fragments of a stucco idol. A small feline effigy faced the cave entrance in front of the shrine (1975: 46). Group Ss cave is larger than Groups Q and R, and most of its seven chambers are inundated by a shallow cenote (1975: 46). Its shrine is larg er than that of Group R, and pieces of a small feline figure similar to the one found in Group R were on the southeast corner of its stepped platform (1975: 46). According to Br ady, Precolumbian Mesoamerican iconography links jaguars with caves (1988: 51-52). Balankanch is tran slated as Throne of the Tiger Priest, but a closer translation would be Throne of the Jaguar Prie st. Modern ethnographic sources also relate jaguars to sexuality; th e presence of feline figures in Groups R and S could indicate the caves associ ation with sexuality. In add ition to the feline figure, two whole incensario cups and fragments of others were found within the Group S cave (1975: 46). The size of Group Ss shrine is particularly noteworthy given its seven chambers and the fact that most of them are inundated by the cenote. The versions of the origins story presented by Taube (1986) strongly emphasize both the emergence of humans from seven caves and thei r connections to fish. If th ese aspects of the story were present in the version known at Xcaret, the size of the shri ne could indicate the caves paramount importance in relation to the myth. Group Y is another extensive cave with multiple chambers, some flooded by a shallow, wide cenote (1975: 49). A partially standing miniature shrine and a petroglyph are inside the cave The face, arms, and chest of the figure were outlined, the abnormally large testicles and penis were drawn in 46


m eticulous detail (1975: 50). The emphasis on the figures sexual or gans also hints at the sexual symbolism of this cave. Dzibilchaltn The site of Dzibilchaltn lies on the northwestern coastal plain of the Yucatn peninsula, twenty-two kilometers from the coast (Andrews IV and Andrews V 1980: 1). Dzibilchaltn was occupied from the Formativ e period into the Late Postclassic, but it attained its maximum size during the Termin al Classic (Sharer and Traxler 2006: 549550). During this long period of habitation, the deep, natural limestone sink called Cenote Xlacahmust have been the prime sour ce of water for at l east the central portion of the site (Andrews IV and Andrews V 1980: 13). The cenote (Figure 1.11) is located at the west end of the Centra l Plaza and north of the South Plaza, placing it in the center of the site. Archaeological remains recove red from Cenote Xlacah include approximately 30,500 sherds, 40 intact or restor able vessels, portions of at least eight human skeletons, numerous animal bones, earplugs, needles, awls, and hair orna ments (1980: 242-245). Some of the sherds are fro m Classic period modeled cense rs (Chen Mul Modeled) and were intentionally thrown in to the cenote, probably as offerings (1980: 245). Alfredo Barrera Vsquez suggested that the earplugs, ne edles, awls, and hair ornaments may have been offerings from hetz-mek ceremonies.9 Another interpreta tion of the non-ceramic artifacts is that they indicate an elite offertory cult practiced on an individual rather than institutional basis (1980: 245). The few sk eletal remains recovered imply that the cenote 9 According to Andrews IV and Andrews V (1980: 245), Maya children are customarily carried astride the hips of their parents. When a child reached the age at which he could thus be carried, the family gathered and presented offerings to the gods, in a ceremony called hetz-mek Offerings depended on the sex of the child. 47


Figure 1.11 Cenote Xlacah at Dzibilchaltn ( /photos/pence/2522442798/ ) 48


was not used a well of hum an sacrifice. Th e remains include: four crania with marked frontal deformation, a young adult without cran ial deformation (possibly recent), a subadult without cranial deformation, a fragment of an infant skull, and a femur, thought to be European (1980: 245). Since Cenote Xlacah served as the primary water source for Dzibilchaltn and the surrounding area, it did not have an exclusively ritual context. The other artifacts found in its water may have had ritual signi ficance. Few of the sherds from the cenote date to the period before the construction of Structure 1-sub, indicating that the core of the site was essentially contemporary with the cons truction of the east-west causeway axis and the buildings and terraces at their ends (1980: 243). Like the Gruta de Chac remains, sherd deposits may be a sign of the cenote s sacred attributes. Mayapn Mayapn (Figure 1.12), which served as th e capital of much of northern Yucatn during most of the Late Postcl assic period, is located forty k ilometers south-southeast of Mrida, Yucatn (Brown 2005: 373). Clifford Brown examines how the Maya adapted the social, aesthetic, and religious aspects of their settlement at Mayapn to the karstic landscape (2005: 375). The dist ribution of water sources seems to have played an important role in settlement organization; A. L. Smith argued that there was a correlation between the density of settlem ent and the location of water sources at the site (2005: 376). The distribution of known cenotes at Mayapn may also be patterned; Brown points out, however, that this begs the quest ion of what features are classified as 49


Figure 1.12 Carnegies map of Mayapn ( ages/Carnegie_Centro_Map_LoRes.jpg ) 50


cenotes .10 Using the Carnegie Institutions map of Mayapn, regulariti es in the spatial distribution of cenotes can be observed: For example, the two mouths of th e Cenote Polbox, the Cenote Yax-nab, the Cenote X-te Toloc, the four mo uths of the Cenotes Zuytun Cab, and the Cenote Cosil form a line running eas t to west across th e southern part of the site. The large Cenote Sac Ua yum, just outside the GreatWall, is not far south of that line. Simila rly, the Cenotes Yax-nab, Chen Pie, Yo Dzonot, and Chen Kulu align north to south (2005: 381-382). Brown highlights the evidence that Maya ce remonial architectu re and its spatial organization were related to ancient Mayan c onceptions of politics, religion, society, and the cosmos (2005: 388). Cenotes provided space for the re petition of archetypical mythical acts, which sacralizes profane space and the quotidian tasks of life (2005: 389). The Temple of Kukulcan at Mayapn is located near Cenote Chen Mul and above a natural cave. On the southeast corner of its substructure, the side closest to Cenote Chen Mul, human figures with deat h imagery were modeled in stucco. The Temple has nine terraces, equal to the number of levels in the Maya Underworld. Brown proposes that the Temple of K ukulcan at Mayapn acted as an axis mundi that united Heaven, Earth, and the Underwor ld (2005: 390). According to this interpretation, cave features were not only significant because of th eir association to the creation story. They also represented access points to the othe r two parts of the universe. Given the connections between the underworld and creation in the Popol Vuh (Taube 1986; Tedlock 1996) these two interpre tations are entirely reconcilabl e. Death imagery is also 10 By cenotes I mean watering places, because at Ma yapn these are often solutio n caverns with water in them; they may or may not be asso ciated with classic collapse dolines Even those cenotes that have collapse dolines, such as Chen mul, Itzmal Chen, and Chen Max also have caves; frequently it is the cave, rather than the doline, that reaches the modern water table. Locally, the term cheen (well) is used to denote such caves-with-w ater-in-them, rather than aktun the common Yucatec word for cave. In fact, the word cheen is used for all natural water sources in the area, regardless of whether they are collapse dolines or caves, exce pt for the lakes of the cenote zone (Brown 2005: 377). 51


present within caves; the south side of one rock at Cueva Petroglifos est dom inado por un esqueleto en relievea ambos lados esta figura est flanqueada por lo menos por nueve grabados parecidos aunque ms sencillo s: constan de un es queleto con depresin en el pechoy de unas escaleras con una ln ea vertical por el medio (Strecker 1984: 23).11 Cenote X-Coton at Mayapn contains a sma ll shrine that was heavily used in the Late Postclassic period. Large numbers of Chen Mul effigy censer sherds and the copious animal skeletal remains have b een found in the area (Pugh 2005: 56). An intentionally blocked water hol e connected by a passage to the southwest corner of the cenote contained the disarticulated remains of mo re than twelve humans. In the southern wall of Cenote X-Coton, a niche held a scul pted human figure wearing an animal skin and making an offering. The figure was surr ounded by censer sherds (2005: 57). It is possible that the figure is a representation of aj way which refers to dreams, shaman, sleep, and the transformation into an animal compani on (2005: 57-58). This interpretation is supported by a second niche containing animal bones and a dog carved from stone. Pugh proposes that the cenote was utilized for rituals associated with water, sacrifice, and way transformations (2005: 58). Chichn Itz Chichn Itz (Figure 1.13) became a preeminent site during the Late Classic period, but it was the dominant capital in Yu catn during the Terminal Classic, until ca. 1050-1100 C.E. It is referred to as the most cosmopolitan of the Maya capitals, typified by a blending of the traditional distinctions between the various regional 11 [The south side of the rock] is dominated by a skeleton in reliefboth sides of this figure are flanked by at least nine carvings seeming although simpler: they consist of a skeleton with a depression in the chestand of some stairs with a verti cal line through the middle (my translation). 52


Figure 1.13 Site map of Chichn Itz (http:// ) Figure 1.14 Cenote Sagrado at Chichn Itz (photograph by author) Figure 1.15 Large spherical beads from the Cenote Sagrado (Proskouriakoff 1974: 106) 53


cultu res of Mesoamerica (Sharer and Traxle r 2006: 559). Yucatecan chronicles written during the Colonial era state that the site was founded by a group of immigrants known as the Itza. The name Chichn Itz means openi ng of the wells of the Itza, in reference to the two large cenotes at the site (2006: 562). Cenote Xtoloc was centrally located and served as the water supply for the citys population. The Sacred Cenote (Figure 1.14) is north of the El Castillo stru cture. It has a long histor y, since during Chichen Itzas ascendancy, and even after its downfall in the Postclassic, pilgrimages were made to the Sacred Cenote from all parts of the Maya area and beyond to cast offerings into its depths (2006: 565). Artifacts from the Sacr ed Cenote include jade ite, gold, pottery, and human bone. These artifacts include the greatest number of metal objects found in the Maya area. Metal artifacts were increasingly used as prestige goods during the Postclassic period, and those found in the S acred Cenote include disks with repouss work, necklaces, bracelets, masks, pendants, ri ngs, earplugs, bells, and beads. Of these, the most common objects are small copper bells which were a common ornament of the Maya death god in Postclassic times (2006: 576). Their presence links the Sacred Cenote to death and the Underworld. Large spherical jade beads (Figure 1.15) recovered from the Sacred Cenote depict humans, gods, and other animals being devoured by feathered serpents (Proskouriakoff 1974: 83). The feathered serpent may be a representation of Kukulcan/Quetzalcoatl; Taube (1986) discusses the connections between caves and wind, with partic ular reference to Chichn Itz. The Sacred Cenote is probably best-know n for the human remains found in its depths. Representations of human sacrifice and perimortem violence increased in the northern lowlands during the Terminal Classic and Postclassic periods (Anda 2007: 190). 54


Vera Ties ler examined a skull collection composed of seventy-three complete specimens or large segments. Most of the specimens fell into the subadult age range from late childhood to early adolescence (6 -15 years old). Males ma de up two-thirds of the specimens who could be sexed. The observed se x and age distribution is consistent with that of an independent collection studie d by Earnest Hooton (2005: 351). Artificial modeling was observed for 93 percent of the cran ia. According to Tiesler, the evidence of oblique and mimetic head modifications common to the Classic period strengthens the idea that the cenote served as a ritual human depository during that period (2005: 353). Marks consistent with dismemberment, defleshment, flaying, perimortem violence, and heat exposure are present on many of the sk eletal remains from the Sacred Cenote, indicating a wide variety of cultural body treatments. Th ese treatments are strongly suggestive of ritual behaviors (Anda 2007: 201) Anda suggests that the high occurrence of subadult remains in the Sacred Cenote is related to the links between children and the bacabs.12 The cenote artifacts at Chichen Itza connect broad themes of the Underworld and human creation and propitiation. Conclusion Cave features had a host of associations and symbolic significance during the prehispanic period. They provided sacred spaces for the enactment of cosmological performances related to the origins of human beings and their continued existence. Humans first emerged from caves. The deities who controlle d the rain which determined maize production and thus the ma terial from which humans were formed 12 The rain god Chaak was thought to live in cenotes along with its helpers the Bacabs The Bacabs controlled rain and wind and were in charge of rising into the sky and pouring rain. The cha chaac ceremony is still practiced by modern Maya in petitions for rain. In this ceremony, the Bacabs are represented by four children placed in the four corners of the squa re during the ceremony (Anda 2007: 201). 55


lived in caves. Caves provided safe, less ac cess ible areas for the disposal of human remains as well as conduits to the Underworl d, to which some of those dead traveled. Their resemblance to wombs and vaginas mean t that they also could have served as locations for rituals deali ng with human procreation. Cenotes heightened the ritual significance of cave features because of the presence of water. Although archaeologists have tended to focus on caves/cenotes as wa ter sources to the ex clusion of all other functions, their cultural remains and role in settlement configur ation both prove that they did not have exclusively utilitarian functions (Rissolo 2005: 346). Even the remains from features such as Gruta de Chac, whic h were not explicitly ritual spaces, were indicative of the significance of water in both a utilitarian and sacred sense. It is practically impossible to fully re construct who actually performed the rituals within various cave features. Andrea Stone argu es that there can be little doubt that in ancient Maya society, forms of elite cave ce remonialism coexisted alongside those of the agrarian commoner (2005: 135). The presence of male and female remains over a wide age range indicates that at least in one aspect both sexes and all ages were participants in some way. The many different types of cave features and their distribution across the Yucatn Peninsula made them appropriate for different types of ritual enactments and accessible to a wide range of participants. Th e assorted types of r ituals that took place at a range of sites would have involved part icipants diverse in sex, gender identity, socioeconomic class, age, and social status. The different types of material deposits from cave spaces mark them as a constantly shifting and changing milieu of ideas, events, appearances, and meanings (Kahn 2000: 7). They were not passive backdrops but rather active pa rts of the activities 56


perform ed within the space. Cave features are connected to social imagination and practice, to dwelling and movement, and to memo ry and desire (2000: 7) In the case of cenotes and other chen features, the spaces were able to temporally transport the inhabitants and physically recreate the creation of humans. Although perceived as geological formations that contained wate r necessary for human life and subsistence agriculture, chen features were conceived as ritual spaces for the enactment of cosmological truths and religious performances The dialectic between the two resulted in their transformation into social, lived spaces. In addition to archaeological remains, other significant sources of information about pre-Columbian religion, ideology, and cosmology are the texts from this time period. Cave features are mentioned exp licitly in Classic texts and iconographic portrayals of cenotes are present in the Dresden and Madrid codices. These epigraphic and iconographic representations will be th e next subject of this thesis. 57


Chapter 2: Iconographic an d Epigraphic Portrayals of Cenotes Iconography and epigraphy ar e intimately linked to cave features in two ways. Caves and cenotes are referenced and pictured on a variety of preserved media from the Maya area. Stela, panels, and architecture me ntion caves in a large number of contexts. Cenotes specifically are pictured in two of the Maya codices: the Dresden and the Madrid. Secondly, iconography and text have been found in caves. According to Andrea Stone, scribes practiced some form of cave ceremonialism aimed at affirming the sacred status of their scribal office and their near suprahuman abilities ( 2005: 136). Research has attested to the high status scribes held in ancient Maya society, and caves may have served as one of the places for acting out real rituals that could affirm the divine inspiration of their craft in a tangible way (2005: 136). Paintings from the site of Naj Tunich show the presence of the artists/scrib es themselves, in the form of both figural representations, what can be construed as self-portraits, and in texts where they mention their own names (2005: 142). Except for a brief discussion of the chen glyph and an example of its use, this section will focus on the iconographic representations of cenotes in the Madrid and Dresden codices. These two codices will be highlighted because of their provenience. Stylistically, they appear to date to the Late Postclassic period and show similarities to murals found at sites such as Tulum, Tanca h, Santa Rita, and Mayapn in Yucatn (Vail and Aveni 2004: 10). Dating the codices can be difficult because some of the tables and almanacs seem to have been copied from earlier records. J. Eric S. Thompson put forward a date of 1200 1250 C.E. for the ma nufacture of the Dresden Codex, with a provenience at Chichn Itz. For the Madr id Codex, his suggestion was that it was 58


painted in n orthwestern Yucatn in the fifteen th century (2004: 11). Linguistic analysis also corroborates a Yucatecan provenience for the codices, although both Yucatec and Cholan vocabulary are incorporated into the text (2004: 12-14). In addition, the iconography of the Madrid Codex suggests closer links to site s in the northern area [of the Yucatn peninsula] (2004: 14). That there is a distinction between the sacred and the profane in all societies is far too often assumed. The Maya codices are merely one example of the way in which certain activities are multil ayered, encompassing both dimensions. The Madrid and Dresden Codices illustrate a large number of deities performing tasks that many scholars would classify as quotidian: drilling fire planting, weaving, hunting, beekeeping, and harvesting, to name a few. However, these tasks do not only provide for the material needs for human life; each is a symbolic representation of the work done by the deities in the creation and continuation of the world. The codices almanacs and tables contain huge amounts of information for timing ritual events and tracking astronomical cycles; this information was gathered and preserve d over centuries. Gabrielle Vail and Anthony Aveni point out that las fech as contenidas en el manuscrito indican que se trata de una compilacin de informacin recabada y anotad a a lo largo de varios siglos, aunque los documentos mismos fueron pintados probablemente poco antes de la conquista (2008: 76).13 The physical documents known as the Dresden, Madrid, and the Paris Codices only represent the last material manifestati on of a stored collective knowledge that was honed over centuries. Vail and Aveni also s uggest that this information was compiled and used by a specific group of people: the ah kinoob, or counters of days (2008: 76). 13 The dates contained in the manuscript indicate th at they deal with a co mpilation of information collected and recorded over several centuries, although the documents themselves were painted probably shortly before the conquest (my translation) 59


The specialized nature of the knowledge reco rded in the codices indicates that it was probably only fully understood, gathered, and applied by a specific gr oup with significant training, and religious and political clout. According to Karl Taube, the Dresden Codex provides the clearest and most precise inform ation regarding the attributes and names of Maya gods (1992: 2). It consists of thirty-nine leav es, although some of these were extensively damaged during the bombing of Dresden during World War II. Its execution is thought to be finer than that of the Madrid Codex, which is not only a reflection on the artist ry of each codex. Taube argues that the poorer execution of the Madrid Codex is evident in the numerous scribal errors and the likely in accuracies in the portrayal of Maya gods. As a result, Taube argues that interpreta tions based on specific texts or iconographic details in the Codex Madrid should be made with caution, particularly if they are based upon only a single scene (1992: 3). While it is important to heed this warning, it is similarly important to keep in mind that deities from the Maya area were conceived as complex, multifaceted beings that embodied a wide range of traits and activities. If different aspects of a particular deity are emphasized in scenes from the Madrid and the Dresden codices, this disconnect does not necessarily nullify one portray al. Rather, it could be an expression of a different element embodied by the same figure. The Cheen Glyph: Cave Features in Maya Writing The glyph tentatively identified as chen or cheen is known as the impinged bone element and is one of the most frequent gl yphs known in the Classic inscriptions and codices (Vogt and Stuart 2005: 157). This reading is suggested in part because of the signs associations with death and the U nderworld and place names. The glyph itself 60


shows a bone m otif with side indentations wi thin the standard rounded form of a main sign (2005: 157). In other examples, a ha lf-darkened field was added and the bone changed into a mandible or detached eye. A recurrent motif in Underworld iconography is the eyes and bones against a darkened background. The impinged bone element has strong visual affinities with themes of death and the Underworld (2005: 157). This glyph is also closely associated with place names, and takes prefixes such as tuin his/her/its and tahnwithin It also appears with the verb och which means to enter. One of its parallel verb phrases is och-witz meaning enters the mountain; the close connection between mount ains and caves explored in the last chapter indicates that a sim ilar phrase exists for cave. In addition, the signs phonetic value ends in the consonant n (2005 : 158-160). This evidence supports the chen reading for the impinged bone element. At the sites of Balam Na, Naj Tunich, a nd Dos Pilas, caves were sealed off and their interiors were looted. Brady and Co las combine archaeological and epigraphic evidence to argue that the desecration of cav es played a significant role in warfare (2005). Using David Stuarts reading of chen for the signs HH2 and BT6,14 there are several references to desecrated caves in hieroglyphic texts. On Tonina Monument 12, which depicts Palenque ruler Kan Joy Chitam bound, the chen glyph appears with the star over earth glyph, signifying some type of warlike action (2005: 156-157). This text has the date 13 Akbal 16 Yax (August 30, 711). The entire compound is translated by Brady and Colas as was at tacked his cave (2005: 157). Three looted panels, thought to come from the Piedras Negr as region, also record war events related to caves. Nikte Mo, Lord of Petun, scattered fire into the cave of K ab Chante, ruler of 14 Designations refer to the Macri and Looper (2003) catalog of hieroglyphs. 61


Sak Tzi on 13 Ik 5 Zip (April 17, 641) (2005: 157). One day later, Kab Chante beheaded Nikte Mo. According to Br ady and Colas, this strongly suggests that the fire throwing is some kind of war event that is answered by a reprisal from Kab Chante (2005: 158). Since caves were often intimately entwined w ith creation stories, the destruction of a cave would eliminat e the space of creat ion and procreation, threatening the survival of a people. Based on the reading of th e impinged-bone element as chen (T571; T598; T599), Timothy Knowlton (2002) contends this compound, paired with the kaab logograph, represents the concept of residence (an example of this compound can be found in Figure 2.11, position C2). According to Know lton, this pairing is one example of difrasismo or diphrastic kennings in Classic Maya texts. Difrasismo is defined by Garibay as the process of pairing two meta phors which together give a symbolic means of expressing a single thought (2002: 9). One of the contexts in which diphrastic kennings can be identified is when a pair of CVC lexical elements (logographic or syllabic) consistently sharing the same grammatical position can be distinguished from a compound word by the presence of pronouns an d/or prepositions separating the lexical elements (2002: 10). The compound is found in contexts ranging from residence, house dedications, food production, ownership, and war events, which suggests that <> refers to <> in Classic Mayan texts (2002: 11). Therefore, the warfare events associated with cave sites discussed above could refer to the geographic features classified as caves, a se ttlement itself, or both. The replication of sacred geography in site construction substantiates Knowltons reading. 62


The kaab chen com pound discussed by Knowlton is associated with iconographic portrayals of cenotes in three different places (Dresden 33, 34, 35; Figures 2.10-2.12). Each of these examples features Chaak a rain deity portr ayed as living in caves in other iconographic contexts. Although every example of Chaak pictured with a cenote does not include the kaab chen compound, it could be telling that each time the compound is used, it is used with Chaak If Knowltons reading is correct, the cenote in which Chaak is pictured may be his residence. Iconographic Portrayals of Cave Features The identification of T769 as a representa tion of various cave features has been supported by many epigraphers. David Stua rt and Stephen Houston argue that T769 probably refers to a depression or hole, with which it appears on page 43a of the Dresden Codex (1994: 71). They identif y it as a place glyph associated with mythological settings. It incorporat es two affixes, one of them T86 NAL and the other the glyph for black. Stuart and Houston read this compound as black hole, a feature serving as the apparent locus of ball-playi ng in mythological tim e (1994: 71). It is found in conjunction with a birth event at La canha, reaffirming the links between cave features, creation, and procreation. At times, the compound is occasionally modified in a way that may refer to cenotes specifically. The glyph T95.86: 522v is at times pictured with the black hole compound, and designates a watery environment (1994: 72). Linda Schele and Peter Mathews identify the quatref oil shape as the most ancient portal. Another image, the jaws of the Sak-Bak-Na-Kan or White-Bone Snake, could appear in a recognizable snake form, but there was also a more abstract form that depicted cenotes, caves, and other openings into the earth (1998: 45). 63


Stone believes that T769 specifically connotes a water-filled hole in the earth, due to Late Classic iconogra phy linking it with water. On the Cosmic Plate, Chaak stands in water, framed by T769 and on C opan Stela 11, the glyph is flanked by water scrolls. Other examples of T769 include three dots, which Stone argues reference the three dots encircled by the lunar glyph. The dots in the l unar glyph refer to water, and the lunar glyph itself represents a water-filled well, the home of the Moon Goddess (Stone 2005: 140). This iconographic link is corroborated by the importance of cenotes on Cozumel Island, which served as a pilgrimage site for the Moon Goddess. Cenote Iconography in the Dresden and Madrid Codices The glyph identified as the iconographic representation of cenote in the codices is T591. According to Andrea Stone, T591 seems to be a northern Yucatecan transformation of T769 in which the skeletal jaw retains its U shape but always ends in inward curving tipsis always marked by th in black bands, and in the codices, the bony plates are replaced by jadelike discs (2005: 140). Madrid 43 The text and iconography on Madrid 43b (F igure 2.1) are identified as part of a set of almanacs most likely concerned w ith the hunting and trapping of deer (von Nagy 1997: 27). According to von Nagy, the larg e number of almanacs concerned with themes related to ideological elaborations of aspects of the basic Maya subsistence economy shows that the authors of the Madrid Codex were inte rested in aspects of Maya ritual and ideological life th at are absent from or of s econdary importance in the other three codices (1997: 27). Deer com pose a major component of mammalian faunal remains throughout the prehispanic period, are de picted as ritual food in the Dresden, 64


Figure 2.1 Madrid 43b Figure 2.2 Madrid 49b Figure 2.3 Madrid 92a 65


Madrid, and Paris codices, and their rem ains are a frequent aspect of ritual caches and burials in the Maya area (1997: 27-31). The deer-hunting almanacs are probably concerned with either days on which the taki ng of deer was ritually favored, or more probably, days or sequences of days on which r itual events [related to deer-hunting] were to take place (1997: 28). In addition to this proposed function, Madrid 43b contains an embedded Burner almanac. Burner almanac refers to the division of the tzolkin into four periods of 65 days, which were further subdivided into thr ee intervals of 20 days each and one of five days (Bricker 1997: 2). These periods coul d only begin on four of the twenty possible day-names: Chicchan, Oc, Men, and Ahau. The Books of Chilam Balam associate four different activities with these days: taki ng the fire, beginning the fire, running, and extinguishing the fire. The four quarters of the tzolkin have specific directional and color associations: Chicchan with the east and re d, Oc with north and white, Men with west and black, and Ahau with south and yellow (1997: 2-3). The iconography discussed appears on the far left side of the middle section of page 43 of the Madrid Codex. Beginning at the top of the section and reading down, the text states lakin u chab u? an? an? kuh15. Immediately below (and adjacent to parts of) this text, is a portrayal of God C perched above T591. God C, whose glyph translates to Kuh, is not any specific deity. Rather, he serves as a place-holder for other deities or as a general classification of godliness or holy. Taube suggests that God Cs presence may function either to express a ge neralized concept of godliness or to qualify the sacredness of an offering, structure, or pl ace (1992: 31). His presence in this scene could serve as a signifier fo r the sacred nature of the cenote in which he is pictured. 15 Translated as In the east it is seized; th e gods ?. by Vail and Hernandez (2005-2008). 66


W ithin the T591 are two glyphs; the first ha s been tentatively identified as ma and the second securely identified as ka, suggesting a reading of mak or turtle. The words location may be indicative of its status as an offering to the cenote. Von Nagy argues that the iconography of the first figure is explicitly Burner in character; God C, common to many almanacs in the Madrid, is shown standing within or over a cenote, possibly symbolizing a Burner fire-quenching ri te (1997: 62). God Cs association with a watery place suggests the pres ence both of the material needed for putting out a fire and a location associated with termination. Gabrielle Vail similarly links the set of almanacs on pages 39b-c, 42b-c, and 4449 of the Madrid Codex with deer trapping a nd the Burner ceremonies. She argues that the almanacs were used to schedule deer-trapping activities for ritual as well as secular purposes (1997: 73). Deer compose offerings either in the form of deer haunches or deerslayer bread. Vi ctoria Bricker demonstrated that deer were offered in conjunction with both the chaa chac ceremony and the Burner ri tes (Vail 1997: 97). Madrid 49 Madrid 49b (Figure 2.2) depicts a deer caught in a tree snare. The glyph symbolizing cenote is below the deers fore legs. This almanac, much as Madrid 43b, may have Burner associations, since cenotes are frequently pictured in connection with the fourth Burner station (1997: 86). The be ginning date of the almanac falls on the day Ahau, which was associated with the fourth station. The deer-trapping almanacs may have been used to time the trapping of deer to coincide with the Burner rituals (1997: 86). 67


The portray als of cenotes in Madrid 43b and Madrid 49b are both linked to the Burner ceremonies. Specificall y, they are linked to the fourth stati on of the ceremony, that of the fire-quenching. Other than th e obvious association between the two (water can be used to put out fire), this link corroborates the connections between cenotes as places of death and rebirth. Offerings of deer may have been deposited in cenotes as part of these ceremonies, since significant fauna l remains have been recovered from many cenotes Madrid 92 The top left of page 92 of the Madrid C odex (Figure 2.3) also connects deer with cenotes In this particular depic tion, a spread-eagled deer with its head thrown back is pictured inside a cenote A large flint blade re sts on the bottom of the cenote, between the deers forelegs. The glyph at positi on B1 has been tentatively read as che and Gabrielle Vail interprets this glyp h as standing in for T591, with te as a phonetic complement, to form the word tzonoot (personal communicati on, 2009). The dates 2 Yaxkin and 7 Yaxkin are in conjunction with this iconogra phy and text. The iconography of these almanacs deals with the capture of subsisten ce animals, primarily through trapping (von Nagy 1997: 66). Althou gh thematically related in terms of hunting deer, there is no Burner almanac embedded within Madrid 92a. In this particular case, therefore, deer hunting is not directly associated with Bu rner rituals. The manner of death for the deer is also different; Madrid 49b depicts a tree snare, while Madrid 92a suggests that the deer was killed by a blade. This difference could be significant. Once again, faunal remains provide ar chaeological evidence for the sacrifice and disposal of animals within cenotes 68


Figure 2.4 Figure 2.5 Madrid 66 Madrid 91 Figure 2.6 Madrid 73 69


Madrid 66 The top right of Madrid 66 (Figure 2.4) portrays a red-painted bound figure above T591. Gabrielle V ail (personal communication 2009) identifies this figure as God H, Nik The figures right arm is bound, and he wears a deat h-eye collar. These elements, in addition to the crossed bones within the cenote suggest that it is strongly associated with death in this particular context. The glyph compound ah kimil at position C2 translates roughly to dead person. In this particular exampl e, T591 is painted blue, which may serve to reinforce its association with water. On Madrid 66, the connotati ons of sacrifice in relation to the cenote deal with a human-like figure rather than an animal. Two of God Hs key diagnostic elements ar e the water lily pad headdress and the Ik element, the Maya sign for wind. On Dresden 35b, the appellative for God H names a water serpent with a Chac face. Hellmuth suggests that this serpent is a Post-classic manifestation of the Classic entity identified as God H (Taube 1992: 58-59). From this evidence, it can be deduced that God H has some connections with water, which would explain the inclusion of a cenote in this scene. Taube (1986) also links wind temples to cave features, indicating that this asp ect of God H may also be related to cenotes Madrid 91 On Madrid 91 (Figure 2.5), the portrayed figure itself is death incarnated. God A, Kimil straddles a cenote His very appearance speaks to death; Kimil is often portrayed with protruding ribs, rickety limbs, and a fleshless grinning skull (Taube 1992: 11). The glyphs above him all deal with death: ah kimil Kimil s name glyph, and u muk [his (evil) omen]. The cenote is ringed with red, and it is in corporated into the calendrical structure by the numbers placed within it. Kimil is spread-eagled with his head thrown 70


back, positioned sim ilarly to the deer on Madr id 92a. This similarity reinforces the suggestion that the deer on Madrid 92 a is being sacrific ed. In one hand, Kimil holds a flowering seed; in the other, he holds a skull. This juxtaposition could be interpreted in two different ways. The seed and the skull c ould be a reference to the necessity of death for the existence of life; or, it could signify a bad year for the crops. The previous frame depicts Itzamna the creator deity, holding the wa or food glyph, seated on the earth kaab. The juxtaposition of these two scen es suggests that the second interpretation may be more accurate in this particular scenario. Madrid 73 The scene on Madrid 73 (Figure 2.6) is unique from any of the other portrayals of cenotes in the Madrid Codex. The rain god Chaak16 is seated within a blue-ringed cenote. He holds a paintbrush and inkpot, and a scroll with bar-and-dot numbers emerges from his mouth. An owl is perched on the edge of the cenote, and two day-name glyphs with the associated numbers in the cenote incorporate the feature into the calendrical structure. The text above the iconography explicitly mentions death, rulership, and chopping and burying actions. The fact that Chaak is able to paint within the cenote suggests that it is associated with a drier cave feature. In the Popol Vuh owls are the messengers of the Lords of th e Underworld; the owls presen ce in this scene affirms the 16 The Maya god of rain and lightning, Chac is one of the longest continuously worshipped gods of ancient MesoamericaThe Postclassic form of Chac in Maya codices generally appears more human than his Classic antecedent. While this later Chac, designate d God B by Paul Schelhas, lacks the serpentine body scales, his most striking trait is a long, pendulous noseIn Classic and Postclassic Maya scenes Chac often wields his lightning weapons, sometimes a hafted stone axe or a serpent, a widespread metaphor for lightning in Mesoamerica and the Amer ican Southwest. Flames or torches often allude to the fiery nature of Chacs lightning. Because Chac presides over wate r and rain as well as lightning, he commonly appears in streams of falling water or water-filled cenotes, and serves as a patron of agriculture. Colonial and contemporary Maya mythology credits Chac with breaking open a great rock containing the original lifegiving maize. Scenes in monumental art and pottery reveal that this myth was present among the Classic Maya over 1000 years ago (Miller and Taube 1993: 59-60). 71


role of cenotes as conduits between this world and the Underworld. It m ay also be significant that the two da y-names shown inside the cenote, Kaban and Etznab, refer to earth and flint. This particular scene provides the best codical evidence for scribes use of caves for affirming the sacred status of their office (Stone 2005: 136). It is especially significant that Chaak the rain god, is the one portrayed as the scribe, since this deity is strongly associated with cenotes and other cave features. In addition to the scribe-in-cave theme on page 73b of the Madrid Codex, iconography linking the two appears on the Structure 9N-82 faade at Copan and a carve d bone from Burial 116 at Tikal (Stone 2005: 142). Chaak appears numerous times in conjunction with cenotes The figure has a long pendulous nose and often wields axes or serpents, both of which are widespread symbols of lightning in ancient and cont emporary Mesoamerica (Taube 1992: 17). Fewkes, however, considers the snake as a mo re general symbol of moisture (Taube 1992: 19). In the Dresden Codex, Chaak is often oriented to the four directions and associated colors. His name glyph can also be prefixed by a yax sign standing for green and the middle place, suggesting that there was a fifth principal Chac at the center (1992: 17). Dresden 27 and 28 The scenes on pages 27 and 28 of the Dres den Codex (Figures 2.7-2.8) deal with the yearbearer ceremonies. Only four of the twenty named days of the tzolkin calendar could co-occur with 0 Pop and thus begin th e year. Pages 27 and 28 are part of an almanac that runs from Dresden 25-28. The activ ities depicted on these pages refer to the 72


Figure 2.7 Figure 2.8 Dresden 27 Dresden 28 Figure 2.9 Figure 2.10 Dresden 29 Dresden 33 73


Uayeb ceremonies and are divided into thr ee sections. The first portrays the god who served as th e bearer of the particular year carried on the back of the opossum Mam. The second section shows the god seated in a temple in the center of town and the third is a representation of the ceremony involving a h eadless bird performed before an altar at one of the entrances to the town (Bricker 1997: 8). The top scenes of both pages are the ones that include the iconogr aphic representations of cenotes On Dresden 27, the opossum Mam carries the maize god Nal on his back. He holds a staff ending in a human hand, an incense bag ( pom and chalte incense are referenced in the text), and a fan or rattle. The identity of the maize god is reinforced by the glyph for iinah (seed corn) in the text. The de ities portrayed in the other two registers of the page are Itzamna (a creator deity) and Kimil (the death god). The stone tree17 in the bottom scene is set up in chikin (the west). One of th e offerings in front of it is an offering of fish bread ( kay waah ). It is the only offering of fish, and may be related to Mams position in the cenote at the top of the page. Dresden 28 depicts a very similar scene. On this page, the opossum Mam carries the death god Kimil on his back. It carries similar ritual accoutrements (staff, incense bag, fan or rattle). The other two deities portr ayed are a death deity (identified as such by the crossed-bone elements on its clothing and the kam glyph that names it) and Itzamna linked to the second and third scenes on the pa ge respectively. The stone tree in the third register is se t up in the north. 17 The object is referred to as a tree ( te ) in the text, but it takes the form of a stone column wearing a cape and loincloth. The loincloth has two footprints on it, which represent the passing of time. One of the most important and pervasive of these embodiments of the directions were world trees, each oriented to a specific direction. These trees seem to express the four-fold na ture of a single great tree, or axis mundi located at the center of the world In the Dresden passage, the world tr ees are associated with the four yearbearers, the days by which the 365-day year was named (Miller and Taube 1993: 186). 74


Each of these pages symbo lica lly and thematically encompasses life and death through the particular deities portrayed on its pages. A cenote is depicted in association with flowering, life, creation, and procreati on on page 27; on page 28, it is associated with termination and death. These representations reaffirm the evidence that cenotes served as sacred symbols of the life cycle; as condu its between the worlds and symbolically related to the origins and emergence of human beings. Dresden 29 The deity pictured within the cenote on Dresden 29 (Figure 2.9) is Chaak The scene is located at the bottom of the page, between two other portrayals of Chaak : one in a boat holding a paddle and the other seated on an eroded object. This central depiction is the only one painted black. It is associated with the west in the text. Black is the color associated with west (Miller and Taube 1993: 78). Within the cenote is an offering of rubber and iguana bread. The o fferings are tied by a rope and Chaak holds the end of the rope. Dresden 33 Gabrielle Vail (n.d.) links the alman acs on pages 31b-35b to the yearbearer almanacs on Dresden 25-28 and believes that they expand upon the information presented in those pages. Both the top and middle registers on Dresden 33 depict cenotes (Figure 2.10). In the right-hand top corner of Dres den 33, two figures are perched on the edges of the glyph. The right-hand figure holds the end of a rope, while th e other holds a cloth pouch. The left-hand figure wears a cape. Between the two figures are a fish and an incense burner. Textiles and incen se burners have been found in cenote deposits. 75


The left-hand scene on Dresden 33 (Fi gure 2.11) is another portrayal of Chaak This par ticular cenote depiction explicitly links cenotes to serpents. Rather than the usual T591 glyph, this cenote is formed by the body of a serpent. Chaak is pictured with his axe raised, rising from or descending into the mouth of the serpent. The square formed by the serpents body is painted blue, and a dist ance number of 19 is depicted within it. The glyph at position C2 (if this particular scene were treated as autonomous from the rest of the page) has a suggested reading of kaab chen ?, translated as cave, spring, well or metaphorically, as res idence (Vail n.d.). The text is translated as Nine balls of rubber incense are his offering in th e earth place (Vail and Hernandez 2005-2008). Dresden 34 Dresden 34 (Figure 2.12) depict s a similar scene, although Chaak holds a bag in addition to an axe. Vail and Hernandez suggest that it is an incense bag, since incense is specifically mentioned in the text (2005-2008); a nother suggestion is that it is a seed bag (Vail n.d.) The entire background of the scene is blue, rather than ju st the area within the serpents body. The same elements that form the kaab chen ? logograph are present in the text, but their positioning is arranged differently. A distance number of 19 is once again pictured within the square formed by the serpents body. Vail (n.d.) argues that in this scene, Chaak personifies rain and the power of lightning. It is undoubtedly significant that it was by means of Chaaks lightning axe that the underground mountain of susten ance was split open so that maize could be released. Maize not only forms the principal ingredient in the Maya diet, but it is believed to be the substance out of which human flesh was formed by the gods. Vail translates the text as 76


Figure 2.11 Figure 2.12 Dresden 34 Dresden 35 Figure 2.13 Figure 2.14 Dresden 36 Dresden 74 77


och-iy tu tun chahk Chaak entered from the stone followed by bolon kikil u kan?/sih? [ta] kab-chen ?. There are two possible read ings for the second clause: if V. Brickers kan reading for T1038b is correct, then it would read: [balls of] rubber incense are his offering to the earth-cave [=foundation place]. Alternatively, if T1038b is read as sih as Schele and Grube (1997) suggest ed, then the final two glyph blocks would read He [Chahk] is born from the ea rth-cave [=foundation place]. The serpent cenote may be the embodiment of the serpent ston e set up at the start of the current era, mentioned on Quirigua Stela C (Vail n.d.). Dresden 35 Page 35 of the Dresden Codex (Figure 2.13) is the same type of scene found on Dresden 33 and 34. Chaak holds both the bag and the axe; the mention of incense in the text once again suggests that it is an incense bag. Only the square area formed by the serpents body is blue, as it was in Dresden 33. The elements of the kaab chen ? logograph are positioned in a similar way to their arrangement on Dresden 34. The distance number 19 is in the same position. Dresden 36 On Dresden 36 (Figure 2.14), Chaak stands in a cenote with his head tilted upwards. The cenote s interior is blue, affirming the presence of water. He holds an overturned vessel at his waist a nd an object tentativel y identified as a cloud is above him (Vail and Hernandez 2005-2008). Streams of wate r fall from it. This scene has parallels with Dresden 74, which depicts Chak Chel overturning a vessel of water onto the head of God L, while water pours from the mouth of a crocodilian figure whose body forms a 78


skyband. This scene is often interpreted as de picting a flood that washed away a previous creation (Vail and Hernandez 2005-2008). Dresden 38 Dresden 38 (Figure 2.15) com bines rain and the cenote s waters. Chaak is pictured standing in a cenote holding his axe aloft. The interior of T591 is filled with blue color, indicating water. The text reads There is Chaak ; he stopped/stood up (Vail and Hernandez 2005-2008). The passage coul d be interpreted as suggesting that Chaak s actions caused the rain. At least one other scene on this page depicts rain; in that case, the rain falls from a skyband. The skyband might have been suppressed in the scene under discussion either because it could be deduced from the previous scene, or because the focus was on how rain affects the cenote water or vice versa. Dresden 39 Register 3 of Dresden 39 (Figure 2.16) is particularly noteworthy, since it includes a smaller version of T591 in the text itself. The logograph ha (water) and the syllable ba are part of the same glyph block. The rest of the text states Chaak is in the cenote. The iconography includes Chaak seated in the cenote the interior of which is colored blue. Chaak holds a bowl containing the waah logograph (food made of maize, tortilla). This scene brings together two of the most basi c necessities of life: food and water. Dresden 43 Dresden 43 (Figure 2.17) also incorporates T591 into the text. At position B2, T591 appears with the logograph denoting ek (black). The figure pictured is Chaak and he holds his axe in his raised right hand. Un like similar scenes in the Dresden Codex, the 79


interior of T 591 is not painted blue. The pa int could have been effaced over the years. Another interpretation could be that some of the depictions of T591 in the Dresden Codex refer to seasonal water sources. The repres entations with water, therefore, could correspond to times of the year when these f eatures had water; while the ones without refer to events taking place in the dry season. Conclusion Many of the same themes found in the in terpretations of archaeological evidence dealing with cenotes are corroborated in the codices. Cenotes are pictured most often in conjunction with the death god Kimil reinforcing their connec tion to termination, death, and the Underworld, and the rain god Chaak emphasizing their importance as water resources. They are linked to subsistence (r itual or actual) in se veral other ways: their inclusion in the Madrid deer-trapping and deer-hunting alma nacs; as the location of the opossum Mam bearing the maize god, Nal ; and the depiction of Chaak seated in the cenote holding a bowl with the waah glyph. Cenotes are often portray ed as locations where offerings are made, whether rubber incense, pom incense, cloth, or ritual foods. Their inclusion in the Burner almanacs and th e yearbearer ceremonies could signify their importance in setting up and laying out the worl d. This representati on would link them to the archaeologically documen ted practice of settlement configuration around cave features. The depiction of Chaak standing in the cenote holding an overturned vessel could link cenotes iconographically to the flood that washed away a previous creation and signaled the beginning of the current era. In iconographic representations, therefore, cenotes embody life and death, creation and termination. 80


Chapter 3: Cenotes in Contemporary Times This section skips ahead hundreds of y ears to contemporary understandings and uses of cenotes To cover the vast changes in the po litical, economic, and social lives of Yucatns residents since the Postclassic period is beyond the scope of this project. Among some of these events we re the drawn-out attempt at Spanish conquest of the peninsula, the henequen and sugar booms that restructured land use and intensified socioeconomic hierarchies, the Caste War, Yucatns several secession attempts and eventual reunifications with mainland Mexi co, and the recent economic changes as a result of policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. Each of these in itself would take an entire thesis to discuss. In this chapter, I take a more synchr onic approach by focusing on what I observed and was told from December 2008-January 2009. I focus on firstand second-hand information in order to suggest fertile ar eas for future study. My ethnographic study was by no means comprehensive; my observations were limited to several locations in one city and a nearby pueblo (Dzitnup) and I interviewed only six people. However, I believe that the issues raised in the interviews present incredible opportunities for in-depth, future study. As such, I will focus on drawing these issues out in order to provide preliminary interpretations and point out r ecurring themes, rather than attempting to draw any grand conclusions from such limited data. Methodology Since this project was concei ved and developed relatively late, it was significantly restricted in scope. I spent approximat ely a month and a half investigating the contemporary uses and understandings of cenotes I approached this question through a 81


two-pronged m ethod semi-structured interviews and observations. During this time, I lived with previous acquaintances in the Fracciones Flamboyanes neighborhood of Valladolid, Yucatn, Mexico. I visited several cenotes within the city limits and the surrounding area, including: Cenot e Zaci, Cenote Xkekn, and the cenote at the Convento San Bernardino de Siena de Sisa l. I also observed the disp lays and publications, and took notes on the information for tourists offered at the palacio municipal located on Valladolids central plaza. In addition, I conducted six interviews with different individuals I met during my time there. These interviews ranged from five minutes to an hour long, and took place in a variety of locatio ns. I interviewed one participant at the Convento San Bernardino, where he worked as a tour guide; another in her vendors stall outside the Cenote Xkekn at Dzitnup; and a member of the proteccin civil service at his post at Cenote Zaci, to name a few. Most of these interviews were not planned. Three of them: an acquaintance of the family I lived with, his co-worker, and the neighbor across the street from where I lived, were scheduled beforehand. The rest of the interviews took place with people to whom I had no prior re lationship and were conducted within a few minutes of our initial meeting. As such, I will provide the date of the interview the first time I quote the person, but will not continue to do so since all information came from the same interview. The previous sections of my thesis have focused on the Maya conception and use of cenotes due to the fact that mo st residents of the penins ula during that time period spoke affiliated languages, exhibited si milar political organization, interacted economically, and operated within shared cosmological, religi ous, and ideological frameworks. This is not th e case in contemporary Yucatn. Jon Schackt points out that 82


in their books and articles anthropologists ha v e generally applied the term [Maya] to all Indian peoples speaking languages of the so-cal led Mayan linguistic stock, regardless of whether the term was actually used or even known by the people in question (2001: 3). Schackts definition of an ethnic group st ates that it should ultimately depend on subjective ascription: the recognition by subjects of a sense of peoplehood that sets them apart from other peoples, and which is recognized by those other peoples (2001: 3-4). This definition does not n ecessarily hold for the area under discussion, since, as Matthew Restall and Ueli Hostet tler point out, the native peoples of the geographical area we call Maya did and do not necessarily think or act on any conscious level as Maya (2001: x). While indige nous rights movements have sparked the practice of strategic essen tialism among some groups, the ways in which contemporary residents of the Valladolid area define Maya and indigenous are complex. Because of this complexity, I made no attempt to restrict the pool of participants to only those who identify and are identified by others as M aya. The majority, if not all of the contemporary residents of the Valladolid ar ea are at least peripherally aware of the history behind cenotes and the ways in which they are currently being used. However, I did run into an unexpected diffi culty in attempting to communicate this sentiment. In approaching the potential partic ipants of my study, I explaine d that I was doing research for my thesis at a university in the United States, and gave a general outline of the diachronic nature of my study. I explaine d my project in the following way: Mi proyecto es sobre los cenotes como espacios sa grados y recursos de agua para los mayas en la poca prehispnica y cmo la gente que vive en la peninsula hoy en da los entiende y los usa.18 Although I tried to emphas ize that I was interested in how any residents of 18 In English, this translates to: My project is about cenotes as sacred spaces and water resources during 83


Valladolid conceive of and use cenotes m y use of Maya in the first half of the project may have misled people into thinking that I was only interested in the views of contemporary Maya residents of the Valladolid area. Two separate incidents brought this misunderstanding home to me. My first interview was with Javier, who ha d worked for two years as a tour guide at the Convento de San Bernardino de Sisal. I was sitting insi de the church itself and he walked up and offered to give me a tour for a small fee. I declined (I had toured the convent during my first trip to Valladolid), but asked if he would be willing to do an interview with me instead. I explained the pr oject, and he agreed to do the interview. First, however, he had to conduct a tour. Wh ile I was waiting for him to finish, another man sat down near me and asked if I wanted a to ur. I believe that he was not a tour guide himself, but rather some type of admini strator at the convent We struck up a conversation, and I asked if I could intervie w him as well. He de clined by encouraging me to interview Javier instead, telling me th at Javier knew more about Maya traditions and therefore would be a better person for me to interview. Although I tried to be clear in my explanation and to stress that I wanted to interview anyone who lived there, he continued encouraging me to interview Javier instead. He may have reacted in this way because he preferred not to be interviewed but didnt want to be rude to me. However, I believe that part of his refusal came from a genui ne belief that I woul d only be interested in what Maya residents had to say about cenotes This belief comes in part because of a related occurrence that happe ned later on during my stay. A similar incident occurred when I aske d Juan, an acquaintance of the family I lived with, if I could interview him. Juan was extremely interested in the history of the prehispanic period and how people who live on the peninsula today understand and use them. 84


Yucatn; the bookshelves at his hom e containe d many volumes dealing with the subject and he came up with several references that he thought might help me in my research. He also put together several CDs of pictures and video of cenotes he had taken in the course of his job, which dealt with pueblo development projects. When I first asked to interview him, however, he told me that in stead he would set up a meeting for me with his co-worker Alan, who identifies as Maya By continually stressing that I was interested in th e viewpoints of any resident of the area (over a period of time, since I saw his family fairly often), I believe that I wa s able to communicate my desire to hear his point of view. He agreed to be interviewe d, but he also brought his co-worker to my house so that I could interview him. Juan sat in on the interview with his co-worker, Alan. At some points, Juan was a much be tter ethnographer than I was; he asked key questions that opened up signifi cant avenues of exploration. The interviews were semi-structured in that I tried to have some basic questions I asked in each one. I asked most of the part icipants Cmo se identifica usted como maya, yucateco, mexicano, los tres, dos de los tres, ningn?19 Whether or not they had been born and raised in the area was anot her important question. I also included a general question about each pe rsons general conception of cenotes as part of the peninsulas patrimonio cultural. I have studied the Spanish la nguage (Castiliano) for the past eight years, both in high school and college. During January 2008, I spent three week s in an immersion language program in Valladolid. Therefore, I felt comfortable conducting my interviews in Spanish. It probably would not have been feasible to attempt to conduct them in English; while a significant number of reside nts in the Valladolid area are bilingual, the 19 How do you self-identify as Maya, Yucatec, Mexi can, all three, two of thr ee, none? (my translation). 85


two languages are Spanish and Yucatec Maya. I chose not to use a translator since, as Yunte Huang points ou t relying on native in terpretersis not a good solution because interpreters often in terfere with the communication be tween ethnographers and native informants by inserting their own interpretations (2002: 9). However, by incorporating interviews conducted in Spanish into an English-language text, it is necessary to contend with another set of related issues. While this section is a mini-ethnography, th e process of translating the interviews is a sort of ethnography in itself. Accord ing to Huang, translation is a site for negotiation between the text and the tran slatorThe outcomeis an intertextual transformation, a process that is thoroughly et hnographic (2002: 168). This intertextual transformation comes about since translati on involves not a transp ortation of meaning from an originality to its equivalent in a nother language but a process in which multiple readings of the original are reduced to a version that foregrounds the translators own agenda (2002: 4). Huang points out that ethnography relies on inte rtextual tactics of absorbing texts, transforming them into ideal versions, capturing key words, inserting interpretations, and ultimately, making the tr anslation appear transparent, making the translators intervening hand di sappear into invisibility (200 2: 168). These critiques of translation informed my decision to retain th e original quotes (in Spanish) in the main body of the text and to place my translations as footnotes at the bottom of the pages. This method will permit those who are fluent in Spanish to directly interact with the quotes themselves, but will not exclude those who do not speak Spanish from attempting to understand what the participant sa id. I will also paraphrase mo re often than I might have normally, since it allows the chapter to flow more smoothly and lessens the necessity of 86


looking in an alternate location for infor mati on. There is no absolutely correct way to deal with the problems brought up by translation, but I hope that the one I have chosen to use proves satisfactory in at least its reflexivity. Observations on Tourism and Cenotes in the Valladolid Area A huge number of tourists who visited Mexico came in through the Yucatn peninsula; the Cancun airport was the first or second in number of tourists for the 2008 year. The highest number of tourists arri ved from the United States: 1,889,366. Chichn Itz and Tulm were among the top three archaeological zones visited, with 1,455,000 visiting Chichn and 1,352,000 visiting Tul m. On average, approximately 300,000 more foreigners than Mexican residents visited each archaeological zone. 2,569,000 passengers landed in Cozumels cruise-ship po rt during the 2008 year While there are no numbers for visitors to cenotes specifically, the a bove numbers provide an idea of the number of tourists in th e general area during 2008 ( /pubyrep/cua/2008/m12/cua122008.pdf accessed 4/10/09). It is a safe bet that m ost of those vi siting Chichn Itz saw the Cenote Sagrado. In 1993, Licenciador Jorge Muoz Gon zlez noted that las principales actividades econmicas en la ciudad de Va lladolid son el comercio, con un nivel destacadsimo, y la incipien te industra turstica que cada da cobra ms forma20 (27). The contemporary numbers for tourism in Va lladolid are very different from Cancuns numbers in 2008; approximately 65% of tourists came from European countries and only 35% from the United States of America and Canada. In prior years, however, 70% of Valladolids tourists came from North Amer ica and 30% from Europe (1993: 46-47). To 20 The principal economic activities in the city of Valladolid are trade at a stand-out level, and the incipient tourist industry that each day takes more form. (my translation) 87


the autho r, the fact that Valladolids tourist industry was still in its beginning stages in 1993 was odd since Valladolid se encuentr a situada geogrficamente en un punto estratgico, ya que est ubicada entre dos ciudades de primer ni vel: Mrida, la capital de Yucatn, y Cancn, el impor tante polo turstico21 (1993: 26). Valladolids tourist industry seems to have developed since 1993, judging by the substantia l infrastructure for facilitating and encouraging tour ism when I visited in 2008. Eco-Tourism at Cenotes Tourist information often emphasizes both th e ecological and cultural attributes of cenotes Cenotes are generally classified as eco-tour ist sites; however, this term can include both the ecological and cultural attr ibutes of a place. Paige West and James Carrier define eco-tourism as leisure travel that has the object of enjoying features of the natural environment in a way that has minimal negative consequences for the environment (2004: 483). However, it is also generally taken to include a sociocultural element, the intention of seeing and in teracting with peoplewhose customs and appearances seem exotic and attractive and doi ng so in a way that respects and benefits them (2004: 483). Entrance fees are intended for the maintenance and support of sites. Ecotourists are also more likely to stay in locally owned and managed facilities rather than in those that are part of national or multinational corporations (2004: 484). While in some cases, cenote eco-tourist sites do accomplish th is objective, other cases do not. Controversy over the correct use of funds at the pueblo -owned and operated Cenote Xkekn threatens to tran sfer management of the cenote to a different organization; the 21 Valladolid is foun d situated geographically en a strategic pl ace, given that it is located between two first-level cities: Mrida, the capital of Yucatn, and Cancn, the important tourist city (my translation). 88


Chichn Itz archaeo logical zones status as private property has excluded the people of Piste from participation in its lucrative tourist economy. Eco-tourism creates, reinforces, and highlights power inequalities between inhabitants and tourists as well as between locals. Th e significant revenue accrued through eco-tourism encourages local, state, and national governments to cater to the tourists tastes in order to retain their busin ess. Eco-tourism also operates as a form of governance, in that it encourages a partic ular way of knowing people and things in pertinent parts of the world and identifies appropriate sorts of action and inaction in a potent and even authoritative way (2004: 485). Literature and representations of cenotes geared towards tourists highlight selective attr ibutes of these features in an effort to present a certain commodified image for t ourist consumption. In some cases, these representations are created by inhabitants of the area and ar e therefore informed by local understandings of these particular places; in turn, the representations re-shape conceptions of cenotes developed and held by the inhabitants of the area. As cenotes become tourist sites, they are redefined. Rather than public spaces that provide a necessary resource for a group of people residing in a circumscribed area, access to them is restricted to those who can pay. In our interview, Berenice described one of the jobs at the cenote as insuring that children did not bother or distract the tourists. Cenote Xkekn was perceived as a place for a specific group of people, tourists, to have a certain type of expe rience. Access for residents of Dzitnup itself was defined in order to correspond to tourists ideas a bout how a tourist site is structured. 89


Representa tions of Cenotes in Tourist Literature Cenotes are significant tourist attr actions and sources of revenue for their owners. Their import can be seen in their represen tations in tourist pub lications. The CD Interactivo Yucatan, issued by the Secretara de Turismo, has a section for Cenotes. Other sections on the CD include: Colonial Cities, Archaeological Zones, Convents, Haciendas, Beaches, Ecological Reserv es, Contemporary Merida, Handcrafts, Gastronomy, Traditions, Night Life, Light and Sound, Bird Festival of Yucatan, and Caves. For each of these designations, the CD user can click on the word in order to bring up more information on the particular subject. The section on caves has three specific examples of famous caves from the Maya area, while the cenote section gives an over-all summary of the importance of these sites to the prehispanic Maya and their attractive ecological attributes. Cenotes are in a unique position to attract both tourists interested in outdoor activities and cultural tourists. Sometimes both these aspects are highlighted; in other publications, one or the other is accentuat ed. The promotional CD issued by the Secretara de Turismo for the peninsula states: Among the distinguishing attractions of the state of Yucatan are the cenotes, from the Mayan word dzonot, meaning cavity of water. Cenotes are unique formations in the world, since besides being the most important source of fresh wate r in the forests, they were also sacred places for the Maya, representing the entrance to the spiritual underworldBy tradition, cenotes are a distinctive insignia of the natural Yucatecan landscape. Sunlight filtering through the cracks in the rocks and projecting onto the transparent water is a visual banquet for nature lovers For many years the cenotes of Yucatan have been the object of speculation and legend, since they played a determining role in the development of the Maya civilization. Immense communities grew up around them, maki ng them the hub of the city. An abundant quantity of offerings and jewelry has been recovered from the floor of the cenotes, apparently thrown into the depths after human 90


sacrifices. Ceram ic remains and utens ils destined for religious ceremonies have also been found. As well as th eir exquisite natural beauty, cenotes have an important archaeological va lue and are perfect for ecotourism activities, such as cave diving. Su bmerging and penetrating the cavern depths, exploring subaquatic galler ies, and finding your way through the labyrinth of underwater tunnels is an unforgettable experience for any enthusiast. Besides diving and generall y getting to know the place, there's also rappelling and swimming to enjoy, while you take in the beauty and mystery which has taken nature millions of years to shape. Without doubt, a visit to the clear waters of a Mayan cenote is an experience so different that you are suddenly spirited away in to a magical world of unreal beauty. ..a gift from the gods. Cenotes played multiple roles in the prehispani c period, and both of those roles are now emphasized in a move that increases the attraction factor of the sites. Valladolids tourism video also emphasizes cenotes It features a series of question shown over photographs of different sc enes from Valladolid. The first segment opens with the question Hace cunto ti empo que no conectas con la naturaleza?22 with shots of stones and several tourists rappelling into a cenote. The next segment focuses on the archaeological zones near Valladolid: Chichn Itz and Ek Balam. After this segment, the next one focuses exclusively on cenotes asking Cundo fue la ltima vez que te sumergiste en un espejo de luz?23 with shots of Cenotes Zaci and Xkekn. Images of cenotes bookend the segment on archaeologica l zones, connecting the two in the viewers mind. These imag es are especially pertinent because Chichn Itz and Ek Balam have multiple cenotes apiece, and Chichn Itzs cenote is one of the more famous attributes of the site. Cenotes then, are prominently emphasized in tourist literature. While the exploitation of the Cenote Sagra do at Chichn Itz and other cenotes that are parts of archaeological zones provide little economic opportunity for the local population, this is 22 How long has it been since you last connected with nature? (my translation) 23 When was the last time you submerged yourself in a mirror of light? (my translation) 91


not necess arily the case with all cenotes Some provide economic opportunities both for local government structures (on the municipio or comisario level) and the surrounding communities. I asked Javier if the government owned many of the cenotes for tourist purposes, or whether individuals owned them He responded En realidad, yo creo que todo lo que es parte subterrn ea o parte de los cenotes, s, pa rte de los, de los polticos, verdad, del gobierno que lo protegen para c onservarlo, verdad? Para los turistas y tambin para, quizs forma de ingresos, para algo de la ciudad (12/18/09).24 The Palacio Municipal The Palacio Municipal is located across the street fr om Valladolids central plaza. It incorporates Casa de la Cultura and La Biblioteca Pblica as part of one large but divided building. One of the functions of the buildings far end is to serve as an information space for tourists. The doors are open and unguarded so that anyone can enter, and a banner in the right back corner of the room has Free tourist information in English and Spanish written on it. In the right front corner of the room is a TV that shows a video (first in Spanish, then in Eng lish) on a continuous loop. This video will be discussed in more detail later. The left of the room has large photos hanging on the walls. The first set of photos immedi ately to the left are of the citys cenotes Two of the photos are of Cenote Zaci, and there is one ea ch of Cenotes Xkekn and Samula. In the back of the room is a stair case that leads to a second floor This second floor contains (among other things) portraits (possibly of the citys alcaldes or mayors) and four 24 In reality, I believe that the subterranean area or cenote area belongs to the politicians, right, to the government so that they can conserve it, right? For the tourists and maybe as a source of taxes for something from the city (my translation). 92

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paintings representing periods from Valladolids history.25 The paintings are arranged in chronological order, and the first is a de piction of the prehis panic period. A figure dressed as a ruler holds a globe in his hand. Hes seated before a column carved with images of captives and musicians. In front of him is an unfolded codex. Two arms reach from behind the column one holding a cross and the other holding a sword. To the right of the ruler figure, a deity figure dives towards a body of water, holding a fourlobed symbol in its hands. In the water is a carved sea creature with a bifurcated tail and a fish body. There is a crossed-bones element and a death face carved on the creature. Its mouth is open and the deity figure appears to be diving dire ctly into its mouth. To the rulers left, three women and a child are perc hed around the mouth of a cave. A deer and a bird are painted above them, along with a fi gure wearing a mask w ho is pouring a jar of water down on them. The cave opens onto a pool of water (a cenote ), surrounded by foliage and structures that l ook like temples or houses. Within the cave, towards the bottom of the painting, is a jumbled pile of ceramic or stone carved objects, along with a large dressed stone whose carving depicts a se rpent and a lion fighti ng. The other three paintings show scenes from during and afte r the conquest, up to the 1910 revolution. I asked two men having a conversation a short distance away from me if they knew the name of the painter; they were unsure at first, but then directed me to the name on the plaque: Don Manuel Lizama Salazar. This mural (Figures 3.1 and 3.2) is incr edibly interesting in how it portrays cenotes I am unaware of the painters backgr ound or how he conceived and designed 25 A plaque honoring the painter and the 25th anniversary of the mural paintings calls them obras de gran trascendencia en las que se presentan pasajes sobre la historia y la riqueza cultural de nuestra Heroca Ciudad, or works of great transcendence in that they present passages of the history and rich culture of our heroic city (my translation). 93

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Figure 3.1 Mural at the Palacio Municipal of Valladolid (photograph by author) Figure 3.2 Detail of mural at the Palacio Municipal of Valladolid (photograph by author) 94

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the m ural, but the end product itself pr ovides insight into the conception of cenotes from which he worked. The body of water to the ri ght of the ruler figure contains a creature associated with death, and in appearance it is somewhat similar to the prehispanic fishsnake. The act of entering th e creatures mouth could be an other visual association of serpents with cave features, since both were conceived of as conduits between the earth and the underworld. The painting of the deer in the cave recalls the depictions of cenotes in the Madrid Codex deer-hunting and trappi ng almanacs; many of the spindle whorls in the deposits at Gruta de Bala nkanche were carved with bird figures. The figure pouring the jar of water down recalls both the high number of water-carrying jars found in caves and the scene of Chac with the overturned water vesse l in the Dresden Codex. The structures that surround the cenote reference the way settleme nts were configured around cave features and the jumble of artifacts within the cave are similar to the many ritual deposits archaeologists have discovered. The large dressed stone is particularly interesting, in that it could be a depiction of the clash between the Maya and the Spanish; Spanish forces are represented by the lion, wh ich is the symbol on Spains flag; Maya forces are represented by th e serpent, whose connections to water and the underworld were particularly potent for the residents of the peninsula. Cenote Zaci: Observations Cenote Zaci (Figure 3.3 and 3.4) is located within Valladolids city limits and is often cited as one of the primary reasons the area was chosen for esta blishing the city of Valladolid. It is in the central area of Valladolid and is listed as one of the ten attractions on the map given out at the Palacio Municipal In addition to the cenote itself, the site 95

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Figure 3.3 Cenote Zaci, Valladolid (photograph by author) Figure 3.4 Cenote Zaci, Valladolid (photograph by author) 96

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has a restau rant and an artisans store. The restaurant is on a terrace overlooking Cenote Zaci. Outside of the open-air restaurant is a display of sculptural pieces (Figures 2.52.7) whose intention seems to be the invocat ion of ancient Maya art. Some of the pieces imitate chacmools found at sites such as Chichn Itz; other pieces are planters carved with faces in cartouches or figures holding torches wearing jade necklaces. These pieces provide a distinctive example of a modified heterotopic dissonance. The concept of heterotopic dissonance is developed and explained by Miriam Kahn in her article Heterotopic Dissonance in the Museum Representation of Pacific Island Cultures. She derives this concept in part from Foucaults idea of heterotopia, which is a combination of different places as though they were one (1995: 324). They involve the construction of places and times by means of the displacement of things (1995: 324). Kahn applies this term to th e particular example of museums, which organize objects in an attempt to impose a se nse of order, coheren ce, and truth (1995: 325). The specific objects are brought together in a particular arrangement because of a story one is trying to tell ( 1994: 325). This organization of a group of objects creates a system of signification, and the existence of the system declares itself to signify something further (1994: 325). The collection of objects found outside the Cenote Zaci restaurant exhibits a modified type of heterotopic dissonance. It lacks the labels and explanations that overtly signal the effort at imposing a sense of order. Also lacking is th e specific type of authority museums derive from the describing and naming objects. This context also lacks the physical separation between artifacts and the obs erver that many museums 97

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Figure 3.5 Sculptures outside of Restaurant Cenote Zaci (photograph by author) Figure 3.6 Figure 3.7 Sculpture outside Restaurant Cenote Zaci Sculpture out side Restaurant Cenote Zaci 98

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em ploy; this practice allows the observer to remain detached from the objects and also imbues them with importance as something th at must be preserve d and protected. In contrast to the way museums operate, the object s at the restaurant are outside and easily accessible. They are slightly removed from th e walkway and thus there is some sense of separation between them and th e observer, but it is much le ss pronounced than within the museum setting. The sculptures are situated on rough stone pedestals rather than directly on the ground, providing an impression of pres ervation and protection, as well as display. In another sense, however, the objects do imbue the cenote site with a certain authority. There is no printed inform ation describing the history of the cenote s use and no archaeological investigations have been undertaken to provide any artifacts for display. The objects are the only material re minder of Cenote Zacis cultural history and its connection to the civilization that built huge to urist attractions such as Chichn Itz. It is a subtle but effective reminder that draws attention to a little-e xplored facet of Cenote Zaci. Through this evocation of Maya-ness, a cu lture is laid out before our eyes as though the assemblage of unrelated bits and pieces adds up to a whole (1995: 327). The ancient Maya are reduced to some sculptur es and carvings; they are the sums of the objects, rather than their crea tors and interpreters. The objects become shorthand for a category created and imposed by anthropologists in an attempt to order and classify for conveniences sake, which encompassed thousan ds of years and millions of people living in different times, spaces, and contexts. The removal of these pieces from any sort of context solves a familiar sort of taxonomic dilemma (1993: 326) through 99

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sim plification. Despite the varied uses the or iginals served, these replicas are organized into the exhibit based on their cr oss-cultural function as art. Cenote Zaci utilizes strategies similar to many resorts in Yucatn and Quintana Roo, albeit on a smaller scale. As Traci Ar dren points out, many resorts draw on the ancient past as creative inspiration a nd use pseudo-Maya temples and motifs as decorative themes (2004: 104). These decorative themes focus only on the exotic aspects of ancient ruins or the tropical locale, ignoring more recent or contemporary local cultural herita ge (2004: 104). Convento San Bernardino de Sisal: Observations The cenote at Convento de San Bernardino de Si sal (Figure 2.8) is the focus of a museum on the premises. A room within the convent is devoted to photographs, explanations, and artifacts from an excavation of the cenote. A small portion of the data and a preliminary analysis were published in a 2008 issue of the magazine Arqueologa Mexicana dedicated to cenotes The exhibit fills the room; labeled photographs explaining the process and detailing some of the finds line a central partial wall and a case with a few artifacts in it is on the right near the rooms entrance. This exhibit is particularly important in drawing attention to the cenote, since only a small circular area of it is open to observation and even that is closed off by grating. Although the cenote does not offer the conventiona l tourist activities, the mu seum room establishes its historical importance to the convent and the city of Valladolid. Cenote Sagrado at Chichn Itz The Cenote Sagrado at Chichn Itz (F igure 2.9) occupies a unique space in relation to the other cenotes I have visited. It is incor porated into what is probably 100

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Figure 3.8 Structure surrounding the mouth of Cenote Ziiz Ha at Convento San Bernardino (photograph by author) Figure 3.9 Cenote Sagrado, Chichn Itz (photograph by author) 101

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Yucatns m ost famous site; Chichn Itz was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The federal government has a direct hand in planning, funding, and promoting tourism as a means to fund regiona l development (Ardren 2004: 103). As a result, the Mexican government tightly cont rols archaeological site management; of the 31, 887 sites in the country, only 173 are open to the public and very feware owned by private trusts or corporat ions (2004: 105). The money made from admission goes to the state or national government for site maintenance and support of the Instituto Nacional de Antropologa y Historia (2004: 105). Another form of revenue are the concessions granted to shop tenders; as is the case with hotel industry ownership and control, residents of the ar ea affected are often excluded from the economic opportunities created by the archaeological zone (2004: 104-105). At Chichn Itz, in particular, members of the town of Pisteare engaged in an ongoing struggle to participate in the economic activities that occur on the archaeological site and associated visitors [sic] center (2004: 105). Local ar tisans were excluded from the site after a new tourist complex was built, and the rents in the official visitors [sic] center are too high for local independent vendors (2004: 105). As a result of this exclusion, few native communities in Mexico benefit economically from this ma ssive ancient heritage industry (2004: 105). However, when I visited Chichn Itz in January 2008, vendors were permitted to sell wares on the road leading from the sites main architectural complex to the Cenote Sagrado. I am unaware, however, of whether or not the people were local vendors or what the costs associated with obtaining this space are. Alan and Juan work for an organization abbreviated as CDI, the Comisin para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indgenas. One of CDIs tasks is to assist indigenous communities in developing sites of 102

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interests, su ch as cenotes for tourist consumption. Their organization does not work with individuals; in the case of cenotes the land must be owned by the pueblo s governing body or by the community as a whole for the CDI to participate. Interview at Cenote Zaci Enrique was a young man who had worked at the Cenote Zaci as part of the civil protection service for three years. The civil protection has the res ponsibility of insuring the safety of those who visit the municipio s property. Before wo rking at Cenote Zaci, he worked as a vendor in the pueblitos surrounding Valladolid proper. He described his job at Cenote Zaci in the following terms; mi trabajo corresponde en ms que nada en la seguridad de la gente, el turismo, el tu rista que viene a vis itar aqu, el lugar.26 Primarily, his job as he described it was to insure the safety of the tourists swimming in Cenote Zaci; that they wore the proper attire (bathing suits rather th an clothes) and held onto the ropes crossing the cenote waters if they were not strong swimmers. Holding on to the ropes is especially important because the water can be p esada (heavy) or densa (dense). Enrique told me that he worked at Cenote Zaci todos lo s das, los trescientos sesenta y cinco das del ao (1/17/09).27 He had lived in Valladolid for eighteen years. I did not ask how old he was, therefore I do not know if he had lived in Valladolid (the city itself) for his entire life, or if he had lived in any of the surrounding pueblos or another city. When I asked Enrique if he could estimate the number of people who visited the cenote each day, he told me en la temporada alta, son las vacaciones de diciembre, junio, o la Semana Santa aproxi madamente en esos das la entrada de la gente aqu en este lugar: tr escientos personas por da but th at en los das bajos entran 26 My work is nothing more than the peoples secur ity, the security of the tourists visiting here (my translation). 27 Every day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year (my translation). 103

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unas cien personas diariam ente.28 I was surprised by these numbers, since each time I visited Cenote Zaci I saw only ten to fifteen people come in during my time there (I spent 45 minutes to an hour at the cenote). However, this perception could have been because of the time of day at which I visited. Cenote Zaci, then, draws a larg e number of visitors. Jess told me that los principales visitantes son los extranjeros; he estimated that 30% of the people who visited the cenote were from Valladolid or other areas of Mexico, while 70% were foreigners.29 He expressed his point of view of cenotes in the following way son lugares para m sagrados porque yo soy de descendiente maya, entonces, para m es un lugar sagrado.30 Enrique emphasized the importance of respecting cenotes because of their danger; although one might be the best swimmer in the world, the experience of swimming in a cenote can be very difficult (presumably because of the heaviness of the water he mentioned earlier in the interview). He touched on this point briefly, but transitioned to s ientes ms sensacinmuy agradable y pues para m estos lugares sonbueno, gracias a Di os que los tenemos aqu en Yucatn y pues son muy bonitos.31 I asked him how he felt about the use of cenotes as tourist sites, given his perception of them as sacred places. His response was that in Yucatn, there are a great many cenotes Of two thousand, he told me, only th ree hundred operated as tourist sites. It is important that there are multiple sites to visit, porque as la gente que viene de otros lugares tiene la oportunidad a conocer diferentes cenotes.32 Having access to many 28 During season, which is the v acation times in December, June, or Holy Week, during those days approximately 300 people each day come but on slow days one hundred people daily (My translation). 29 Foreigners are the majority of the visitors (my translation). 30 They are sacred places for me because I am of Maya descent, therefore, for me it is a sacred place (my translation). 31 You feel very agreeable sensations and for me they are placeswell, thanks to God that we have them here in Yucatn and that they are very beautiful (my translation). 32 Because this way the people coming from other places have the opportunity to get to know different cenotes (my translation). 104

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dif ferent sites allows the tourist to understand a variety of different cenotes I then asked if he thought that cenote tourist sites were an important venue for learning about Yucatn for tourists. Enrique responded in the affirm ative, porque para ms de nada uno puede tener conocimiento deun poco de lugar para que pueda hablar de ese lugar.33 Tourists are able to become familiar with cmo era la vida en pocas antiguas34 because there is informacin en todos cenotes tursticos de qu se utilizaron, porqu fueron descubiertos.35 The tourists are able to develop un idea de qu son y porqu los tenemos, porqu en todos lados hay cenotes pues aqu es una fuente de vida para nosotros.36 Interview at Convento San Bernardino de Sisal Javier emphasized the importance of cenotes because of the necessity of water for achieving other objectives. He told me lo impo rtante es el agua para poder construir y realizar entre tus objetivos las siembras de todo lo que es los cultivos en toda la pennsula Yucatn.37 According to him, son algo que los mayas admiraban porque si no vas en los cenotes ellos, quizs no podan sobrevivir.38 The cenote at Convento San Bernardino fue muy importante para poder prepar ar las mezclas para, para construir este convento. En segundo, sobre de esa, de esa a gua propsito que utiliz aban para baarse y 33 Because at least one can have knowledge of a fe w places and be able to talk about that place (my translation). 34 How life was in ancient times (my translation). 35 Information in all the cenote tourist sites about what they used them for, why they were discovered (my translation). 36 An idea of what they are and why we have them, why there are cenotes everywhere because here it is a source of life (my translation). 37 What is important is the water, to be able to construct and achieve, among your objectives, the sowing of all the cultigens in the peninsula (my translation). 38 They were something that the Maya admire d because if you didnt see them in the cenotes, they might not have been able to su rvive (my translation). 105

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para tom ar.39 Javier had worked at the convent for two years, and discussed how it had affected him; me han importado es en tener esa cultura y saber tambin de mi cultura que es la historia de mi ciuda d[y] la historia de este bon ito convento que fue la primera edificacin por los franciscanos con la ayuda de los indgenas.40 What was ultimately significant about cenotes for Javier was that el agua para nosotros es la vida, la fuente de nuestra vida y algo privilegio que nosotros tenemos aqu en Yucatn.41 It is interesting that despite the access to running water in many homes, water (in particular cenote water) is still viewed as a privilege. Javier was thirty-four years old and the father of four children. When I asked him if it was important to him that they understa nd their history and he ritage, he responded es algo muy importante porque si yo conozco de mis races, si yo mis hijos enseo de mis races, ellos van a salir adelante por tambin ser dignos de sus races. Entonces dicesque hay que ensearlos pa ra que se aprendan de lo que son, y lo que tienen y hay que salvar y valorar, todo lo que es herencia y la historia de Yucatn.42 Javier seemed to identify strongly as yucateco throughout the interview he stressed his connections to Valladolid, saying soy digno de ese, de esa mi ciudad, de ser de Yucatn.43 He told me that he spoke Yucatec Maya with his family. Much like Enrique, he seemed to identify more as being of Maya de scent rather than being Ma ya, although both of these 39 It [the cenote] was very important for preparing the mixtures to construct the convent. Secondly, above that, this water was used for bathing and drinking (my translation). 40 What has come to matter to me is to have that culture and to know also about my culture which is the history of my city[and] the history of this beautiful convent that was the Franciscans first building with the help of the indigenous people (my translation). 41 Water for us is life, the source of our lives an d a privilege that we have here in Yucatn (my translation). 42 It is very important because if I know about my ro ots, if I teach my children about my roots, they will go forward to also be proud of their roots. So then you sayit is necessary to teach them so that they learn what they are, what they have and that they have to, it is necessary to preserve and value all that is the heritage and history of Yucatn (my translation). 43 I am proud of that, of my city, of being from Yucatn (my translation). 106

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participan ts spoke Maya. They differed in this respect from Alan, who explicitly identified as Maya. Javier seemed to belie ve that it is very im portant that people hold onto their language. He told me that when he was in school, there were no books in Maya and the emphasis was on learning Spanish. Now, however, there are books in Maya. He gave the example of students or academics coming to Yucatan to study Maya, but no one speaking it as one reason why people should hold onto their language. He also said he doesnt understand why people sa y they only speak Spanish when they also speak Maya. Interview at Cenote Xkekn I met Berenice outside Cenote Xkekn in the pueblo of Dzitnup. Outside of the cenote are twenty to thirty vendors stalls at which drinks, jewelry, ceramics, clothing, and various tourist paraphernali a were sold. Most of the vendors seemed to be middleaged women, but Berenice was in her twen ties. She and anot her young woman had a stall close to the cenote entrance, but tucked around the back side of some of the other stalls. I bought a guayabara shirt and pants for my godson from them before asking if I could interview them. After the interview, we chatted for a few minutes and I wrote down the English words for basic clothing items such as shirt, skirt, and pants for her. She described her work for me in the following way: nosotros vendemos blusas, guayabaras, y fotos del cenote (1/23/09).44 Berenice had been coming to Cenote Xkekn to sell various wares from a very young age; ms de veinte aos, desde que yo era pequea yo vine a vender ac.45 I asked her for information on who owned Cenote Xkekn and how it was maintained and administrated. She told me that there was some 44 We sell blouses, guayabaras [a special type of sh irt common in Yucatn], and photos of the cenote (my translation). 45 For more than twenty years, since I was small I have come to sell here (my translation). 107

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controversy over the issue at th e tim e, since a veces pasa algunos comisarios de ac no administran bien el dinero y no mejoran el pueblo; por eso quiere pasar al manos del gobierno para que el gobierno mejore el cenot e y mejore el pueblo, y la mayora de los del pueblo ac trabajan para el beneficio de su propia familia.46 Cenote Xkekn (and Cenote Samula, located a short distance away ) provided work for many of the people in Dzitnup, whether it be through ti cket-taking, maintenance, or selling souvenirs. The money earned through selling tickets was inte nded to benefit the residents of the pueblo as a whole; as Berenice put it, con eso dan ayuda a person asa los ancianos, personas enfermas, y pagan bien a los trabajadores de ac47. Berenice did not seem to hold the opinion that the money was being mishandl ed, telling me El dinero que entra los trabajadores del mismo pueblo, mejor dicho la gente del pueblo son ellos que trabajan ac, los que hacen limpieza, los que dirigen entra de cenote, los que mantienen para que digamos los nios no molesten a los visitantes para que cada quien est en su lugar, y as los visitantes pueden entrar bien, no lo s distraigan, yhacen un buen trabajo porque mantienen limpio lo de ac: los baos dentro del cenote y en el pueblo tambin48. She emphasized that it was a discusin taking plac e; no final decisions had been made. She compared it to the situation at Chichn Itz, saying no s si ya supiste de Chichn, que 46 Sometimes it happens that some comisarios [local administrators] from he re dont administer the money well and dont improve the town; because of that they want it to pass into the governments hands so that the government will improve the cenote and the town, and the majority of the people from the town work here for the benefit of their own families (my translation). 47 With that they help peoplethe elderly people, sick people, and pay the workers well (my translation). 48 The money goes to the workers of the same town; better said, to the people of the town. They are the ones who work here: those that clean, those that dir ect people to the entrance of the cenote, those that maintain it so that we say to the children Dont bother the visitors, so that each person is in his/her place and then the visitors can enter smoothly, theyre not distracted. They do good work because they keep it clean here; the bathrooms in the cenote and the town too (my translation). 108

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estn peleando pero eso, creo que es del gobierno y una parte es deles propiedad49. However, Berenice did not seem to think that the vendors would be affected in the same way they were at Chichn Itz. I asked he r if the government taking over Cenote Xkekn would limit the residents rights to work there; she said no, p orque no nos quitan ese derecho porque nosotros somos del pueblo; simplemente poraprender a administrar el dinero del cenote quiere pasar al manos del gobierno para que el gobierno mejore lo que los dems no pudiera mejorar50. She qualified her statement that the government would be responsible for Cenote Xkekn by specifying an organization called CULTUR51. Berenice said me imagina que es una empres a, s, el CULTUR es una empresapero no s ms o menos: cmo escmo administran.52 Juan characterized this ongoing legal conflict in different terms; I will examine his contrasting understan ding of the situation later. Cenotes as Cultural Heritage Sofia lived across the street from the family I lived with both times I visited Valladolid; out of all the people I interviewed, she was the on e I had spent the most time with and with whom I was most familiar. When I was taking Yucatec Maya classes the first time I came to Valladolid, she showed me some basic phrases, since she spoke the language. Sofia told me that she had learned the language through living in various 49 I dont know if you already know about Chichn that theyre fighting there, but that, I believe, belongs to the government andpart of it is [private] property (my translation). 50 Because they dont take away that right because we are from the town; they want the cenote to pass into the hands of the government simply so that they learn to administer the money; so that the government improves what others couldnt improve (my translation). 51 CULTUR is an agency of Yucatns state government, which also collects ticket revenues for entrance to archaeological, historic, and ecolog ical sites in the state. The money is meant to go towards site maintenance, but the management and use of the money is not well-accounted for (Anthony P. Andrews, personal communication 2009). 52 I imagine that it is a businessyes, CULTUR is a bu siness, but I dont know any more or less; what its likehow they run it (my translation). 109

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pueblos in the Valladolid area and w orking with monolingual students. She described her knowledge about the history of use of cenotes as the result of her local heritage, telling me Yo lo s porqueyo soy de por ac, mis abuelitosme han contado, mis bisabuelos y pues yo, ms que nada que soy de aqu mi cultura, me gusta conocer de dnde provine (1/15/09).53 She compared cenotes to the pyramids at Chichn Itz; son de los antepasados y de nuestra cultura.54 When I asked her if cenotes were an important way for visitors to better understa nd the culture of the area and the people who had lived there over time, she responded in the affirmative and compared it to me knowing that my ancestors are Yankees. Sofia discussed how she learned about her heritage; estudi en mi prepa y me gustaba mucho estudiar sobre las culturas.55 For her, learning Yucatec Maya was another way of connecting with her heritage; yo aprend maya porque convivo mucho con la gente indgena que vive en los pueblos en los alrededores ac de Valladolid entonces yo he convivido con mucha gente que habla mayay me gust, aprend porque todo lo que es viene de mi s antepasados pues para m es importante porque es parte de mi persona, parte de ma.56 She shared information about the food and cha chaac ritual that she learned as a result of her time living in the pueblos. I asked her if she felt it was disrespectful to use cenotes as tourist sites given their former importance as ritual spaces, to which she responded Creo que es conveniente que la gente de otros lugares venga para conocer nuestra culturaas como ustedes a veces 53 I know this becauseI am from here, my grandp arentshave told me, my great-grandparents and, more than anything that I am from heremy culture I like to know where I came from (My translation). 54 They are of the ancestors and of our culture (m y translation). 55 I studied it in my prepa (high school) y I very much enjoyed learning about the cultures (my translation). 56 I learned Maya because I lived a lot with th e indigenous people who live in the towns around Valladolid, so I have lived with a lot of people who speak Mayaand I liked it, I learned it because all of it comes from my ancestors, so it is important for me because it is part of me, part of who I am (my translation). 110

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vienen por ac nosotro s a veces nos vamos a pa sear por all para conocer lugares: las cscadas, los lugares que por aqu no hayy no nos ofende para nada que vengan a ver, a observar nuestra manera de vivi r, nuestra manera de hablar.57 She explained to me how cenotes were used in the past; l os cenotes eran los lugares que escogan los mayas, nuestros antepasados, para establecerseera un lugar sagrado, h acan sus rituales, llevaban a sus dioses y hacan sacrificos a veces cuando no haba lluvia para que hayapara que llueve ellos invocaban a sus di oses y hacan sacrificiospor eso s los cenotes son sagrados para nuestra cultura58 and how they are used contemporarily; en estas pocas y hay ms civiliacin, sirve para es un atractivo para la gente que viene de lugares lejanospero en realidad antiguamente era el lugar de asentamiento de nuestras culturas mayas.59 Sofia saw cenote tourism as a way of l earning about both a unique natural feature and an ancient way of lif e. It was not disrespectful to use cenotes for tourism but rather an important form of edu cation in how the residents of the peninsula lived. Her use of the word civilization wa s interesting, since she also used to speak about the eradication of tradition in the pueblos ; civilization, whic h included running water, schooling, and incorporation into the wage economy all threatened long-standing traditions and beliefs of the municipio s indigenous residents. The introduction of running water into the peninsula dras tically changed th e role of the cenote ; it no longer 57 I believe that it is suitable that people from ot her places come here to know about our cultureas you all come here we sometimes visit there in order to get to know other places: waterfalls, things that we dont have hereand it doesnt offend us that you all come to see this place, to observe our way of life, the way we talk (my translation). 58 Cenotes were the places that the Maya, our ances tors, chose to settleit was a sacred place; they performed their rituals, brought their gods, and someti mes when the rain didnt come they did sacrifices; because of that cenotes are sacred in our culture (my translation). 59 In these times, when civilization has spread, the cenote serves as an attraction for people who come from far away placesbut really, in ancient times, it was the seat of Maya culture (my translation). 111

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served as th e primary source of water or a public space for the interaction among a pueblo s residents. Stories about Cenotes I met Alan through Juan. Alan also worked with the CDI. He identified first as Maya, but also as Yucatec and Mexican on diffe rent levels. Alan grew up in one of the comisarios (Xocm) surrounding Valladolid and was very clear on this distinction. It seemed to be important to him that I rec ognize that he had not come from Valladolid proper. He spoke to me some about learni ng Spanish as a teenager and the difficulties that came from attending school in town. Accents in the surrounding pueblos are often different, particularly given that Spanish is not the first language of many of the people growing up there. While his community ha d its own primary school staffed by teachers who spoke Yucatec Maya, students had to atte nd secondary school in Valladolid. Alan spoke with me briefly about the difficulties of such a situation; he and his brother rode bicycles from Xocm into Valladolid everyday to attend school, and they were teased because of their accents. Although living in close proximity to Valladolid, they spoke a completely different language. Alan men tioned how hard it was to learn Spanish in Xocm s, es un poco difcil porque uno no aprende mucho hablar el idioma espaol porque, porque igual la gente gr ande es monolinge totalmente, la gente ms grande del pueblo. Muy poco de ellos saben como habl ar o comprende el espaol. Mayormente todos ellos hablan en mayallegas a tu casa, todo el tiempo es maya (1/13/09).60 However, he emphasized that they had con tinued working hard, and eventually overcome these difficult circumstances. When I asked if he believed it was important that people 60 Yes, its hard because one does nt learn how to speak Spanish, because the older people are monolingual, the oldest people in the town. Most of them speak Mayayou get to your house, all the time Maya is spoken (my translation). 112

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continued teaching Yucatec Maya in schools in order to preserve and protect the language, he laughed. Alan assured m e that Yucatec Maya was in no danger of dying out, since sixty percent of the residents of the Yucatn Peni nsula were Maya; they were, in fact, the majority. For him, what was more important was que la gente que no es maya entiende y comprende cmo es la vida de las comunidades indgenas.61 According to him, outsiders perceived the Maya as backwards, poor, and marginalized. This view, however, was not accurate; there were Maya with money and power. Alan said that in his pueblo Hay muchos cenotes, muchsimos. Y cada uno muy diferente. Cada uno muy diferente. Preci osos.62 Alan did not think that any contemporary rituals or ceremonies took place near or around cenotes However, he did talk about the cha chaac ceremony. For preparing the ceremonys beverages, zuhuy-ha, virgin water, must be obtained. According to Alan, zuhuy-ha es agua virgen de cenotes que jams los ha tocado el hombre.63 While a cenote as the location of the ritual was not carried out, it still pl aced a role in the ceremony as the sacred space for obtaining virgin water. Each of these cenotes also had its own story, and Alan told me a story about Xocms main cenote It had two entrances, and was below ground and difficult to enter. In the past, the only surface on which to sta nd was made of boards. Two young girls who had recently married were standing on the surf ace above the water. They were showing each their wedding rings, when one dropped into the cenote. The girl tried to recover it, but fell into the cenote. When the other girl tried to he lp pull her out, she also fell into 61 That the people that arent Maya understand what the life of the indigenous communities is like (my translation). 62 It has many cenotes, many. And each one is very different. Each one different. Precious (my translation). 63 It is virgin water from cenotes that has never been touched by man (my translation). 113

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the ceno te. The residents of the pueblo expected the bodies to float up to the surface after three days. When the bodies of the girls di d not appear three days later, the girls relatives consulted a h-men (Maya shaman). At this point in the interview, Alan emphasized that the towns inha bitants always consulted the h-men before the doctor, since the h-men was someone who could be trusted and spoke the same language as the residents. The h-men consulted his tools, and told the relatives that the girls were still alive and offered to go after them When he entered the water, he turned into a turtle. The h-men found a channel and easily traveled through it until he re ached a field of bananas. Lying in a hammock was a huge, ugly monster. The two girls were rocking the monsters hammock. The h-men waited until the monster fell asleep, then turned back into a man and approached the girls. When he told them that he had come to bring them back, they informed him that they were c ondemned to remain in the monsters service forever. As a sign that he had met them, the girls gave him their wedding rings to take back to their families. As he left, he ended up in a field of jcara He admired the field, and cut some of the jcara to take with him. When he did so, however, the monsters pack of dogs began pursuing him, and did not let up until he threw the stalks of jcara he had cut behind him. Alt hough his travels through the cenote had been easy beforehand, he now found the way much more difficult. All of the passages had reduced in size and were more difficult to travel th rough. When he emerged from the cenote he came out through the Cenote Sagrado at Ch ichn Itz rather than the cenote at Xocm. Alan also told me that according to the pueblo s stories, the cenote at Xocm would be el nico lugar en el final de los tiempos dnde va a haber agua. Porque todos los dems pozos y cenotes se van a secar.64 64 The only place during the end times where there w ill be water. Because all the other wells and cenotes 114

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Although ritual activities were no lo nger performed at most of the cenotes in the Valladolid area, some still maintained an au ra of mystery and otherworldliness. In addition to the stories, this aura can also be seen through the conception of cenotes as sources of ritually potent water used in ceremonies such as the cha chaac Most of all, they were still conceived of as places that demanded respect. As Enrique noted the importance of respecting cenotes because of the possibility of drowning, Alans story also reveals the importance of respecting cenotes particularly the one at Xocm. This particular cenote was thought to be the only place were water would be accessible during end times; according to Al an, an elderly woman would guard the cenote, and one would receive a mini scule jar of water in return for a child. This story highlights cenotes as contested spaces due to questi ons of ownership and proprietorship. What is meant to be accessible to the entire community becomes a guarded, costly place, due to demand for what it has to offer. Questions of cenote ownership and who is permitted to use the space are extremely salient in Yucatn today, as is evident from the legal disputes over Chichn Itz and Cenote Xkekn. Rather than homogeneous insider vs. outsider perspectives of cenotes my interviews indicated that there were numerous stakeholders, all with different ideas about how the space should be utilized and who owned it. The cenote also serves as the habitat of a powerful monster, capable of conscripting young women into eternal servitude and unleashing packs of dogs on anyone who steals from its fields. Another important aspect of the story Alan told me is the hmens entrance and emergence from two different cenotes This aspect emphasizes the are going to dry up (my translation). 115

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interconnected nature of the subterranean wa ter system which is central to conservation discussions. Cenotes and Development Juan had lived in Valladolid for thirteen years, but was originally from the neighboring state of Campeche. He described his job for me in the following way: Soy responsable del rea de capacitacin para las comunidades indgenas. Trabajo en la Comisin de Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indgenas en la unidad se conoce como Centro Coordinador Vallado lid, Yucatn. Yo atiendo diecisiete municipios; de los ciento cinco m unicipios que tiene Yucatn, yo atiendo diecisiete. Parece a ser poco, pero atiendo los municipios ms grandes de Yucatn. Si dividimos Yucatn en tres partes una tercera parte las atiendo yo. Me encargo de preparar, hacer las propue stas para proyectos de capacitacin en temas como planeacin estratgica, desarro llo comunitario, desarrollo sustentable, cuestiones de salud con mdicos tradiciona les y parteras, capacitacin en el rea eco-tourismo, precisamente por ejempl oen los cenotes o cabaas, para aprovechar rutas tursticas o rutas ecol gicas, capacito a los nios en cuestiones como manejo de la radio. Te ngo una radio en mi cargo, la radio infantilcapacitacin para las mujeres artesanasEntonces desarrollo los proyectos, contacto a los ONGs, las organi zaciones o universidades que vayan a dar estos talleres, o cursos, o estos seminarios o estos forosy les pago (1/21/09).65 The childrens radio program was the only one of its kind; groups of children were given turns lasting an hour each to play the musi c they wanted, from reggaeton to msica tradicional maya. Anothe r program developed by the Comisin was working with boys and girls in order to prevent the spread and continuation of domestic violence. Juans 65 I am responsible for training in the indigenous communities. I work in the Commission for the Development of Indigenous Towns in the unit known as Central Coordinator, Valladolid, Yucatn. I look after 16 divisions; of the 105 divisions in the state of Yucatn, I look after 16. This may seem like few, but I look after the largest divisions in the state. If we divided Yucatn into three parts, I attend to one of those thirds. I am in charge of preparing, of putting together the proposals for training projects in topics such as strategic planning, community development, sustainable development, questions of health with traditional doctors and midwives, eco-tourism training, precisely for examplein the cenot es, in the cabins, for exploiting tourist or ecological routes, training the children in running the radio. I have a radio in my charge, the childrens radiotraining for female ar tisansSo I develop the projects, contact the NGOs, organizations, or universities that are going to give these workshops, or courses, or seminars, or forumsand I pay them (my translation). 116

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work thus encom passes a huge number of projects and topics, with the goal of facilitating the development and incorporation of the pueblos into the larger Mexican economy and improving the public services available for the residents. Apart from his work in the 16 divisions he is responsible for, Juan s upports other areas in the development and realization of other projects. He emphas ized the weight of responsibility on his shoulders; each person had their own area, a nd each worked alone unless they requested assistance from the head of another area and for that moment, the other bosses became his workers. I asked Juan if he had worked specifically on projects involving cenotes ; he said yes, se llama de la rama del eco-tourismoy la otra rama que trata con, proyectos de mujeresson actividades secundrias a las ac tividades del eco-tourismo del cenote pero que salen beneficiados por el cenote, por ej emplo las artesanas. Hacen su proyecto de comercializacin, van a vender aqu, s, porque hay un cenote en la siguiente comunidad o en el mismo pueblo y aprovechando los turist as que van al cenote, ellas ganan de su mercanca.66 These related projects are what directly benefit indivi dual inhabitants and familias of the pueblos. However, these projects also highlight a central paradox of ecotourism. Although it is intended to support lo cal social values, there is a tendency for eco-tourism to lead not to the support of distinctive lo cal sociocultural beliefs and practices, valued by ecotourists because they represent alternatives to capitalist market systems, but to the spread and strengtheni ng of those systems (West and Carrier 2004: 66 They are called the eco-tourism sectorand the ot her sector they deal with, womens projectsare secondary activities to the eco-tourism activities of th e cenote but they come out benefiting from the cenote, for example, the artisans. They do their co mmercialization project, they come to sell here, and because there is a cenote in the neighboring community or in the same town, and taking advantage of the tourists that go to the cenote, they ear n from their merchandise (my translation). 117

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485). The incorporation of cenotes into the tourist m arket serves as a mechanism for incorporating inhabitants of the area into the capit alist market system. According to Juan, however, there we re not a great number of indigenous communities who wanted to convert their cenotes into eco-tourism sites. Alan concurred, saying son muy pocas las comunidades que demandan proyectos de ese tipo.67 Juan told me Hay comunidades que quieren que su cenote les ayude en el sistema del ro. Sistema del ro de las milpasEso es un proyectopero no es de eco-tourism, es agrcolaHay otro grupo que quieren que su cenote sea, que se encargueagua a su pueblo.68 The Comisin also helped with thes e development projects, which involved irrigating the cornfields and using the cenote to provide running water for the town. When providing me with these examples, Juan once again emphasized the amount of work the Comisin does; Dime algo que no hagamos. Hacemos de todo.69 The Comisin had to do so much, he argued, because the other agencies mishandled their programs and ended up ignoring the needs of indigenous communities. There are different programs for Mexican citizens, for the workers of ejidos (communal land holdings), and for indigenous communities. The CDI, Juan told me, atiende a los indgenas y lo resulta es el indgena que atend yo es al mi smo, es ejiditario, y al mismo tiempo es ciudadanoestn pobres, son ejiditarios, y son mayas, y peor an si es mujer; es pobre, es mujer, es mayapor eso los at endemos nosotros, porque nadie ms quiere a atenderloslos indgenas son los ltimos que reciben ese apoyo porque estn lejos de las 67 There are very few communities that demand projects of that type (my translation). 68 There are communities that want their cenotes to be part of the irrigation syst em. Irrigation system for the cornfields. That is one project but it is not eco-tourism, its agriculturalThere is another group that wants their cenote to provide the water for the town (my translation). 69 Tell me something we havent done. We do everything (my translation). 118

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ciudades.70 There are roads that indigenous co mmunities have been promised by the government for seventy or eighty years that ha ve not yet materialize d. Juan stressed that political affiliation, religion, and other cultur al aspects were insignificant; CDI helped everyone who belonged to an indigenous community. When I asked Juan for his point of view on cenotes he responded with the following: Los cenotes en la actualidad ya no so n utilizados, creo yo, para cuestiones religiosas. No son. Son utilizados para cuestiones prcticas. Algopara el beneficio de la comunidadPara ro de la milpapara eco-tourismo, o para beneficio de la comunidad: un sistema de agua potable, nada ms. No hay ya una cuestin de que all vaya a hacer una cerem onia. No se hace ya. Las ceremonias se hacenen las afueras del pueblo, dentro del pueblo, pero ya no se hacen en los cenotesEn muchos lugares, por ejempl o, Xcareteso que dice que son aguas subterrneas. No son aguas subterr neas. Ellos los construyeronEl ro subterrneo que supuestamente es un cenote no es un cenote. Ellos lo hicieronY all se hacen una ceremonia maya no es cierto Hay un grupo que se llama Mayom que intentan ellos hacer la s ceremonias antiguas maya. No s de dnde ellos se han logrado a recolectar esta informacin. Por qu? Porque la mayora de esas ceremonias fueron quemadas poren el acto de f de Man. Entonces no existen. No existen librosLo que queda, sola ceremonias que llevaban los sacerdotes mayas, como hay cha chaac el hetz mek porque hacen ceremonias populares del pueblo. No eran ceremonias de los altos dignatarios mayasahorita los cenotes son de usa pr actca, nada ms. Y eso porque no permiten all en el cenote de Chichn It z que se bae, que no le permite porque le quieren dar ese aspecto del cenote sagrado.71 70 [The CDI] takes care of the indigenous people and what ends up happening is that the indigenous person for whom I am responsible is at the same time an co mmunal land-holder, and at the same time is a Mexican citizenTheyre poor, theyre farmers, theyre Maya, an d worse still is if shes a woman; shes poor, shes a woman, shes Mayabecause of that we attend to them, because no one else wants to deal with themthe indigenous people are the last ones to get support because theyre far away from the cities (my translation). 71 Currently, I believe, cenotes are not used for religious purposes. Theyre not. Theyre used for practical purposes. Something to benefit the communityFor irrigating the cornfieldsfor ecotourismor for benefiting the community: a system of potable water, nothing more. There is no longer a question of going there to perform ceremonies. It is nt done anymore. The ceremonies are done on the outskirts of town, within the town but not at the cenotesIn many pl aces, for example, Xcaretthey say that those are subterranean waters. Theyre not. They built them. The subterranean river that supposedly is a cenote is not a cenote. They made it...And th ey do a Maya ceremony its not MayaTheres a group called Mayom that tries to perform ancient Maya ceremonies. I dont know where they managed to recollect that information. Why? Because the majority of the records of these ceremonies were burned in the auto-de-f of Man. So they dont exist. There aren t recordsThe only thin g that remains are the 119

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According to Alan, however, ceremonies such as these para la gente tiene un sentido. Todo lo que se hace en las com unidades tiene algn sentido. No slo se inventa hacer.72 This disagreement highlights different understandings of what is meaningful, authentic, and traditional. To Juan, some of the attempts at reconstructing prehispanic Maya ceremonies and rituals were blatant attempts for increasing tourism revenue by attracting tourists interested in viewing t raditional peoples. Alan inte rpreted it in a different way. In his perception, these ceremonies ha d contemporary meaning for the people constructing and practicing them, even if th at meaning was different from prehispanic times. However, another reason Juan gave for the prohibition against swimming in the Cenote Sagrado at Chichn Itz was who its owners were. Esa parte de all de ese cenote pertenece a una familia, la familia Barbachano que es de origen campechano. Y la familia Barbachano es duea de los terrenos de Chichn Itz. No el INAH. No el gobierno federalpor esono deja los recursos en el pueblo de PistLa gente de Pistno recibe nada por los visitantes de Chichn Itz, nada, ni un peso. El cenote de Dzitnupest en las manos de l ejido. Y los ejiditarios son los que cobran el servicioy con ese dinero van a construir otra jaula para la escuelamejoran el parque de ac de Dzitnup. Sin embargo, alguien, no s quin, vendi los terrenos de los cenotes de Samula y Xkeken a un particular. Y ese particular ahora tiene un conflicto legal con ellos porque quiere parar all, un hotelpara aprovechar los ce notes. Y el ejido se lo permite. Y estn en una cuestin legal.73 ceremonies the Maya priests brought like the cha chaac [and the] hetz mek because they were town ceremonies, of the people. They werent ceremonies of the high-class Maya dignitariesNow cenotes are used for practical purposes, nothing more. And thats why they dont allow swimming in the cenote at Chichn Itz, because they want to give it that sacred character (my translation). 72 For the people they have meaning. Everything that they do in the communities has some meaning. They dont just invent it to do it (my translation). 73 That part of the cenote belongs to a family, the Ba rbachano family, originally from Campeche. And the Barbachano family owns the cenote. Not INAH [the national institution of anthropology and history]. Not the federal governmentand because of that the resources arent left in the town of PistThe residents of Pist dont get anything from the visitors to Chichn, not one peso. 120

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Because of the legal con flict involved, th e CDI could not assist in developing any projects around the cenotes at Dzitnup. The CDI is also prohibited from developing projects for the benefit of an i ndividual; if they help develop a cenote into a tourist site, the cenote must be collectively owned either by th e local government or all residents of the community. Juan did not know (as this was one of the defining questions of the conflict) who sold the land to an individual, whether the government had done it, or if a single ejiditario or the comisario ejidal sold the land. Juan believed firmly that any value other than practical associated with cenotes was either gone, or in the pr ocess of disappearing; unless, it was being recreated in order to emphasize the cultural aspects of cenotes for tourism purposes: Creo que con los viejos, con los ancianoscenotes van a de jar, seguir perdiendo ese valor entre los mayasel valor es que tienen agua y qu es falta de agua. La pa rte sacrosanta o santa eso creo que vaya a desaparecer. Y creo yo que algunos cenotes o varios cenotes van a ser utilizados y la van a crear una cerem onia ficticiacon la intencin de atraer turismo.74 His final statements regarded the conservation of cenotes : En fin lo nico que pido es que mantengan los cenotes limpios.75 He told several stories about the difficulties involved in cleaning up cenotes for development projects and the communities that use cenotes close to town as trash bin. His stories revealed a negative The cenote Dzitnup is in the hands of the ejido. And the ejiditarios are the ones who cover the servicesand with that money they are going to build another wing for the schoolimprove the park there. Nevertheless, someone, I dont know who, sold the land that the cenotes Xkeken and Samula are on to an individual. And this individual is now involved in a legal conflict with the ejiditarios because this individual wants to stay there, [build] a hotelexploit the cenotes. And the ejido wont let him. So now it is a legal question (my translation). 74 I believe that with the loss of the elderly people, the cenotes are going to continue losing value among the Maya. The value is that they have water and what is lacking here is water. The sacred or holy part; that is what I believe is going to disappear. And I think th at some or various cenotes are going to be used in order to create a fictitious ceremony for the pu rpose of attracting tourism (my translation). 75 In the end, all that I ask is that they keep the cenotes clean (my translation). 121

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side to eco-tourism While the practice of eco -tourism is often conceived as encouraging environmental care and conservation, it defines the benefits of these practices monetarily. What happens, then, when a particular site is not well-situated for drawing tourists (and by extension, revenue)? Does this lack nul lify the reasoning and justification behind conservation of the site? Juan told me that he felt this problem was occurring in some cases. Obviously, many cenotes do not conform to tourist ideals; they lack the space or accessibility for activities such as swimming or diving, or they are not picturesque enough to compel visitors. As a result, one justification for cenote preservation is lost, and if other cenotes in the area are used for irrigati on or running water, a particular cenote can be perceived as extraneous. When this occurs, a cenote is simply another space; in some of the cases discussed by Juan, it becomes an area for dumping trash. However, in the case of cenotes this type of devaluation is particularly damaging. They are connected by systems of underground river s; therefore contaminating one space can affect numerous others th roughout a wide region. Conclusions There are myriad avenues of information regarding cenotes providing multiple interpretations and encouraging different und erstandings about their contemporary roles in the development, tourist economy, and cultural heritage spheres. As previously discussed, the work presented here is not meant to encourage definitive conclusions on the subject but rather to pres ent the many different angles from which the subject can be approached. Cenotes are interpreted as aspects of cultural heritage for Yucatns residents, and this interpretation is used to incorporate cenotes into the sphere of cultural tourism. Their inclusion in development projects has provided a site for empowering 122

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wom en by providing them with an arena for interaction with the wider market economy and their own source of income. Cenotes can also be used for ot her types of development projects: improving agricultural output by diverting water into an irrigation system or providing running, potable water for the pueblo However, the resources for organizing and implementing these projects are dependent on outside sources that must be trusted to come through with what is promise d. Ownership of certain types of cenotes can therefore significantly incr ease the owners economic opportunities and capabilities, which can either benefit an entire commun ity of people, or a few individuals. Who owns a cenote changes how the place is perceived legally and has very material effects on who has access to the space and who can benefit from its reorganization. Legal conflicts arise in part because of the multiple perceptions and conceptions of these spaces. In the case of Dzitnup, as Juan explained, first there was the question over who sold the land and whether th at person had the right to do so. Are the cenotes owned by the pueblo s local government and administ rated for the benefit of all residents of the pueblo or did the local government or a member of the local government have the right to sell the land to a third pa rty? Regardless of who owns the land, do the ejiditarios still have the right to restrict any chan ges to the property with which they do not agree? The multiple and changing perceptions and conceptions of this particular space prevent hard-and-clear answers to these questions. All of these issues warrant further explor ation in order to develop a fuller, more complex understanding of th e varied ways in which cenotes are contemporarily used, perceived, and conceived. Through tourist lite rature and interviews with inhabitants, cenotes are revealed as complex lived spaces aff ected both by outsiders assemblages of 123

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representations and inhabitants inte raction with, relation t o, and shaping and creating of these spaces. 124

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Conclusion If this is meant to be a conclusion it is, in fact, a preliminary one. New archaeological methods are being developed for better analyzing and interpreting how caves were used in the prehispanic period ; new ethnographic studies are examining (if only peripherally) how cenotes are understood and contex tualized by contemporary residents of Yucatn. As with many projec ts, there are more questions raised than answered. However, this project in particular was intended to highlight that fact rather than obscure it. Over such a long period of time and with varying amounts of evidence, attempting to provide any sort of definiti ve answer on the basis of the information presented here would be jumping the gun. Rather this thesis is intended to highlight new and old avenues of information in orde r to suggest novel methods and innovative interpretations for procuring and interpreting said information. I combined three different sub-discip lines in order to explore the uses, understandings, and interpretations of a partic ular type of geographic feature. Although the ethnography section took a mo re synchronic approach, as a whole this project was driven by an attempt to look at cenotes through a diachronic lens. Saying that I looked at cenotes is slightly misleading; wh at I have actually attempted to examine is the ways in which people throughout time have interacted with and understood these particular spaces. Miriam Kahns use of the concept of thirdspace in order to describe the social, lived space created by the dialectic between physical, perceived space and mental, conceived space, was used in order to approach this question. Cenotes are constructed and negotiated in various ways: as ritual spaces for the enactment of primordial stories, as sources of much-needed water, as concrete manifestations of cultural heritage, as 125

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powerful, almost dangerous spaces that can take lives, and as oppor tunities for tourism revenue. Many of these perceptions and conceptions of cenotes exist sim ultaneously and interact with each, in order to create multilayered places. During the Classic and Postclassic pe riods, archaeological evidence seems to suggest that cenotes were interpreted as part of a la rger cave complex relating to origin stories and the creation of huma n beings. The different type s of material remains found within chen features, such as manos and metates are linked in origin stories to the creation of human beings from maize. As visceral reminders of the origins of human beings, chen features such as the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan and the Cenote Sagrado at Chichn Itz were key locations for the authentication and divesture of political and religious power. Their associations with creation seem to have extended to procreation; the depiction of figures in sexually explicit situations in rock art, the presence of spindle whorls, used for weaving and thus closely associ ated with procreation and childbirth, and the evidence for ritual use of caves at the Ix Chel pilgrimage site of Cozumel Island all support this interpretation. Cenotes combine cave features with water, making them doubly significant in an area that lacks any other source beside s rainwater. The large number of cenotes on the peninsula permitted the use of some as primar ily water collection sites (albeit with some elements of ritual significance), some as solely sacred spaces for the enactment of rituals, and some as encompassing both of these aspects. Cenotes combined both sacred and profane aspects, which coexisted complementarily. It is important to keep in mind, however that these conclusions are drawn from a large geographic area, a long period of time, a nd considerable cultural difference. When 126

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exam ining the artifacts, theref ore, it is necessary to rememb er that the same type of artifact can be interp reted and used in many different wa ys; therefore while it is possible to suggest its potential signi ficance and meaning, it is impossible to know. Anthropology conducted in what is termed the Maya ar ea has benefited from a long record of ethnohistoric and ethnographic in formation; however, far too often this information is used to explain material remains from the prehispanic period. This method assumes a cultural continuity which may not exist over such a long time and such a large area. While ethnographic analogy can provide entr ance points for the interpretation and understanding of various aspects of prehispanic Maya soci ety, it is necessary to be aware of the assumptions inherent in the method. Attempting to understand the intentions and meanings behind material objects remains one of the most frustrating aspects of archaeology as a discipline. Insight into the religious, cosmological, and/or ideological si gnificances of an object is often lacking. In the case of the Maya, therefore, schol ars are lucky to have records, which can provide valuable information on the nebulous world of ideas. Therefore, the second method fo r understanding conceptions of chen features during the prehispanic period is epigraphic analysis. The depictions within caves themselves as well as depictions of caves in other media help flesh out the ways in which these features were understood and used. The Madrid and Dresden codices in particular, show cenotes as spaces encompassing the life cycle as a whole; the origins and creation of humans, life, and death. Origins stories such as the Popol Vuh connect chen features with life and death; a deity figure desce nds into the Underw orld by means of a cenote in order to make the world ready for the crea tion of humans, the material from which 127

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hum ans are made is retrieved from a cave-like cavity, and upon death, the cenote serves as a conduit to the Underworld. Archaeologi cal evidence indicates that this connection was literal in some senses; the large number of remains found with in the Cenote Sagrado and in Belizean caves attest to that. Within the Madrid and Dresden codices, cenotes are associated with deities embodying death, maize, and rain. They are site s for the performance of ritual activities such as the Burner and yearbearer ceremonies sacrifice, and deerhunting. The tentative identification of the cheen glyph indicates that the destruct ion of another politys ritual cave spaces dealt the polity a crushing blow. The iconographic and epigraphic representations of chen features reaffirm some of the interpretations gleaned from the archaeological evidence as well as suggesti ng other uses and conceptions of such features. Given the massive changes that have ta ken place on the Yucatn peninsula in the last 500 years, it is no surprise that the conceptions and uses of cenotes have drastically changed in many senses. While they once provided the water necessary for survival on many areas of the peninsula, the introduction of running water into the private home has changed some peoples percepti ons of their importance. Cenotes are no longer perceived as the direct providers of wate r; water is now channeled from other areas directly into the home. The cenote is no longer a public space that everyon e must visit in order to obtain a necessary resource; in fact, in many cases it has become an area restricted to those with the resources to pay for admission. In so me communities, it remains of central importance, whether as a source of tourist reve nue, a source of water for irrigation, or a source of water for running water itself. 128

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Cenote tourist sites provide opportunities for women to enter into the m arket and earn their own income and for communitie s to draw revenue for developing and implementing their own self-improvement pr ojects. Their lucrative potential and the history of land division, ow nership, and management in Mexico also make them contested spots, the objects of legal cases. Some are disregarded; the sheer number of cenotes puts them at risk for becomi ng waste disposal sites. However, cenotes are also an aspect of cultural heritage for some people; their long history of use give them status as patrimonial spaces. Although no longer used in the same way, they are remembered as a necessa ry and central part of prehispanic life. There are myriad interpretati ons, understandings, and uses of cenotes presently and throughout the past. As such, their mean ing cannot be distilled into a few sentences and extrapolated to all past and present reside nts of the Yucatn Peninsula. In order to better comprehend their importance, it is necessary to acknowledge and understand the multifaceted roles they have played from th e prehispanic period to contemporary times. This task can only be accomplished through ha rnessing various lines of evidence and the many different methods for interpreting that evid ence. This project is an attempt to begin that process; to shine the first rays of light onto the complexity of human interaction with these spaces. 129

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Appendix 1 Map of the Yucatn Peninsula w ith sites of interest marked (Andrews IV 2005) 130

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