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SACRED PATHWAYS: THE IMPORTANCE OF CAVES IN MAYA RITUAL AND IDEOLOGY BY KARIN CAMILA BOYNTON 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 in Anthropology Under the Sponsorship of Dr. Anthony P. Andrews Sarasota, Florida May, 2010
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! """ PREFACE The first time I even explored a cave was in the summer of 2007. My sister and I were doing a stint of volunteer work at an eco lodge Finca Ixobel in the Guatemalan Petn. One day we got together with a few friends and decided to take a trip to la Cueva Ixobel the Ixobel cave. It is so name d because it belongs to the farm where I volunteered. I ts original indigenous name has long been forgotten. It took us forty five minutes of hiking through alternating jungle and cow pastures to reach the base of the hill that houses the cave. Hiking up through dense jungle, we soon reac hed a crevice in the hill face. Lined by rock, the pathway was just wide enough to allow one person through at a time. Once past this, however, I saw the cave mouth yawn in front of me. Already the ceiling was several feet above my head. A large cavern ext e nded ahead of me, scantily lit by the light coming from the bo ttleneck opening I had just passed I stepped further inside the cave and immediately felt a change in the air quality. The atmosphere within was dank and moister than the air outside the cave. Picture 0.1 Author at the entrance of Cueva Ixobel
! ", Our guide, Luciano walked ahead of us and set up candles in order to light this first part of our journey. Ahead of us the cavern spit into two pas sages. The right hand passage led to a series of h alf filled water pools Luciano claimed that during the rainy season, this side of the cave was impassable due to the frigid water that inundated the cavern floor. We decided to take the left hand branch. Once we traveled a few meters down the passage, we tu r ned a corner, at which point we had to use our flashlights to light the path ahead of us. To flick off our lanterns (we did in fact try it as a group) was to plunge us all into complete darkness. We had no sense of direction and all other senses were d ulled by the slight pang of fear that accompanies such situations of complete disorientation. In general, t he cave required careful navigation, as both the ground and the ceiling were uneven. Sometimes we would reach sections when we had to crawl on our h ands and knees in order to reach the next cavern. Luciano continuously warned us to watch our heads, as focusing on where we were placing our feet, left our heads vulnerable to dangerously low rock overhangs. More than one us got a nasty bump to the head b efore we got used to checking above and below before proceeding along a difficult path. After exploring the inner bowels of the left branch for about an hour, we decided to return to the surface. Following Luciano to the cave entrance we could feel the a ir lighten with every step we took. Upon our return to the cave surface, I took note of the tunnel that branched to the right. With a bold feeling of adventure, I walked down the tunnel and soon came to a large pool that extended the breath of the cavern f loor. The water was icy cold to the touch. Luciano claimed that this was rainwater, collected in the natural basin made by the cave floor. On the other side of this reservoir, I could scarcely
! make out the lip of a much smaller pool that stood at least two feet above the water level of the larger pool. While Luciano maintain ed that this smaller pool also held water, the height difference between the two bodies of water was too extreme for me to believe this claim. After I voiced my speculation, Luciano chuc kled and urged me to approach the smaller pool so that I could see the water for myself. My chosen path across the frigid lake turned out to be quite perilous. The boulders I used as stepping stones were very slippery. A careless step would find me strugg ling to maintain my feet out of the water. In wild attempts to maintain my balance, I would grab for the surrounding rock formations. This was of little help, as they were also slippery, and as mentioned before, covered in a layer of organic filth. The und er part of my nails soon became caked in scum, and my clothes were covered in smear marks that showed where I had pressed myself against the cave walls. At a few points, I could find no dry stepping stone to continue my journey and had to settle for using submerged rocks as wet bridges. After several minutes of this dangerous journey, I reached the other side of the large pool. Grabbing for the lip of the smaller pool, I held my balance as I looked over the ledge and into a pool of crystal clear water. Luc iano had been right all along. This meant that the water levels were, at some point, over four feet above the cave floor. I was quite impressed with this, as at first glance, it did not seem that the cave could be inundated to such an extent. Before I retu rned to the other side of the cavern, I looked up to the corner of the cavern, and saw a smearing of dark brown liquid that traveled from the ceiling down to the cave floor. Calling out to Luciano, I asked him about the indicated substance. His
! ," responded w ith a single word, m urci lagos bats. The brown substance trickling down the cave wall was their guano. With a shiver, I left the pools and returned to the cave entrance. Luciano collected the remainders of the candles he had left there at the beginning o f our trip and climbed back out the cave entrance. Following him, we made the forty five minute hike back to the farm. As mentioned earlier, this was my first foray into a cave. I view this expedition as a classic description of the experience that is a c ave tour, as it demonstrates some of the hallmarks of cave environments. I experienced the change in air quality that is characteristic of so many caves. I observed the numerous and strange inhabitants that call a cave home, principally bats and spiders. I saw with my own eyes that water does collect within caves and forms small pools where it is possible to gather drinking water. The numerous scrapes and bruises on my knees, shins, and head were a testament to the dangerous floor and ceiling formations. Mo re than once I would hoist myself up a steep rock face, only to feel a terrible blow to my head when I did not consider the low ceilings. Other times, I was so absorbed by looking up at the cave ceiling that I would trip on the uneven floor and receive a n asty scrape on my palms and knees. All these are important features of caves and other stone enclosures that will be discusses and addressed in the thesis that follows.
! ,"" ACKNOWLEGEMENTS I would like to thank my mother and father for all their help dur ing my turbulent college years. I appreciate their patience during my wild escapades in Guatemala. I am grateful for their emotional and financial support. I would also like to thank my two sisters, Alana and Elisa, for their help and protection while grow ing up. Our unique experience as children directly influenced my decision to study Maya archaeology. I look forward to our adventures in the future. I would like to extend heartfelt thanks the New College teaching staff for providing such a wonderful, cha llenging, and unique atmosphere for us to learn in. I appreciate all the knowledge you have imparted to me during the past five years. In particular I would like to thank Dr. Anthony P. Andrews for introducing me to the field of Anthropology. It was only a fter taking his classes and listening to his crazy, Indiana Jones like stories that I decided to join the ranks of Maya archaeologists. Additionally, I would like to thank my thesis panel, Dr. Gabrielle Vail, Dr. Maria Vesperi, and (again) Dr. Andrews. I appreciate their time and energy in helping me complete this thesis. Also instrumental in helping me complete this thesis are my friends and family at New College and in Guatemala. My friends, Amanda, Laura, and Justin were wonderful models of successful thesis work; their encouraging words led me through more than one tough spot. From Guatemala, I would like to thank the Pacheco Palencia family, who allowed me to live with them during my field seasons in Poptn. I would also like to thank the Contreras f amily, for facilitating my stay in Antigua; your home provided a welcomed sanctuary in the bustle of the Big City. To Steffi and Elas, thank you so much for your assistance in mounting our expedition to Naj Tunich. As a central component of
! ,""" my thesis, it was imperative for me to have first hand knowledge of the real cave. It was only through your hard work, finesse, and generosity that our group was finally granted permission to enter Naj Tunich. Thank you very much! Finally, I would like to thank all the other scholars and professor who donated their time and knowledge in helping me write this thesis. Thank you to Kawoq and Ag'ab'al for providing me with important information on contemporary Maya beliefs. Thank you Judith Maxwell and Allen Christenson for supplying me with tons of information on caves and for facilitating introductions with Guatemalan scholars. Thank you Ann Scott for assisting una estudiente desconocida Your willingness to help me, despite the fact that we lacked any formal introduction, endeared me all the more to a profession where young scholars are encouraged to flourish. Again, matyx, janila matyx chiwe Image 0.2 Members of the 2010 expedition to Naj Tunich
! ". TABLE OF CONTENTS p age Dedication I i Preface iii Acknowledgement s v ii Table of Contents ix List of figures and Illustrations x Abstract v iii Chapter I: Introduction 1 Chapter II: Anthropological S tudy of C aves in the Maya Area 22 Chapter III: Fieldwork 54 Chapter IV: Analysis 73 Chapter V: Conclusions and Implications 96 Ap p end i x A 103 Bibliography 106
! LIST OF FIGURES AND IMAGES page Image 0.1 Author at the entrance of Cueva Ixobel iii Image 0.2 Members of the 2010 expedition into Naj Tunich viii Figure 1.1 Map of Mesoamerica showing important archaeological sites 5 Figure 1.2 Diagram of the plane of human habitation 9 Figure 1. 3 Vase drawing showing Ch'aak in a cave like enclosure. 11 Figure 1. 4 Reconstruction of the entrance to Structure 22 at Copn 12 Figure 1. 5 Diagram of an "E group" at Uaxactun 15 Figure 1.6 Diagram of the Dos Pi las cosmogram 16 Figure 1. 7 Anthropomorphic representation of an Earth monster 19 Figure 1.8 Ballcourt markers at Copn 20 Figure 2.1 Mercer's stratigraphic diagram of an excavation trench 24 Figure 2.2 Drawing of Group I assemblage at Balankanch 37 Figure 2. 3 Map of the Main Chamber at Actun Tunchil Muknal with proposed pathways and cosmological arrangement 41 Image 2.4 Naj Tunich entrance as seen from the Balcony 42 Figure 2.5 View of the artificial wall that forms the Balcony 43 Figure 2.6 Example of the autho r traversing a difficult section of Naj Tunich 47 Figure 3.1 Map of Poptn and the surrounding area 57 Images 3.2 D82 the replica and the original 62 Figure 3.3 Diagram of Naj Tunich layout 65
! ." Image 3.4 Photograph of author at the cave "threshold" the zone ab ove the silt/clay plane 66 Image 3.5 Photograph of the entrance to Naj Tunich, looking out from the Balcony and of the silt/clay plane that lies below the threshold. 66 Image 3.6 The iron gate that blocks the tunnel that continued down into the bowels on Naj Tunich 69 Image 3.7 Photograph of author and two other member of our expedition, looking down the Silent Well. 69 Image 3.8 A member of our expedition navigating the steep wall that lies between the two pools 70 Image 3.9 Two tired fountain/pool in the Main Passage 71 Figure 4.1 D11 showing a possible decapitation 74 Figure 4.2 D18 depicting a sexual act 7 5 Figure 4.3 D87 depicting the Hero Twins 79 Figure 4.4 D21 showing Hunahpu at a ballcourt 80 Image 4.5 Author and another member of our expedition, in front of the natural archway framed by D84. 82 Figure 4.6 Diagram of D88 and altar in front of it 83 Figure 4.7 D11 at Naj Tunich 85 Figure 4.8 LOU 16 depicting a cave as a quatrefoil and sacred aperture 86 Figure 4.9 Diagram of D82 87 Figure 4.10 The Sacul Emblem glyph as seen in D82 87 Figure 4.11 Ma p of the Maya area showing archaeological sites mentioned 88
! ."" in the Naj Tunich texts Figure 4.12 Diagrams of D29 and D28 89
! .""" S ACRED PATHWAYS: THE IMPORTANCE OF CAVES IN MAYA RITUAL AND IDEOLOGY Karin Camila Boynton New College of Florida, 2010 ABSTRACT In the Maya tradition, caves are considered important parts of the sacred landscape. Mayan art and literature often depict caves as the portals between the human realm and the Underworld. Remains of religious rituals in caves have been recovered from sites a ll across Mesoamerica, pointing to a possible cave complex that extends as far back as the Preclassic Olmec (1200 400 BC). In this thesis, I will use Naj Tunich a remote cave in the Guatemala n Petn as a case study to illustrate the importance of caves in Maya ritual and ideology Naj Tunich and the artwork found within embody many of the important relationships between ancient Maya culture and society, Maya archaeology, and Maya ethnography. _______________________________________ Dr. Anthony P. A ndrews Social Sciences
! CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION The K'iche' Maya wrote about the creation of the universe in the historical document, the Popol Vuh According to these chronicles, the earth was created when sky and water were separated. From the water, rose the mountains that mad e our earth. Water surrounds and transects the world (Christenson 2003: 71). This creation myth which is similar to myths found in other prehistoric societies is indicative of a society that practices geopiety. Societies that practice geopiety worship the earth and all its creatures. Andrea Stone points out that in geopiety, people express reverence for the environment that feeds, clothes, and houses them (Stone 1995: 15). The ancient Maya who worshipped multiple deities in several different shapes were practitioners of geopiety. Many of these deities were in some way related to the earth: Cauac monsters were earth deities; the Hero Twins were often worshipped in their sun and moon forms; Chaak the god of rain, was believed to live in caves (Foster 2002: 167). For the Maya, the earth provide s all the physical and spiritual necessities of life. It is no surprise, then, that the ancient Maya conceptualized the Earth as the center of the universe (Christenson 2001: 72). In addition to forgetting that the modern understanding of the universe can skew our understanding of Maya cosmology, we also underestimate the influence of widespread Christian ideas on modern culture. Allen Christenson points out that while most people today look to the sky when think ing about "God," a upward gaze would make little sense in the Maya world view. Instead, Christenson claims, "when the gods reveal themselves to the Maya, they do not part the veil of heaven but open wide the maw
! # of the earth in the form of caves accessing the interior of sacred mountains" (Christenson 2001: 72). In other words, Maya cosmology focuses on the spaces found within the Earth, rather than outside it. In this thesis, I use the idea of sacred space as a theoretical framework for underst anding ca ves as sacred ceremonial sites in Maya ideology and cosmology. As sacred sites, caves present ideal locations for ceremonial rituals. Caves provide a liminal space where worshippers can experience religion a s living ritual. I will present the archeological evidence that proves a Mesoamerican Cave Complex an archaeologically documented, repetitive use of caves as sacred and ceremonial sites throughout Mesoamerica. I will focus specifically on the Maya ritual use of caves in prehistoric, postclassic and mo dern times. As Andrea Stone and James E. Brady write, "for the Ancient Maya caves were considered sacred sites, ones that functioned as the all important juncture between the ordinary world and the underworld" (1986: 16). In this thesis, I use Naj Tunich (a cave in the Guatemala lowlands) as a case study in which I analyze the archaeological evidence of cave rituals with particular focus on the paintings and inscriptions in order to show the cosmological and ideological importance of cave s in Maya cult ure. The discussion born from my analysis will attempt to explain how the inscriptions at Naj Tunich served as a type of guide for pilgrims that visited the cave. The inscriptions and their ties to the cave's topographic features along with the other h oly structures, sanctified Naj Tunich as a holy space. They facilitated a pilgrim's ritual passage from the cave's entrance through to its deepest bowels.
! $ Since Naj Tunich is u nique in the quality and quantity of inscriptions it houses, I believe that it serves as a useful example to illuminate the roles of caves in Maya cosmology. My hope is that by studying the paintings and inscriptions within their topographic and cultural context, a deeper understanding off Maya cosmology will be revealed. I have org anized this thesis into five chapter s. In this first chapter, I provide a brief survey of Maya ideology and cosmology as it pertains to caves. Citing several leading Mayan scholars, I outline the creation and organization of the universe according to Maya ideology. In this chapter, I outline caves and mountains as important aspects in the Maya cosmological landscape. In the secon d chapter, I provide a brief survey of the archaeological trends in the scholarship of t he Maya area. I discuss different Maya sc holars and their relevant contributions to the study of cave arch aeology. In this chapter, I also explore the idea of a Mesoamerican Cave Complex. This chapter will provide examples of ritual activity in caves from across Mesoamerica, with a focus on caves in the Maya area. Archaeological evidence will be used to document the Prehispanic sites. The Popol Vuh and the Dresden Codex serve as Postclassic sources that document the continued importance of caves around the time of the Spanish Conquest. Ethnographi c studies of contemporary Maya will provide the evidence for the modern use of caves in Maya rituals. The third chapter of this thesis will cover the fieldwork at Naj Tunich in the summer of 2009 and winter of 2010. The data I gathered during this time is useful in further understanding the contextual importance of the cave inscriptions. My fieldwork also yielded valuable information as to the control and access to Naj Tunich.
! % In the fourth chapter, I will analyze the data gathered during my fieldwork. Inte rviews with contemporary Maya (along with other ethnographic data) will provide support for the archaeological information found in Naj Tunich. I intend to show that Naj Tunich was a particularly important regional site due to its ideal topographic feature s. Furthermore, I will show that the inscriptions at Naj Tunich served as visual representations of the rituals that pilgrims conducted at Naj Tunich. In this manner, pilgrims to the site were provided with a visual guide to their ritual passage. Finally, I will arrive at my final chapter, where I hope to connect evidence of ancient rituals with the documented existence of present ones, and in such a manner demonstrate a continuity of the Mesoamerican c ave complex that viewed caves as sacred pathways to th e world of the supernatural. DEFINING TERMS In this thesis I address the geographic area that scholars have named Mesoamerica. This cultural area is broadly defined as the land between central Mexico and Costa Rica (Demarest 2004: 11). More specifically, I examine the Maya region, from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to the northern borders of Honduras, including Belize, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Within the Maya region, scholars usually differentiate between two areas: the lowlands, which stretch from the no rthern tip of the Yucatn Peninsula to the southern edges of the Guatemalan Petn; and the highlands, which are composed of southern Guatemala, El Salvador, and the northwestern tip of Honduras (2004: 11).
! & Figure 1.1 Map of Mesoamerica showing importa nt archaeological sites (adapted from Stone 1995: 5) The entire Maya region, both the northern lowlands and the southern highlands, is composed of limestone bedrock. "The Petn Yucatn peninsula is a single, great limestone shelf jutting up into the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico its reef girt eastern shores face the Caribbean, these limestones have risen from the sea over an immense period of time" (Coe 1993: 14 5). Caves are created from the erosion of this limestone bedrock. First, small fractures in the bedrock allow for water to drain through, helping the chemical and physical erosion process (Stone 1995: 244). At some point, the water has eroded through enough bedrock to create water filled underground caverns. When the water table descends far e nough, the cavers are filled with air and cave formations, such as stalagmites, can form (1995: 244). Sometimes, when the water table recedes, the previously water filled caverns can no longer sustain the ground above them. In these cases, the earth abov e the cavern collapses and a sinkhole is formed. Some sinkholes reach far enough into the ground to tap the water table. When this happens, the bottom of the sinkhole fills with water,
! forming a geographical feature called a cenote (1995: 244). Caves, too, can reach the water table, which is why they are often cited as water sources. A BRIEF SURVERY OF MAYA COSMOLOGY AND IDEOLOGY AS IT PERTAINS TO CAVES In order to understand the importance of caves in Maya culture, it is critical for the reader to have a basic understanding of Maya cosmology and ideology. As mentioned earlier, the Maya were practitioners of geopiety. They viewed the Earth as the center of the universe. Creation of the Universe Creation myths vary across Mesoamerica. The highland Maya vers ion of Genesis is laid out in the Popol Vuh : Then the earth was created by [deities]. Merely their word brought about the creation of it. In order to create the earth, they said, "Earth," and immediately it was created Then they called forth the mountains from the water. Straightaway the great mountains came to be. It was merely their spirit essence, their miraculous power, that brought about the conception of the mountains and the valleys First the earth was created, the mountains and the valleys. The wa terways were divided, their branches coursing among the mountains. For thus was the creation of the earth, created then by Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth, as they are called. They were the first to conceive it. The sky was set apart. The earth was also se t apart within the waters, (Christenson 2003: 73)
! ( It is important to note the mention of caves and water in the creation of the universe. Mountains, which represent habitable land, are raised out of a primordial sea. The water remains beneath the earth, co ursing through it in the form of rivers both above and below ground. According to Stone, "the Yucatec Maya believe that underground rivers, observed in caves and cenotes, actually support the earth's crust" (Stone 1995: 41). Another creation myth includes the placement of three cosmic hearthstones. In this myth, three gods set up three stones at the center of the universe before the earth was separated from the sea and before humans were created so that the "first fire of Creation could be started" (F reidel, Schele &Parker 1993: 79. The inscriptions on Stela C at Quirigua provide scholars with a artistic rendition of this story. According to David Freidel, Linda Schele and Joy Parker's translation, the first 21 glyphs on the stela tell a story of when Jaguar Paddler and the Stingray Paddler laid the Jaguar throne stone at No Ho Chan; the Black House Red God laid the Snake throne stone at the Earth Partition; and Itzmna laid the Waterlily throne stone at Lying down Sky (1993: 66). Scholars have pointed out that this belief mirrors the common Maya practice of setting up a hearth using three stones (Sharer 2006: 278; Freidel, Schele & Parker 1993: 6). Every time a Maya starts a fire in a three stone hearth, he/she is reenacting the creation of the "primo rdial hearth" (Sharer 2006: 728). Cosmology While there is regional variability in cosmology, the Maya generally regarded their universe as taking the form of a cube. They divided this cube into five parts: "the
! ) domed sky, the flat surface of the earth (w hich was divided into two zones), the sea on which the earth floated, and the area beneath this sea called the Underworld" (Bassie Sweet 1996: 61). The Underworld had nine layers, each with it's own lord. The sky had thirteen layers, each also with an assi gned deity (Sharer 2006: 730). In this cube formatted world, the plane of human habitation has four sides, or "horizons." These horizons face the four cardinal directions (Bassie Sweet 1996: 21). At the center of each horizon there is a sacred mountain/c ave complex that houses deities and ancestors (Bassie Sweet 1996: 62). As will be explained below, these ancestors and deities are often thought to call forth rain and fertility. Other accounts claim that the Maya universe was composed of an axis mundi or a vertical axis that penetrates that center of every plane of existence, becoming the central axis of the universe. In many artistic depictions, this central axis takes the shape of a world tree (Demarest 2004: 182). The quadrilateral Maya cosmos has s everal mythical roads that intersect creating holy crossroads. The first of these roads is the one the surrounds the human plane, along the four horizons. This road passes through the mountain/cave complex at each of the four horizons. Other roads originat e at the plane's central axis and radiate out to each of the four mountain/caves. When these roads reached the mountain/cave complexes, they "continue along a cave passage into the interior of the mountain, the sea beyond the mountain, and the underworld b eyon d that Each cave opening represented the location where the road crossed the side of the square world, leaving the human world and entering the domain of the supernatural s" ( Bassie Sweet 1996: 62). In this cosmological
! arrangement, the mythical roads c reate crossroads at the center of the universe and at each of the mountain/cave complexes. Figure 1.2 This figure shows the plane of human habitation, divided by the four mythical roads. The black squares mark four cross roads (a fifth is unmarked in the center of the diagram where the four roads intersect), which are also the locations of the cave/mountains. ( from Bassie Sweet 1996 : 23) These paths and crossroads are important to note when considering the pathways of celestial bodies across the sky and under the earth. According to several sources, the sun was thought to rise from the cave on the eastern horizon, and set in the western horizon's cave (Bassie Sweet: 1996: 62; Stone 1995: 36; Brady & Prufer 2005: 366). "In Maya thought, the deities Su n, Moon, and Venus, as well as the rain and wind gods, emerge from their homes to perform their work in the sky and then return. These celestial bodies and deities do not live in the sky, they merely travel across it and then return to their homes under th e earth"(Bassie Sweet 1991: 172). From this description, we can see that the Maya believed that celestial bodies did not orbit the Earth, as modern understanding informs us. Instead, deities in the form of celestial bodies rise from the earth, move across the sky, and then return to their subterranean caverns for the night. According to Robert Sharer, the sun set in the western
! "+ horizon where it died and was "transformed into the nocturnal jaguar sun of the underworld, [where he] battled the lords of death in order to be reborn, as did the Hero Twins" (2006: 731). The importance of this interpretation will become evident in Chapter IV of my thesis, when I analyze the importance of the different depictions of the Hero Twins within Naj Tunich. Caves/ Mountains Complex Mesoamerican cultures often applied anthropomorphic and zoomorphic models to the Earth's shape, viewing it as a living being. Many Maya communities name the mountains that surround their land. The mountains are sentient beings with mood and perso nalities. A physical manifestation of this belief is found in the change of air pressure when one moves from the interior of a cave to the outer part or vice versa (Brady & Prufer 2005: 367). When exiting the narrow confines of a cave's interior, there i s a noticeable change in air quality. The air becomes fresher and lighter. It is this phenomenon that caused some Maya to believe that caves were breathing. The Earth was sometimes personified as a Cauac or Wits monster. Wits is the common Maya term for mountain, and it is often associated with rain and lightning (Stone 1995: 27 ) I n Maya artwork Wits monsters are often depicted as having "one or multiple heads long, down curved snout, stepped forehead (usually in the form of a half quatrefoil), an d pen dant vegetal motifs often referring to maize" ( 1995: 24) This is a particularly fitting representation. As the personification of the earth, and mountains more specifically, "the Cauac monster as an external structure can represent a mountain, but, as a n enclosure, it can also represent a cave" (1995: 27).
! "" Figure 1. 3 Adaptation of a vase drawing showing Chaak in a cave like enclosure. (from Stone 1995: 35) In 1964, Evon Vogt first suggested that the Maya pyramid/shrine complex was meant to mirror a cave riddled mountain (Vogt and Stuart 2005: 157). "Shrines set a top terrace platforms are architectural expressions of the mountain cave complex. There can be no doubt that the Mesoamerican pyramid was viewed as a symbolic mountain" (Stone 1995: 36). S tone notes the similarity between temple shrines and caves: pyramid shrines in ancient Maya cities did not have windows. Very little light, therefore, penetrated the interior of the structure. This diminished amount of sunlight within a man made structure is very similar to that of a cave, where the sun's rays reach only so deep (1995: 36). We see the Maya along with other Mesoamerican cultures recreating these Mountain/cave complexes in their city architecture. At Chichn Itz, archaeologists have fo und that the High Priest's Grave is position right above a cave. This cave has signs of ritual use that predate the construction of the Castillo like structure above it (Foster 2002: 163). At Uxmal, the Pyramid of the Magicians has an entrances designed to look like the open maw of an earth monster. The overall effect is that when a worshipper passes the
! "# doorway, he/she is symbolically entering a cave, or some type of sacred space (Foster 2002: 163). Figure 1. 4 Reconstruction of the entrance to Struct ure 22 at Copn (from Freidel, Schele, and Parker 1993: 86 ) At Palenque, K'inich Janaab Pakal I was buried in the Temple of Inscriptions (Martin and Grube 2008: 165). Built as a pyramid complete with roof combs, a front staircase, and a temple at the t op the structure also houses Pakal's burial chamber. The chamber is found deep within the pyramid, accessible through a series of stairways. The positioning of the tomb chamber is very similar to a cave buried deep within the earth (Foster 2002: 163). Cr eation of Humans from Maize Earth cave complexes are also important in the creation of humans from maize. In the Popol Vuh the yellow and white corn that composed human flesh came from what I believe are two caves, The Popol Vuh recounts that animals poi nted the way to "Paxil" and "Cayala." Christenson elaborates that "Paxil" means "broken, split, or cleft." These are all aspects of the sacred landscape, formed usually around mountains. Christenson continues to explain that K'ayala' in K'iche' means "bi tter or stagnant water" which
! "$ alludes to the Maya belief that water lay beneath the earth (Christenson 2003: 193). As noted earlier, this water is accessible through caves and cenotes. The Popol Vuh continues to describe the creation of humans: Xmucane gro und the corn into a fine past, which became man's their flesh. Man's blood was made of water (2003: 194 5). Similar beliefs are documented in central Mexico According to regional beliefs, the god Pilzintecuhtli visited the goddess Xochipilli in her cave and the two had sexual intercourse. "from this relationship Cinteotl was born Sixteen hundred gods were created in Chicomoztoc from a great flint knife that fell from the sky and was shattered there in the cavern" (Heyden 2005: 22). In her article, "Rite s of Passage and other Ceremonies," Heyden documents several incidents of beliefs of caves as homes for deities and ancestors. For example, in central Mexico, it is widely believed that Tlaloc the rain god lives in mountain caves. His home, a cavern fi lled with riches, is guarded by cheneques 1 (Heyden 2005: 25). Cave rituals Plenty of archaeological evidence, some of which will be presented in Chapter II, support the notion that caves across Mesoamerica were sites of religious ceremonies. Caves were co nsidered sacred spaces, as proved by the number of ritual artifacts found in caves. Several scholars have suggested some of these rituals were rites of passage (Stone 1995; Heyden 2005). Heyden argues that some of these rites of passage were linked to the human life cycle: birth, ascension, and death rituals (2005: 21). !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !,-./-0!/-12345-1! !" #$#%' !61!74887-!9-0!8:68!;<63/!=767>2?1!26@-!60/!6@-0;-!60.! 56/!/--/1!A#++&B!#&CD!
! "% Anthropologists have been examining the idea of sacred and profane space for many decades. Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner were two of many scholars who treated these ideas. Turner and van Gennep were especially interested in the different stages that compose a ceremony or ritual. Van Gennep believed that most rites could be divided into three phases preliminal, liminal, and post liminal (1960: 21) Basing his work off of van Gennep's studies, Turner focused on the liminal stage that can be observed in many different rites. He believed that the unique aspects of liminal phases allowed the formation a special condition he came to call communitas (1969: 96) Both of these scholars' ideas will be further explored in connection with caves in Chapter II. Caves were also incorporated into surface ceremonies and celestial events. Arthur Demarest comments on the importance of these rituals, which incorporate the sacred landscape: "The epicenters of Maya cites were constructed as great stages for the production of the religious spectacles that bound together their polities under the K'uhul Ajaw [Maya ruler]. The temples, palaces, and ballcourts of these centers were carefully placed to draw upon s acred knowledge of the sky (as formalized in Maya astronomy) and the earth (as embodied in their concepts of sacred geography)" (Demarest 2004: 201). Examples of this type of settlement configuration are evident across Mesoamerica. At Chichn Itz, the obs ervatory named by scholars as El Caracol is "aligned to observe solstices and equinoxes of the Sun or Venus (2004: 201). Another example of this type of settlement configuration is the formation of "E groups." E groups are temples arranged in a line and in such a manner so that three of the structures mark the equinoxes and solstices, observable from a fourth structure placed directly west of the three parallel temples (2004: 203).
! "& Figure 1. 5 Diagram of an "E group" at Uaxactun (from Bassie Sweet 1996 : 30) Perhaps the best example of a cosmogram or a settlement arranged to mirror the organization of the universe is Dos Pilas, in Guatemala. At this site, several temples are aligned along an east west axis, which is mirrored by the river laced caver ns below. Maya priests could ceremonially trace the Sun's path from its birth in the eastern horizon to its setting in the west (Demarest 2004: 205). As noted previously, the Maya actually believed that the sun was emerging from an eastern cave and setting in a western cave. At night, it traveled the subterranean passages, emerging again in the east. Cave and surface rituals at Dos Pilas had the perfect physical representation of Maya ideological beliefs, which allowed them to experience religion through li ved ritual. This idea will be further explored in my fourth chapter.
! "' Figure 1.6 Diagram of the Dos Pilas cosmogram (from Demarest 2004 : 204) Bloodletting and sacrifices within caves have also been extensively documented across Mesoamerica. Bloodlett ing was a ritual practiced by the all Maya. The elite used it as a divination tool (2004: 191). In these ceremonies, nobles would pierce their genitals or tongues and allow the blood to drip onto pieces of paper (2004: 184). Priests burned this smoke inh aling it and with the occasional help of tobacco and psychotropic substances (2004: 192), induced images of their ancestors and deities. "The blood offered up was conceived of as a holy essence,' ch'ulel the sacred glue that bound together the universe connecting humankind to the ancestors and deities. The various sacrificial rites and bloodletting released this sacred substance, creating portals for communication to the supernaturals, to the past, and to the future" (2004: 191). In this manner, priest s and shamans could commune with the gods and their ancestors and conduct different divination practices.
! "( The bloodletting, however, did not always occur in the form of auto sacrifice. Sometimes, live victims were taken to caves and cenotes. They were cere monially killed and offered up to the gods. Actun Tunchil Muknal, a cave in Belize provides excellent archaeological data of 14 hum an sacrifices, including women and one infant (Roberts 2004: 52). These victims are thought to have been sacrifices to the r ain gods so that they would end the multi decadal droughts that hit the Maya area from the Late Classic period into the Post Classic ( 2004: 52) I will further examine the details of this cave in Chapter II. At Chichn Itz, the Maya constructed two sacb eob or raised causeways one of which leads to the Sacred Cenote (Foster 2002: 163). This cenote is the largest at Chichn Itz is often associated with human sacrifices. Expeditions to recover artifacts from the bottom of the cenote have revealed gold, jade, and pottery, in addition to human skeletal remains of men, women, and children (Foster 2002: 163). As is perhaps evident from the various creation myths presented above, caves across Mesoamerica were thought of as places of fertility and wealth. Th ey are the homes of deities such as Chaak, a rain god (2004: 182 3). The Tzotzil Maya of highland Chiapas believe that that mountains are the homes of "ancestral gods They are the remote ancestors of the living and are the most important deities they are pictures as elderly Tzotzil Maya living eternally in their mountain homes" (Vogt & Stuart 2005: 164). Vogt also documents that the Tzotzil believe that rain clouds emerge from these caves, which is consistent with their belief that caves are the rain god' s abode. It is this belief that rain gods lived in mountain caves that spurned the Maya to conduct rain calling rituals within caves. Rains provided water for crops, which in turn
! ") fed the Mesoamerican people. Water, therefore, was seen as a sacred sub stance. As will be examined in Chapter II, J.E. Thompson noted that the Maya considered water retrieved from caves to be especially pure. Of course, "the fact that water is found in caves makes sense not only geologically but also within the scheme of Meso american cosmology whereby the world is surrounded by primordial waters" (Stone 1995: 40). As noted above, many caves can reach the water table, which is one of the locations where the Maya would have had access to it. Since water is such a precious subst ance in an agriculturally centered society (such as the Maya), water filled caves become a symbol of fertility in Mesoamerican iconography. Caves are associated with the female earth, particularly generative aspects: the womb and the vagina Fertility i s a focal concern of Maya religion, and cav es a re a central symbol of fertility" (Brady & Prufer 2005: 269). The Popol Vuh describes the cavern filled mountain that birthed humanity as follows: that excellent mountain that was filled with delicious things crowned with yellow ears of maize and white ears of maize. It was crowned as well with pataxte and chocolate, with countless zapotes and anonas, with jocotes and nances, with matasanos and honey. From within the places called Paxil and Cayala came the sw eetest foods in the cit adel (Christenson 2003: 194). This passage clearly describes a mountain filled with agricultural riches, making it a symbol of agricultural fertility. Human fertility is further documented in Central Mexican beliefs. Heyden notes th at in Central Mexican beliefs, "Humans also came form caves. The womb of the earth was the place of creation of ethnic groups. It had many names; the best known is Chicomoztoc, Seven Caves'" (2005: 22).
! "* Representation of Caves in Mesoamerican art Many of the Mesoamerican cultures left behind archaeological artifacts with artwork on their surface. Some of these artifacts include vases, plates, statues, dolls, jewelry, and a variety of utensils. The Maya also left behind painted murals and carved lintels. S ome of these murals are found in caves, such as at Naj Tunich. Mesoamerican artwork often depicts the earth 's surface as a crocodile, a toad, a turtle, and/or a saurian. These animals are all "low and flat like the surface of the earth [and] are creature s of the water, the medium in which the earth is seen to float (Stone 1995: 22). One image from Central Mexico portrays the earth as a creature with a human face and animal body. The creature had claws at the knee and elbow joints, in addition to the claw s at the ends of the arms and legs. All in all, the "earth [is portrayed] as the devourer of human blood and body parts, which she perpetually craves" (1995: 21). Figure 1. 7 Anthropomorphic representation of an Earth monster (from Stone 1995: 23) Ca ves are also depicted as taking the form of quatrefoils. "The quatre foil entrance is a standard fixture of Mesoamerican pictorial systems, though the quatrefoil represents not just a cave entrance but any kind of sacred aperture (Stone 1995: 23). Quatrefo ils are
! #+ apparent in structures as well. The ballcourt at Copn and altars Q and R at Quirigua, all boast quatrefoils in their designs. Stone argues that "...altars and ballcourt markers that feature quarter foils on their upper surface may represent holes connecting the plane of the earth with the Underworld" (1995: 36). Figure 1.8 Ballcourt markers at Copn (from Freidel, Schele, and Parker 1993: 366) Mesoamerican art also depicts cave entrances as an animals' maw. "Cave entrances are pictured as th e open mouth of some wild beast, such as a serpent, saurian, or jaguar, a device also favored in architectural renditions of caves" (Stone 1995: 23). Perhaps the best example of this is Lintel 25 at Yaxchilan. In this carving, a queen performs auto sacrifi ce, which results in the appearance of a large snake. From the serpent's jaws, the queen's ancestor or deity appears to give her counsel (Martin & Grube 2008: 125). We also see representations of caves in the Popol Vuh In the chronicles, the Lords of the Underworld force the Hero Twins to undergo a series of tests. The Twins survive the House of Cold, The House of Jaguars, The House of Fire, and The House of Bats. In each House, except the last, the Twins defeat the Xibalbans and emerge from each house un scathed. It is important to note that in several translations, "cave" may be
! #" described as "stone house." In fact, "Naj Tunich" means, "stone house" in Maya Mopan (Stone 1995: 35). In the next chapter, I examine the historical progression of theoretical tre nds in the Maya area as it pertains to caves. The chapter will also address the idea of a Mesoamerican cave complex. This past chapter provided some evidence for this complex the theory of the existence of a pan Mesoamerican cave complex. The following c hapter will go into more detail on the archaeology of several caves sites, including Teotihuacan, Balankanch, Dos Pilas, and Actun Tunchil Muknal In order to prove a continuity of the cave complex from Preclassic times to the present, I present archaeolo gical evidence from Prehistoric times, ethnohistorical evidence from historical times, and ethnographic data from modern times. Furthermore, I will address in more depth the idea of caves as sacred space.
! ## CHAPTER II: THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL STUDY OF CAVES IN THE MAYA AREA THEORETICAL TRENDS The theoretical trends of Maya speleology developed at a much different pace than archaeology and anthropology in other regions. For this reason, I do not employ the widely accepted Willey and Sabloff chronology. Instead, I propose a new chronology of the development of Maya speleology as a sub discipline. Period I Exploratory Period (1842 1959) The Explanatory period in Maya cave archaeology spanned the decades between 1842 and 1959, more than a hundred years of time wh ich saw an increase in interest in Maya studies. The first archaeological study of Maya caves took place in 1842, when John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood explored the caves of Bolonch'en and Gruta de Chac in northern Yucatn (Stephens 1843). Steph ens' scholarship is evident in his detailed accounts of the caves' layouts. For example, when describing expeditions into Bolonch'en, Stephens' notes record every detail of the trip, down to the number of steps between significant topographic features. Fro m his description of the cave, a reader knows that 60 paces in from the cave entrance, the floor sloped down at a dangerously wide angle, necessitating the next 20 feet of decent to be traversed on a ladder (1962: 2, 93 4). From his description, we also kn ow that the Maya of northern Yucatn were extracting water from underground sources. The Well of Chaac, which he explores with his colleagues, was the regular and only supply
! #$ of [water for] the living population. The whole rancho of Chaac was entirely de pendent upon it, and in the dry season the ranch of Xkauil, three miles distant" (Stephens 1962: 20). The natives who Stephens saw on this trip hauled water from the underground spring by carrying it in calabashes which rested on their back and were suppor ted by straps places across the forehead (1962: 19). Henry C. Mercer was one of the earliest Maya speleologists; he explored several caves in Yucatn in 1895 and the following year published Hill Caves of Yucatn a book that reports on the numerous cave s that dot the Yucatn Peninsula in Mexico, and the archaeological artifacts found with in them. Unlike other Maya speleologists that followed him, Mercer was not strictly concerned with Maya studies. Instead, his focus was on proving the presence of the P aleolithic people in the New World ( 1975: vii). Based on the established idea that early man used European caves as shelters, Mercer hypothesized that caves in the Americas could also yield informatio n on the Paleolithic populations ( 1975: 9). As mentioned earlier, Mercer's work is mainly descriptive, laying out in great detail the organization of several different caves across the Yucatn Peninsula. In order to gather this data, however, Mercer did utilize some sound archaeological techniques that yielded useful interpretations. For example, Mercer excavated trenches in some of the caves in order to expose the different layers of earth that composed the cave floor. With his results, Mercer was able to compile a basic c hronology for each cave ( 1975: 108). Ba sed on his findings, Mercer describes the process of the formation of the archaeological record within caves as follows: "forced by the limit of light and shelter" (1975: 9) early man built fires and cooked food in the same general locations within each
! #% c ave. As time progresses, the habitation of the caves fluctuated. When no human occupied the cave, sediment and other organic material would cover the remains of food and fires. With the arrival of another group of humans came the addition of new materials tools, bones, fire coals, and other trash and discarded items that remained on the cave floor once the occupants left. These new materials, when covered over with earth and other organic materials, create a new stereographic layer in the archaeological r ecord. Therefore, in Mercer's view, "to cut down the cave floors, and study closely the exposed subdivisions, so as to compare them with another, was to carry back the human story by regular steps into the remote past" (1975: 10). In his book, Mercer pr ovides several diagrams that detail each documented layer and the types of artifacts (if any) that were found within. Figure 2.1 Mercer's stratigraphic diagram of an excavation trench (from Mercer 1975: 108) What Mercer did not take into account is th e regional variability of geographic features and their uses. While in Europe early inhabitants may have frequently used caves as shelters, scholars today generally agree that the Maya rarely used caves purely for housing purposes. Caves are often humid, d ank, and poorly lit. "In modern cave rituals, the candles and burning associated with copal incense rapidly turn tunnels into stifling, oppressive, choking, hellish environments" (Prufer & Brady 2005: 10) These conditions
! #& do not readily lend themselves to human habitation (Mercer 1975: xx). It is more likely that humans used rock shelters as living spaces rather than caves. Rock shelters are partially open to the outside world and therefore allow for better air circulation. Another noteworthy scholar of this time period is Edward H. Thompson, the American Consul who explored the Yucatn Peninsula in the late 19 th century. In 1897, he published Cave of Loltn Yucatn Current scholars often cite this as one of the first archaeological exploration s of a ca ve in Mesoamerica (Stone 1995: 46; Mercer 1975: 98). In 1896, he discovered a cave underneath a pyramid at Chichn It z (Prufer & Brady 2005: 7). However like his contemporary scholars, E.H. Thompson failed to derive any significant information about the cultural context of the cave. During this time in the history o f archaeology, studies focused on the meticulous description of ruins and artifacts. Brady and Pr ufer criticize this time period, writing that "reports rarely rose above the level of elementar y data presentation and, as a consequence, almost never produced meaningful interpretive conclusions (Brady & Prufer 2005: 6). Scholars of this time period presented exhaustive studies that described site contents, architecture, and artifacts. These data, however, was rarely tied to cultural process. In other words, studies were geared towards the collection and cataloguing of artifacts, rather than the examination of how they fit into a larger cultural framework. However, as noted above, some scholars did observe sound archaeological methods to obtain their information. Period II: Functional Period ( 1959 to 1985 )
! #' The second period in this proposed chronology spans from 1959 to 1985. During this time period, Maya studies became more popular in the academi c arena. We see the first true scholarly studies of caves in the Maya area take place during this time period. J. E ric S. Thompson was one of the first scholars to publish his materials and ideas on the cave archaeology of the Maya area, notably his artic le detailing the various uses of caves in the Maya region, which paper was originally published in 1959 in an obscure German journal. The article went largely unnoticed in the anthropological community until he revised the article andrepublished it as the introduction to the 1975 reprint edition of Mercer's The Hill Caves of Yucatn In his essay, Thompson contends that caves were used primarily as religious sites and not as shelters (Mercer 1975: xx). In the revised article, Thompson outlines the following as the primary uses of caves in the Maya world: sources of drinking water; sources of "virgin" water; sites for religious rites; sites for burials, ossuaries, and cremations; art galleries; and depositories of ceremonially discarded utensils (Mercer: 1975 ). Thompson's article is full of detailed examples from across Mesoamerica. For example, when describing caves as sources of "virgin" water, Thompson cites at least five different scholars and their respective work in caves. This, along with the extensive quotes he provides, represent a broad survey of Maya cave scholarship Despite his important discussions of caves as primarily religious sites, modern scholars often critique Thompson for creating an incorrect categorization of caves uses. Thompson differe ntiated between different types of rituals p e rformed in caves, and names some of these as independent uses. However, some of these categories could have been lumped under one heading: ritual use. Instead, Thompson splits this category into
! #( "sources of vir gin' water," "burials, ossuaries, and cremations," and "depository of ceremonial discarded utensils." Brady and Prufer believe that Thompson's incorrect categorization made it more difficult to make a connection between archaeological artifact s and th e cul tural context from which they emerged (2005: 3). Thompson is also critique d for not exploring the relationship between caves and surface sites. A study such as that would establish a cultural context for the archaeological evidence found within the cave. I n some studies, Thompson alludes to the relationship between caves and surface structures, suggesting that he was aware of some relationship. For example, J. Thompson was aware of E. Thompson's work at Chichn Itz, however "he made no attempt to indicat e how cave focused rituals articulated within larger religious systems or to asses the importance of caves within Maya society (Brady & Prufer 2005: 3). One final critique of J. Thompson is his simplification of the different types of cave uses in the May a area. His publication of a compact list of cave uses has allowed other scholars to c ite Thompson without a full understanding of his work. While Thompson's work is useful in establishing background knowledge of caves, it remains a generalization of uses without significant interpretation or connection to cultural processes. Without the cultural context that provides the archaeological data with regional variability, cave uses c an be incorrectly identified by "wedging data into Thompson's very st atic cate gories ( 2005: 3). Edward Wyllys Andrews IV was an archaeologist with a focus on the Maya ruins in the Yucatn Peninsula. In 1959, he explored Balankanch and participated in the purification ritual that was enacted thereafter (Roberts 2004: 43). In 1970, h e published
! #) his findings as Balankanch : Throne of the Jaguar Priest His studies at this site are further explored below. In addition to Balankanch, Andrews also explored la Gruta de Chac in 1962, and in 1965, published "Explorations in the Gruta de Cha c His son Anthony later published a study of the image at the entrance to Loltn cave, "El Guerrero de Loltn: Comentario Analtico" in which he suggested the person depicted was a Chaak, or Rain God (A.P. Andrews 1981). Evon Z Vogt was another pro minent Mayanist of this time period. Unlike the other scholars mentioned in this thesis, Vogt is an ethnographer whose work on caves centered around highland Chiapas. In 1964 he published "Ancient Maya concepts in Contemporary Zinacantan Religion In the 1960s, Vogt began publishing his ethnographic studies on caves uses in Chiapas. His studies examined the relationship between caves and local communities. According to Brady and Prufer, "Vogt's ethnographies provide some of the most extensive discussions of the use of caves, and his analysis of scared sites within a landscape approach has heavily influenced the thinking of the current generation of cave archaeologists" ( 2005: 8). Vogt was also one of the first scholars to suggest that the pyramid shrine complex found at many sites across Mesoamerica, was meant to mimic the natural mountain cave formations (Vogt & Stuart 2005: 156) that, as outlined in the previous chapter, are so important in Maya ideology. This interpretation was significant because it suggested that the Maya arranged their constructed landscape to mirror the natural world. However, at the time of his publications, Maya scholars did not employ ethnographic analogy as a tool to reconstruct the behavior of ancient societies. Archaeologists at the time, therefore,
! #* considered Vogt's work outside the realm of their study, and instead classified it as cultural anthropology (Brady & Prufer 2005: 7) David M. Pendergast was a dirt archaeologist who explored the caves of Belize throughout the 1960 s. At Eduardo Quiroz cave, he documented the excavation of a child's skeleton, which bore signs of a sacrificial victim. Like one of the children found at Naj Tunich, Pendergast's victim had unhealed holed drilled through his skull, pointing at the possibi lity of human sacrifice (Brady and Stone 1986: 22). Period III Analytic Period (1985 present) The next period in the archaeological trends of Maya cave speleology started, a ccording to Brady and Prufer, in 1985. I believe this date was set due to the large number of publications that began to appear afterwards. However, previous to this year, interpretive material on caves existed, making a later year unsuitable for the chronology. Furthermore, Brady and Prufer were likely influenced by their own publi cation dates when setting this timeline: many of their works were published in the 1980s. The Analytic Pe riod saw the rapid expansion of scholarly Maya speleology. Scholars started to publish more interpretive works than the studies conducted in the prev ious period. Up until the 1980s, there were very few specialist trained to explore caves and conduct archaeological studies within them. Furthermore, many archaeologists saw caves as outside the boundaries of their scholarship and belonging to the realm of religious studies (Prufer &Brady 2005: 2). For this reason, most studies published before 1985 received relatively little attention from the archaeological community. As a result, information spread slowly, and scholars such as Heyden were unaware of othe r
! $+ contemporary studies (i.e. J.E. Thompson's work) that could have enable the identification of a pan Mesoamerican pattern of ritual cave use (2005: 5). According to many archaeologists from before the Analytic Period artifacts within caves could not h elp reconstruct ideological elements of Maya worldview. It was the gene ral belief that ideology is a part of human society that is confined to the brain and does not leave any physical traces. However, starting in the 1980s, scholars began to argue that "s ince archaeological remains found in caves unequivocally represents the remains of ritualized actions of a religious nature, caves represent the single best context for the archaeological investigations of Maya religion ( 2005 : 2). In other words, the arch aeological evidence found in caves provided the best evidence for the reconstruction of Maya rituals and beliefs. These remain can include broken pottery vessels, caches of sting ray spines, animal bones, and obsidian knives (Mercer 1975: xxxix). Post Pro cessual studies of caves in the Maya area began in the 1990s and continue on to today. Unlike previous phases of archaeological development, post processualists employ several strands of anthropology to arrive at their conclusions. Scholars discuss not onl y the archaeological record of caves, but also use it to draw conclusions on ancient Maya "social and political organization, ceremonialism, economics, and linguistic modes of elite interaction" ( Prufer and Brady 2005: 1 2). Also, this time period sees the heavy use of ethnographic analogy as a tool for reconstructing ancient Maya society. "Belief systems are difficult to detect in the archaeological record, and even more difficult to interpret ethnography can inform discussions [on ritual activity], esp ecially in the context of what religious specialists do By more clearly elucidating the roles of contemporary and historical ritual specialists, it becomes easier to
! $" understand how these types of individuals may have acted in prehistoric societies" (Brady & Prufer 2005: 408). Juan Luis Bonor Villarejo is a Spanish archaeologist, one of the first to publish on the importance of caves in the Maya world. His book Las Cuevas Mayas: Simbolismo y Ritual was published in 1989, yet has not been translated into Eng lish. Another prominent cave scholar is Karen Bassie Sweet who published From the Mouth of the Dark Cave: Commemorative Sculpture of the Late Classic Maya in 1991 In 1 996 she published At the Edge of the World: Caves and Late Classic Maya World Views Bo th these volumes attempt to outline the importance of caves in Maya ideology and cosmology. In her stud ies, Bassie S weet draws on a variety of sources in order to reconstruct Maya ideology. Bassie Sweet draws on archaeological evidence, epigraphy, iconogr aphy, ethnohistory, and ethnography that spans the Mesoamerican landscape from Central Mexico to Honduras. With this variety of sources, Bassie Sweet generated a large volume of interpretive work on the importance of caves in Maya cosmology. Brady and Pru fer criticize Bassie Sweet's work as being "speculative" and a "kickback on earlier interpretive efforts" (Brady & Prufer 2005: 7) However, her interpretations and conclusions continue to be useful. As mentioned above, Bassie Sweet draws on a variety of s ources in her attempt to explain Maya culture. James E. Brady, a Maya archaeologist, is the current Maya speleology powerhouse. Brady has been investigating Maya caves since the 1970s. In 1989, he published his Ph.D. dissertation, which addresses the histo ry of cave exploration in the Maya area. He examines several different caves across Mesoamerica, and provides a
! $# detailed review of the archaeological site reports (2005: 6). In 2005, Brady teamed up with Prufer, and the pair published two volumes on the st udy of caves in the Maya area. Both works include essays from numerous scholars addressing a variety of issues relating to caves. For example, in their book Stone Houses and Earth Lords ( Prufer and Brady 2005) the editors include articles that examine sett lement configurations patterns in relation to caves, human skeletal distribution in caves, and cognitive interpretations of cave formations. In their other volume, In The Maw of the Earth Monster ( Brady and Prufer 2005) the editors organize the contributin g essays so they reflect the geographic distribution of caves across Mesoamerica. The essays included in the volume cover cave studies from Central Mexico, Oaxaca, and the Maya region. In effect, the two volumes together provide the most comprehensive over view of the anthropological study of caves in the Mesoamerican region. Andrea Stone is another Mayanist highly involved in cave studies. In 1995, she published Images from the Underworld: Naj Tunich and the tradition of Maya Cave P ainting a reference I re ly on heavily for this thesis. In 2005, she published an article, "Scribes and Caves in the Maya Lowlands" which uses Naj Tunich as a special reference to argue that Naj Tunich and other caves were important ceremonial sites and the destination of holy pil grimages. Another important scholar in the Maya area is David Stuart. A n epigrapher whose interpretation of several glyphs have proved key in the interpretation of Maya rituals Stuart is widely known in the Maya arena Most relevant to my discussion is h is work with the "Ch'een" glyph, which he has translated as meaning "cave," (Vogt and Stuart
! $$ 2005: 157). This translation of the hieroglyphs has allowed for new interpretations of Maya iconography. Another notable Maya scholar relevant to this thesis is Al len Christenson, a linguist whose studies focus on the highlands of Guatemala. Christenson published one of the best translations of the Popol Vuh the document composed during the time of the conquest that chronicles creation myths of the K'iche' Maya. Ch ristenson's translation includes extensive footnotes that provide the reader with ethnographic information explaining the cultural significance behind the stories. It was this attention to cultural context that convinced me to use Christenson's translation over those other scholars. MESOAMERICAN CAVE COMPLEX As noted earlier, the Maya were not the only culture to believe that caves were important features of the natural landscape. We find evidence of this across Mesoamerica, pointing to a widespread cave c omplex that existed in ancient times. Archaeological evidence is used to document the Prehispanic evidence of the importance of caves in Mesoamerican ideology. For the Postclassic period, I will cite the Popol Vuh and the Dresden Codex as sources that prov e the existence of a Mesoamerican cave complex during these times. The continuity of the complex from ancient times through to today is evident in the contemporary, ethnographic studies done in this area. Prehistoric Period The Olmec The interpretation of caves as sacred sites goes as far back in history as the Archaic period. Archaeological evidence for the use of caves in this time period, however, is quite limited. However, by the time the Olmec appear on the Gulf Coast of
! $% Tabasco in 1200 B.C. (Evans 20 04: 129), there is plenty of archaeological evidence that points to the established of a belief of caves as sacred sites. At the site of San Lorenzo, archaeologist s found what they named Monument 14. This sculpture, often described as an altar or throne, i s carved in the shape of a tabletop with a figure containing niche featured prominently on its side (Diehl 2004: 41). Many scholars have interpreted this niche as a cave. A similar sculpture is found at the Olmec site of La Venta (Stone 1995: 19). Teotihua can There are other sites across Mesoamerica that show the cosmological importance of caves. At Teotihuacan, for example, studies conducted in the late 1980s and early 1990s have revealed a series of caves underneath the city. The most important of these caves is the one located underneath the Pyramid of the Sun. As the largest man made structure in Mesoamerica, it is plausible that any geographic formatio ns associated with this pyramid are of extreme importance. The cave underneath the Pyramid of the Sun is 330 feet long, and extends from the edge of the pyramid down to a location that is estimated to align roughly with the center of the structure above it (Stuart 1995: 22). George Stuart argues that the cave is positioned in such a way that it is aligned with the east west axis of the site (1995: 22). This, combined with the fact that ancient Teotihuacanos shaped and rebuilt the walls of the tunnel, makes it clear that this cave was an active ceremonial site. "The cave may have been the holiest of holies the very place where Teotihuacanos belie ved the world was born" ( 1995: 22). Linda Manzanilla unearthed further evidence for the ceremonial use of the caves at Teotihuacan. She studies a network of tunnels that extended east from the Pyramid of
! $& the Sun. From her excavations, Manzanilla concluded that these tunnels were created when the Teotihuacanos quarried for the stone that built their magnificent city. "After ten years of work [Manzanilla] determined that the volume of stone taken from the caves is e quivalent to the volume of stone used to build the city's residential compounds" ( 1995: 22 3). Her work within t hese caves has revealed that Teotihuacanos viewed the caverns as sacred space. After they carved out the stone for their city, the inhabitants o f Teotihuacan used th e caves as burial sites ( 1995: 23). Las Grutas de Balankanch Balankanch consists of a series of cave passages and large caverns, located about four km west of Chich n Itz in the Yucatn Peninsula (Andrews 1970: 1). While most activ e during Terminal classic times, Balankanch was in use from Preclassic times to the present day ( 1970: 8). A ndrews hypothesize s that the reason that Balankanch was in use for more than 3000 years is that "in this area [northern Yucatn], where the wate r table lay 20 23 m. below the surface, water was obtainable only in the rare caves and cenotes which wer e open to this depth" ( 1970: 7). We can assume that the fact that Balankanch allowed the Maya access to water a precious resource in the Yucatn Pen insula is an important reason for the ritualistic uses of the cave. Up until 1959, it was thought that Balankanch had been thoroughly explored. Looters had long made away with any valuable artifacts, leaving only broken pot shreds scattered across the cave floor (Roberts 2004: 42). In the late 19 th century, both Mercer and E.H. Thompson wrote about the cave. In 1932 and 1936 the A.S. Pearse party explored the cave as part of cenote and faunal studies. In 1933, Andrews IV explored the cave in search of b lind cave creatures and archaeological remains (Andrews 1970: 4).
! $' However, in September of 1959, a local tour guide by the name of Jos Humberto Gmez discovered a series of extensive passages, sealed behind a false wall. "Gmez chopped away the clay and crawled through a hole, emerging in a tunnel. A hundred yards on, he came to a large chamber dominated by a column of limestone reaching from floor to ceiling. What Gmez saw astonished him. On the slimy cave floor was a dazzling assemblage of brightly pai nted clay vessels" (Roberts 2004: 42). From this description, we can assume that Gomez emerged into a cavern that held the artifacts that Andrews labeled as Group I. Andrews describes the scene as follows: The chamber was of considerable size but was perf orated in places by drip free areas, one of which was probably considered by the ancients (and certainly by the moderns) as the Throne of Balm. The ceiling of the chamber was covered in complex stalactitic growth; near the lower edges of the chamber the se were frequently met by grotesque stalagmitic companions. In this starkly impressive setting we found what was apparently the largest aggregation of principal ceremonial objects, mostly set into cavities in the complex stalagmitic formations but sometime s simply laid on the flat domed floor of the chamber (Andrews 1970: 11) Many of these artifacts found in this group, as in the five other artifact groupings Andrews identified had Tlaloc themed decorations. For example, archaeologists found 36 Tlaloc effig y censers among the artifacts in all six groups (1970: 9). These findings are consistent with the Mexican association of Tlaloc with rain and warfare (Foster 2002:147).
! $( Figure 2.2 Drawing of Group I assemblage at Balankanch (from Andrews 1970: 2) It is interesting to note that the entrance to Balankanch is integrated into the aboveground ruin's layout. The cave entrance is located in the ruin's central plaza "surrounded by a massive circular wall of dry masonry" (1970: 1). The presence of this struc ture around a cave entrance, and the fact that the central plaza was constructed over the cave entrance, make it clear that the ancient Maya considered this a special place worthy enough to place a settlement atop it and integrate the geographic feature in to their city plans. This was most likely a neighborhood of Chichn Itz (A.P. Andrews, personal communication, 2010). Lolt n Lolt n Maya for "stone flower is a cave located in the Pucc hills of Yucatn There are seven entrances to the cave, and the tun nels total over two km in length. Inside these caves, scattered across the walls, archaeologists have documented about 160 paintings, handprints, and relief carvings (Stone 1995: 57). As previously mentioned, both Mercer and E.H. Thompson visited the cave, publishing their reports in 1896 and
! $) 1897, respectively. These were the first published reports of Maya cave painting to appear in the archaeological literature (1995: 56). Mercer reports archaeological excavations by the Peabody Museum (Mercer 1975: 106 ) and decide d to conduct his own studies near them He dug a 11 ft x 6 ft trench in which he documented the strat i graphic layers of soil. As pointed out previously, this is a sound archaeological method used to establish a basic chronology of a site. Lolt n saw human activity as early as the Archaic period. Stone believes that archaeologists have overlooked the possibility of heavy use of caves during this period. For her, the widespread "architecture less" landscape of the Archaic period made caves ideal locations for ceremonial sites (Stone 1995: 19). Scholars have dated many of the images and artifacts found within the cave, and have determined that the cave was most active during the Late Preclassic and Early Classic periods. Room 5 contains a series of paintings whose stylistic elements helped date them to around A.D. 50 200 (1995: 59). This group of images is a possible documentation of a New Year's ritual that took place in the cave, commemorated by Maya scribes on the cave wall (1995: 61). The most impressive piece of artwork at Loltn is a relief carving over the main entrance. This image depicts a Maya personage with the attributes of a rain god. The figure faces the general direction of the cave entrance, and in his right hand carries an obsidian spear; in his left, he holds an ax. His belt looks like a serpent's forked tongue, further associating the character with water (Andrews 1981: 40). Andrews argues that the image's positioning at the primary entrance of the cave and its rich adornments earrings, belt, ax, spear indicate that it was supposed to function as some type of cave guardian (1981: 46).
! $* Dos Pilas Moving south from Mexico, we encounter the caves of Belize and Guatemala. Dos Pilas, located in the northwester Petn of Guatemal a, is an archaeological site with strong Late Classic connections, but roots in the Preclassic, as noted by Brady's excavation of the main chamber of Cueva El Duende (Brady 1997: 608). In 1997, Brady published "Settlement Configurations and Cosmology: The Role of Caves at Dos Pilas" in which he analyzed the spatial distribution of surface structures in relation to sub surface caverns. Brady's study yielded impressive results. He found that the El Duende pyramid complex a large natural hill, which the May a modified to suit their purposes was located directly above a series of caverns and tunnels (Brady 1997: 605). The Bat Palace, a structure about half a km west of El Duende Pyramid, was also constructed with special attention to its geographic setting. About 75m northwest of the Bat Palace, explorers found the entrance to another series of caves which they named Cueva de los Murcilagos. While the cave passages did not reach the Bat Palace complex, it does pass beneath a nearby structure N5 13 (Brady 19 97: 606). This cave is particularly significant as its environment is altered drastically with a change in weather. When it rains, the cave is flooded with water, which ruches through with such ferocity, that the noise is audible in the central plaza half a km away (1997: 606). According to Brady, "the Cueva de los Murcilagos was felt to be ceremonially important because of its location within the site and its dramatic performance during the rainy season, which fits the Mesoamerican stereotype of the cave as a source of water" (1997: 606).
! %+ Finally, we see the use of city planning in relation to geographic features in the overall placement of the site. The site's main plaza is aligned in a northeaster direction, right in line with two springs (1997: 608), t he source of the site's name, which in English means "Two Fountains/Springs." Actun Tunchil Muknal, Belize Another site in the southern Maya lowlands i s Actun Tunchil Muknal in Belize Most active in the 9 th century A.D., this was a time of turmoil for the highland Maya. Multi decadal droughts in the s outhern highlands had people f l ee ing for the northern lowlands (Roberts 2004: 51) Spelunkers rediscovered the cave in the 1980s ( 2004: 52) and in recent years, Jaime Awe has been conducting the excavations of the site. He has found 14 human sacrifices, including women (presumably virgins) and one infant ( 2004: 52) Awe believes that Maya made these sacrifices to the R ain G o d Chac. After years of droughts, the people were desperate. While they made their first ceremonies at the entrance of the cave, as more time passed with no rainfall, the ceremonies were moved deeper a nd deeper into the cave ( 2004: 52). As will be examined in the analysis chapter of this thesis (Chapter IV), this information is consistent with the information I obtained in my interviews with contemporary Maya spiritual guides Actun Tunchil Muknal is also a noteworthy cave for the cosmological features that the Maya constructed within its main chamber. Holley Moyes conducted a GIS Analysis o f the artifact scattering across the caverns. Her results pointed to the construction of a rough cosmogram: artifact clusters serve as boundary and pathway markers. Moyes shows that the Maya constructed four ritual pathways that correspond with the four ca rdinal directions. Furthermore, they situated these pathways around three
! %" modified speleothems (2005: 286). The overall effect is the construction of the universe in miniature. The four cardinal pathways represent the four horizons discusses earlier. The t hree speleothems in the center represent the three mythical hearthstones discussed in Chapter I. Figure 2.3 Map of the Main Chamber at Actun Tunchil Muknal with proposed pathways and cosmological arrangement (from Brady and Prufer 2005: 292) Naj Tunic h Naj Tunich, the cave that I use as a case study in this thesis is located in the northern Guatemalan province of El Petn. A local Maya rediscovered Naj Tunich in 1980. In June of that same year, Pierre Ventur a Yale linguist visited the cave and ga ve it the name it bears today, Naj Tunich meaning "stone house" (Brady and Stone 1986: 20). In January of 1981, National Geographic gained access to the cave and managed to record many of the inscriptions. The following month, Ernie Garza and Karen Witte explored the cave and produced a map of its geographic layout (1986: 20).
! %# In addition, James Brady and Jacque VanKirk recorded and photographed all of the known inscriptions found within the cave (1986: 20). Brady and Stone returned to the cave in July of 1981 and conducted a more extensive survey of the site. The survey produced several more detailed maps of the cave and yielded a wealth of artifacts. Repeated studies of the cave continued until 1988 at which point scholars conducted the last offici al st udies of the site (Stone 1995: 128 ). Image 2.4 Naj Tunich entrance as seen from the Balcony (from Stone 1995: 103) Access to Naj Tunich is highly controlled because of the archaeological treasures found within. The paintings and inscriptions found on the cave walls are highly sensitive. Simply touching the inscriptions with a finger causes the paint to smudge. In 1982, after looters damaged a number of the inscriptions, the Guatemalan government installed an iron gate (Brady and Stone 1986: 20). A guar d, who according to some has the key to the gate, was posted outside the cave to guard against further vandalism. Unfortunately, this did little to discourage looters. In 1989, the paintings within the cave were again badly damaged (Stone 1995: 4). Since t hat time, arrangements have been made to further
! %$ protect the cave. A member of IDAEH safeguards the key to the gate and round the clock secur ity is posted outside the cave. The corpus of archaeological evidence unearthed at Naj Tunich is quite impressive. In addition to the numerous images and inscriptions, Naj Tunich is one of the few caves in the Mesoamerican landscape that boasts standing structures within it. These structures are particularly evident at the entrance to the cave, where they constructed a "balcony" out of a naturally rising cave floor. Using a series of retaining walls, "the areas behind [them were] filled and leveled to create a balcony which rises 14 meters, in two broad tiers, from the entrance floor" (Brady & Stone 1986: 21). In the up per areas of the balcony, archaeologist uncovered six structures, all looted, which they believe were tombs of Maya elite. Three of these structures we constructed with masonry materials. The other three simply take advantage of the natural alcoves provide d by the cave's undulating walls (1986: 22). Figure 2.5 View of the artificial wall that forms the Balcony (from Stone 1995: 97) Around this area, archaeologist found six chambers, the remains of two children and ritualistic artifacts, including "min iature vessels, incense burners and bone needles" (1986: 21). The significance of these artifacts and human remains will be further explored
! %% in my Analysis Chapter (Chapter IV). I will provide a more detailed layout and analysis of Naj Tunich in the follow ing chapter (Chapter III). Post Classic Period In order to document the existence of a cave complex across the Mesoamerican landscape during the Postclassic period, I turn to the documents contemporary scholars produced at the time: the Popol Vuh and the D resden Codex. The Popol Vuh is a historic account of the highland K'iche' origin myths. Much like the Christian Bible, the Popol Vuh is a book complied by a group of writers who took it upon themselves to preserve their story of origin, despite the fact th at the original document probably disappeared in Diego de Landa's scourge of the Maya written word (Christenson 2003: 34). Hundreds of codices strips of bark paper on which the Maya wrote in their hieroglyphic texts were destroyed during the Spanish Co nquest of Mesoamerica. Viewed as blasphemous, the Catholic priests sought to destroy as many of these codices as they could find. Three are know to have survived the fires of this inquisition: The Madrid Codex, the Dresden Codex, and the Paris Codex. A pos sible fourth codex was found in a cave in Chiapas in the 1960s. Known as the Grolier Codex, the authenticity of this document is still under question. I will first examine the evidence that the Popol Vuh provides as to the existence of a cave complex in M aya religion. The tradition of the cave complex is evident to have continued in existence from the emergence of the Olmec through to the present day. This complex managed to survive the Spanish invasion of the 16th century. During this time, the K'iche' Ma ya wrote down their origin myths in a series of poems/songs that were later translated into a story. This collection of st ories came to be known as the Popol Vuh
! %& In this thesis, I will use Christenson's translation Christenson speaks English, K'iche' an d Spanish a nd is therefore aware of and includes the cultural and linguistic nuances that are attached to the document. Despite the version one chooses to read, all of them relate the same basic story line: the creation of the world One important section of this creation myth, and the section relevant to this discussion, is the story of the Hero Twins and their decent into Xibalba to defe at the Lords of the Underworld. "They left Christenson translates, "each with his blowgun and descended to Xibalba. Th ey quickly went down the steps, passing through var ious river canyons" ( 2003: 160). From this translation, it is clear that the Twins are traveling down into the Earth in order to reach the realm of the gods. Before the Hero Twins traveled to Xibalba, the ir father and his twin brother were also summoned by the Xibalban lords to appear before their council. "Then went One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu, guided by the messengers as they descended along the path to Xibalba. They went down steep steps until they ca me out again upon the banks of turbulent river canyons that they passed through" (2003: 122). It is clear that the description of their father's decent into Xibalba mirrors that of the Twins'. Like the Hero Twins, One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu traveled dow nwards, every step taking them deeper into the earth and the other world that housed the Lords of Death. I find these descriptions interesting, not only because they describe the direction in which the mythical figures traveled, but also the in terms of en vironment they encountered along the way. The quotes above make it clear that each pair of twins encountered barriers of water when attempting to reach Xibalba. This fact, along with the downward direction of
! %' the characters' journey makes me believe that the entrance to Xibalba must have been a cave. Caves often have bodies of water within them. Sometimes springs are born within caves, while other times it is the constant streaming of water that carve s out a cave. I believe that this interpretation of the Popol Vuh can help us understand why the ancient Maya believed that water found within a cave was especially pure. Furthermore, the dangerous environment found within caves is replicated in both pairs of twins' journey to Xibalba. Both set of twins had t o traverse a number of obstacles before entering the realm of the Underworld. Both sets of twins were able to pass through the rivers of scorpions, blood, and pus (2003: 122). The Hero Twins managed this by floating along on their blowguns (2003: 160). Aft er passing the dangerous rivers, the twins came to a cros sroads. Christenson notes "Crossroads are considered to be extremely dangerous by the Maya because they are focal points for the unseen powers of all directions. Ximnez wrote that the ancient K'iche s ceremonially collected the sins of their community and abandoned them at crossroads" (2003: 122). At this crossroads, four different colored roads branched out. The roads were colored red, black, white and yellow, colors that reflect the four cardinal d irections. One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu took the black road, which marked the beginning of their defeat at the hands of the Xibalban Lords. When the hero Twins, on the other hand, arrived at the crossroads they sent a mosquito ahead of them to act as a sc out (2003: 161). It was this act of forward thinking that saved the Hero Twins from death at the hands of the Lords of the Underworld. This series of obstacles is very reminiscent of a dangerous cave environment. Caves are roughly shaped and poorly lit. W ithout proper equipment, it can be quite
! %( dangerous to explore an unknown cave. Low ceilings and uneven floors can cause na sty head, hand, and knee wounds. The ideological importance between caves, the Hero Twins, and Maya cosmology will be further addresse d in Chapter IV: Analysis. Figure 2.6 Photograph showing an example of the author traversing a difficult section of Naj Tunich. Note the rope and head lap required for the expedition. In addition to finding references to caves in the Popol Vuh we s ee them emerge in the Maya codices as well. Dresden Codex has at least five references to caves. These usually appearing the form of the rain God Chaak and an iconographic feature that can be identified as either a cave or a cenote, as is the case in Alman ac 29a 30a Frame number 5. In this image, Chaak emerges from a cave like structure, reinforcing the May a belief that rain and weather r elated deities reside in caves (Vail 2010) Modern cave rituals My fieldwork in the Maya region, along with other schol ars' ethnographic information, provides data that reinforce the notion of a contemporary cave complex. Caves across Mesoamerica serve as sites for contemporary ritual activity. David Robert documents a contemporary Tz'utujil pilgramage from Santiago, Atitl n to, Pag'alibal, a
! %) cave near their home on the Lake Atitln. "For the Tz'utujil, Paq'alibal is arguably the most sacred place in the universe" (Roberts 2004: 40). Roberts and Christenson both accompanied a group of Tz'utujil Maya on their journey to the cave. The pair reported that the journey to the cave was just as significant as the rituals that took place once they arrived. The Maya day keepers (ritual and spiritual guides) enacted a ritual that included the drinking of aguardiente 2 the burning of co pal incense, and the offering of goods on a makeshift altar (2004: 46). Similar ceremonies have been reported to take place at Naj Tunich. While no rituals were enacted during my visits to the cave, my friend Sophie was fortunate enough to witness one that took place on February 15, 2009. While she could not discern the purpose of the ritual, she did manage to take some beautiful photographs of the ceremony, including the four Maya day keepers in mid chant. THE THEORY BEHIND SACRED SPACE As I have mentione d throughout this thesis, caves are important features of the geographic landscape. As such, the Maya often incorporated them into their city planning. In several instances, the Maya incorporated natural features such as caves and hills in their constructi on to reflect their ideology. This type of construction is known as a cosmogram. Certain architectural features within Dos Pilas, Tikal, Uaxactun, Chichn Itz, and Teotihuacan are examples of Mesoamerican cosmograms. At Dos Pilas, as previously discussed the Maya arranged their architecture so that it mirrored the system of caverns below. Furthermore, the resulting layout made it possible for Maya priests to trace the sun's path from east to west, across the site's surface. In light of the caves found !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! # !E!8.F-!>G!672>:>742!5-@-36;!
! %* un derneath the site, it is possible that the priests were also reenacting the sun's journey through the underworld at night (west to east). As mentioned previously, caves were viewed as sacred space, an area or zone in which a person is separated from the co mmon world and is integrated into the sacred. According to Stone, caves served as the polar opposite of a community in the daylight world. A community stands for order, while a cave is anything but organized. Therefore, mountains and caves become represent ative of the wilderness (Stone 1995: 16). It is in these sacred and wild places that the Maya believed that they could more easily commune with the supernaturals. Anthropologists have been examining the idea of sacred and profane space for many decades E mile Durkheim being the scholar who produced the most famous work on the subject (Moore 2009: 57) Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner were two scholars who also treated the idea of sacred space. Turner and van Gennep were especially interested in the diff erent stages that compose a ceremony or ritual. Van Gennep believed that most rites could be divided into three phases preliminal, liminal, and post liminal. Basing his work on van Gennep's studies, Turner focused on the liminal stage that can be observe d in many different rites. He believed that the unique aspects of liminal phases allowed the formation a special condition he came to call communitas. In 1909 Arnold van Gennep published his famous work, Les rites de passage ( The Rites of Passage ). This pi ece, which was originally published in French, did not reach the American scholarly scene until it wa s translated into English in 1960 V an Gennep proposes that rituals are composed of three phases: the preliminal, the liminal, and the postliminal. The pr eliminal phase of a ritual occurs when a passenger (or the person
! &+ experiencing the ritual) ritualistically exits the profane space and enters a liminal space. During the liminal ph ase of a ritual, the passenger is in a state of limbo where he (and/or peopl e in the profane space) conducts threshold rites (van Gennep 1960: 21). Finally, the passenger enters the postliminal phase, where he is reincorporated into society. Van Gennep uses metaphors of territorial passages in order to better understand the three phases in a ritual processes. A passenger's progression through the three phases of a ritual can be likened to a traveler's departure from his homeland, through uncharted/ uncontrolled wilderness, and eventual arrival at another "civilized region" (van Ge nnep 1960: 15). These "neutral zones are ordinarily deserts, marshes, and virgin forests where everyone has full rights to travel and hunt" ( 1960: 18). Van Gennep also uses the example of a threshold in a house or temple to further explain the phases in a ritual process. In the case of a house or temple, "the neutral zone shrinks progres sively till it ceases to exist except as a simple stone, a be am, or a threshold" ( 1960: 19). Therefore, a person outside the structure is in the preliminal/profane state. A person at the threshold of the structure is in the liminal state. Once inside the structure, the person is in the postliminal/sacred space. With both of his examples, van Gennep points out that certain rites must be preformed at each transition (1960: 20). When leaving the preliminal phase, a traveler must perform a rite of separation from his society. For example, in American societies, people often have bon voyage parties that include wishes for a safe passage. When entering a house, temple, or other structure, people often clean their feet. Wishing a traveler a safe trip and removing outside dirt from one's shoes before entering a structure
! &" are both examples of "ceremonies" that serve to keep the pollutants from passing from the profane into the sacre d world. As seen by these examples, van Gennep's theories on sacred/profane space and liminal stages are applicable to a wide range of scenarios. As he writes, "symbolic and spatial area of transition may be found in more or less pronounced form in all t he ceremonies which accompany the passage from one social and magico religious position to another" ( 1960: 18). Victor Turner, born in 1920 (Moore 2009: 247), was a British America n anthropologist who became famous for a) his expansions on van Gennep's the ories on liminality and b) his own theories on communitas. In 1969, Turner published The Ritual Process a work in which he treats van Gennep's idea of liminal space and explains how it can lead to the creation of communitas. While Turner changes the voca bulary van Gennep uses to describe transitional phases, he still agrees with the basic ideas. First, there is the "separation" stage where an individual is detached from society. Second, there is a "margin" or "liminal" period during which "the characteris tics of the ritual subject are ambiguous" (Turner 1969: 94). Finally, there is the reincorporation phase where the individual is welcomed back into society. Turner is especially interested in the liminal stage as it is "frequently characterized by change s in and suspension of normal social relationships" (Moore 2009: 255). In "Liminality and Communitas a chapter from his book The Ritual Process Turner lists some of the other aspects in addition to altered social relations that characterize liminal e ntities (i.e. initiates). According to Turner, liminal entities often lack possessions and clothing, a symbolic indication that the person lacks social
! "status, pr operty, [and] insignia" ( 1969: 95). Liminal entities are also humble, silent, submissive, an d obedient. In the case of an initiate, they must serve as "a blank slate, on which is inscribed the knowledge a nd wisdom of the group" ( 1969: 103). Turner's examination of liminal phases led him to explore the idea of communitas. He defines this communita s as "a moment in and out of time,' and in and out of secular social structure, which reveals some recognition of a generalized social bond that has ceased to be" ( 1969: 96). From this, Turner developed the idea that there were two models of human rela tionships. One is the structured society, while the other is a society that is "unstructured or rudimentarily structured and relatively undifferentiatedcommunity[that] submits together to the general authorit y of the ritual elders" ( 1969: 96). Turner seeks to account for the attributes of such seemingly diverse phenomena as neophytes in the liminal phase of ritual, subjugated autochthones, small nations, court jesters, holy mendicants, good Samaritans, millenarian movements, "dharma bums matrilaterali ty in patrilineal systems, patrilaterality in matrilineal syste ms, and monastic orders" ( 1969: 125). All these are e xamples of liminal entities who by default, take on parti cular features characteristic of the liminal state (i.e. humble, submissive, etc). Van Gennep's ideas can be further understood when explained within the context of a sacred journey or pilgrimage. During a pilgrimage, a traveler is separated from society and enters into a liminal state. A hallmark characteristic of a pilgrimage is the shared sense of purpose. This shared objective can lead to the formation of communitas. At Naj Tunich, we find evidence than not only was it considered a sacred place, but also the location of potential liminal states. When a Maya worshipper enters a cav e to
! &$ perform a ritual, he is removing himself from the profane world and placing himself in a position which will more readily allow him to commune with his ancestors. Stone observes possible stages of communitas, which would be consistent with pilgrims v isiting the cave. Stone claims that the similar bodily adornments such as hats, headbands, loincloths, and the lack of footwear identify many of the figures on the walls of the cave as travelers, ritual specialists, and/or scribes. Presenting all the f igures in similar clothing graphically depicts the figure's shared sense of community and culture. In other words, clothing items such as "cloth headwraps unite individuals as equal member of a group, facilitating the temporary breakdown of rank that divid ed people in the normal course of community life" (Stone 1995: 135). It is in this manner that we can use van Gennep's and Turner's ideas on liminality and communitas to further understand the religious atmosphere found in cave rituals. In the next chapte r, I will recount in more detail my fieldwork at Naj Tunich in the winter of 2010. After establishing the background of the cave and the surrounding community, I will continue to examine and analyze some specific drawings.
! &% CHAPTER III: FIELDWORK METHOD OLOGY In order to better understand caves and their relation to Maya society, I conducted two "seasons" of fieldwork in Guatemala. I lived in Poptn, conducted investigations in Dolores and visited Naj Tunich twice I also traveled to Guatemala City and A ntigua and conducted investigations at various government offices. The first season took place in June of 2009 and lasted three weeks. During this time, I made first contact with local government officials and the regional archaeological offices. I also m ade it widely know to my friends that I was trying to enter Naj Tunich I hoped that if the legal channels did not get me into the cave, then my social networks would produce a contact that could manage to get me in. This is exactly what happened during my second fie ld season. This season lasted four weeks from December 2009 to January 2010. During this time, I visited Naj Tunich twice, entered the bowels of the cave once, and interviewed four important contacts. I gathered my information with a combinat ion of interviews and observation. When interviewing an informant, I was very conscious of creating a relaxed atmosphere that would facilitate the exchange of information. My intent was to put the informant at ease, so that the interview took on the form o f a discussion, rather than simple back and forth of question and answer. Furthermore, I was careful to ask questions in such a manner that they did not elicit a pre arranged response. In other words, I did not want my informants to tell me what they thoug ht I wanted to hear. Instead, I arranged my questions in such a manner that responses required hard facts from the informant's
! && personal experience For example, when I interviewed one of our guides, Don Daniel, at Naj Tunich, I first asked him questions th at helped me establish a basic timeline of his life. Only after inquiring into his life and background did I move on to ask specific questions abut the occurrences at Naj Tunich over the past twenty years (i.e vandalism, installation of the iron gate), Sin ce I already knew the answers to these questions from my background reading, Don Daniel's answers provided me with a very shallow, yet useful, evaluation of his honesty in reporting information. Based on his sincerity, I could evaluate whether or not to re ly on his answers to other questions, such as the uses of the different structures within Naj Tunich. I felt that this approach worked very well, as it can be adjust ed to work with a university professor equally as well as with a Maya farmer. For e xample, Jos and Sophie are two well educated individuals who have traveled extensively throughout Guatemala and offer great insight into the different cultural and archaeological features of the country When speaking with them, my interviews were structured mor e like discussions. We spoke on di fferent subjects relating to archaeology and shared specific knowledge of certain archaeological sites. After our expeditions to Naj Tunich, w e spent several hours recounting the trip, discussing the different cultural and archaeological facets of the cave and La Compuerta From these sessions rose several of the ideas and conclusions that are included in this thesis. My conversations with the cave guides and Maya farmers, while much less scholarly, were equally as insightf ul. From Don Daniel, I learned the history of La Compuerta, a hamlet near the cave. My interview with him seemed more like a
! &' conversation, where the two of us exchanged information on our lives. Don Daniel's stories yielded important information about the ethnohistory of the area. Of all my interviews, the most structured ones took place with Celestino and Eliseo. Both these men are Kaqchikel Maya who work with Dr. Judith Maxwell in her language program. Eliseo is also a Maya spiritual guide 3 I spoke to b oth men individually, asking to meet them in quiet cafes where our discussions would not be interrupted. While I focused on asking questions that pertained to caves and rituals, I made sure that our conversation covered a range on topics. I felt the more i nformation I gathered on Kaqchikel culture, the more contexts I would have for my project Furthermore, I felt it showed a certain degree of interest and investment in the culture, which I hoped would encourage the men to speak freely and sincerely Whil e I felt that I interviewed people from a wide range of socio economic backgrounds, the selection pool for each was quite limited. In the case of the tour guides, I only met four of them, and they were all men. In addition, the two Maya men I interviewed w ere both Kaqchikel Maya and only one was a spiritual guide. My work could be further improved by a) including a wider range of community members from La Compuerta, including women and children b) interviewing Maya from other ethnic groups (i.e Q'echi, Mop an), and c) including more spiritual guides from other ethnic groups. BACKGROUND ON NAJ TUNICH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3 Th e phrase "spiritual guide" is used instead of "priest s at the request of the Maya. The word "priest" carried Christian connotations that do no t suit the Maya spiritual guides.
! &( Naj Tunich is located in the northern Guatemalan province of El Petn. Of all the Guatemalan provinces, El Petn is the most rural and remote. Its most famous si te is the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, located in the very north reaches of the province. The highway that leads from Guatemala City to Tikal was paved only within the last half century. On this highway is a town named Poptn, where I lived while I did my field research on Naj Tunich While I lived in Poptn, my goal was to reach La Compuerta 4 the small village that sits uphill fr om the cave. From there, I hoped t find a guide who could show me around Naj Tunich and allow me study the paintings and inscri ptions. However, before I could explored the interior of the cave, I had to arrive there. Figure 3.1 Map of Poptn ad the surrounding area (adapted from Stone 1995: 101) While some would consider Poptn a rural town, La Compuerta is even more of an i solated village. It has no electricity or indoor plumbing (although one of the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 In Spanish La Compuerta means a type of latched gate or portal. The importa nce of the village name will be discussed in Chapter 4.
! &) competing cell phone companies did erect a tower on one of the nearby hilltops, and reception is excellent). Most of the men are farmers who work the nearby corn and bean fields Their wives stay at home with the children. There are very few businesses in the village two or three tienditas 5 that sell little more than bagged chips, soda, gum, bread, and tortillas. Reaching La Compuerta, just like reaching Tikal, has become easi er over the years. While the road is not paved, the major roadblocks (i.e. potholes, flooding, mud pits) have been fixed. The village is now accessible to trucks with four wheel drive, and motorcycles (which can often evade the pesky roadblocks that preven t cars from reaching remote locations). However, without a private car, it is a bit tricky to reach the village. A careful driver blessed with good weather can reach the village in an hour and a half. The collective truck that le aves Poptn in the afternoo n takes two hours to arrive at the vill age. P assengers sit on the truck bed as the driver stops at every community between Poptn and La Compuerta Motorcycles and collective bu ses leave the travelers (or researche r s such as myself) exposed to the elements During the rainy season, the rain combined with the bleak sky and cold temperatures make for a miserable ride and impossible working conditions During the summer months, the scorching heat and overwhelming humidity cause sunburns, dehydration, and heats troke. The most effective mode by which to reach La Compuerta is a private car. Newly repaired roads make the bumpy, hour long drive out to La Compuerta a relatively easy affair. However, obtaining a car is a more complicated matter. In Poptn motorcycle s are more common than cars and the nearest car rental agency is two hours north, in Flores. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! & !H9677I!<1<677.!G6947. J 3<0!1:>F1
! &* I was quite unlucky for the first several days of my field research, as it rained incessantly, turning the dirt roads into dangerous mud avenues. This ruined my o riginal plan of reaching La Compuerta on a borrowed motorcycle. While I was already hesitant, although willing, to risk riding alone through isolated jungle and cornfields on a road that had frequent reports of bandits, the added danger of slippery roads c hanged my mind. An accident on a slippery road in an area with no cell phone reception was not something I wanted to experience. In the end, my problem was solved when I visited my friends Jos and Sophie. Jos is a local Poptn ero, a certified INGUAT tour guide, an amateur archaeologist, and (since he grew up romping through the local jungle) an expert on the lands surrounding Poptn. Sophie is a Guatemalan resident of German origin who works with a German rural development project. Her work gives her acce ss to some of the more remote locations in El Petn. The couple is quite an active pair. They enjoy hiking, camping rock climbing, rappelling, and cave explorers activities that Jos does in his job everyday as guide of specialized tours. When the couple heard that I was trying to visit Naj Tunich they offered to drive me out to La Compuerta, introduce me to the members of the community, and explore Naj Tunich with me. Early one morning, we set out in Sophie's grey 4x4 truck and drove an hour through alt ernating jungle, cow pastures, and cornfields. When we arrived at La Compuerta, Sophie parked the truck just below an abandoned schoo lhouse. A middle aged man with dark hair and a tan approached us, introducing himself as Don Daniel, one of the park's guid es. Don Daniel informed us that his brother, Don Felipe, had left earlier that morning to tend to his fields and was therefore unable to offer us a tour through the
! '+ park. Don Daniel would serve as his replacement. Satisfied with this change in plan, we rea died ourselves for the adventure ahead. CONTROL AND ACCESS TO NAJ TUNICH Before diving into the layout of Naj Tunich it is important to acknowledge the issues of control and access to the cave. Don Daniel represents one of the three organizations that c ontrol access to Naj Tunich As discussed earlier, only the entrance of Naj Tunich is open to tourists and worshipers. The bowels of the cave (and the majority of the paintings) are blocked by an iron gate. Explicit permission from the Guatemalan governmen t is required in order to pass beyond the gate into the interior part of the cave. On the federal level, Naj Tunich comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes 6 Within the Ministry, the Instituto de Anthropologa e Historia 7 (IDA EH) is the organization that deals more directly with archaeological sites. They maintain their regional offices in Dolores, a town about 20 km north of Poptn IDAEH controls the cave proper and the archaeological remains within. They alone can grant acce ss to the interior parts of the cave. The Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas 8 (CONAP) is in charge of the land surrounding Naj Tunich Part of the long term goal for the conservation of Naj Tunich is to also conserve the jungle ecosystem that surrounds i t. CONAP regulates the access to resources (i.e. firewood, space to plant crops) within the protected area. Finally, there is the tour guide committee, which is composed of community member s, some of whom act as guides to visiting tourists. The guide's com mittee works !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 6 Ministry of Culture and Sports 7 Institute of Anthropology and History 8 The National Counsel for Protected Areas
! '" to facilitate the relationship between La Compuerta and the various government agencies. They act as guides for tourists and government employees that are not familiar with the cave's layout. As of January 2010, Don Felipe was the committee's president. He works hand in hand with the local IDAEH offices to help preserve, protect, and promote Naj Tunich Together, there three organizations (IDEAH, CONAP, and the tour guide's committee) control the access to Naj Tunich Since the string of vanda lism acts in the 1980 arrangements have been made to further protect the cave. A member of IDAEH safeguards the key to the gate and round the clock security is posted outside the cave. The trail that leads down from La Compuerta arrives at a small clearin g about 25 meters above the cave entrance. A bunkhouse occupies the center of the clearing. The tour guides sleep here in shifts their proximity of the cave making their location ideal for security. A trail heads off the left side of the house and lead s d own to the entrance of Naj Tunich The trail that splits off from the right side of the bunkhouse leads to the cave that contains the replicas of the inscriptions in Naj Tunich For discussion purposes, I will call this cave NT 1 The Replica NT 1 is about a fifteen minute hike away from Naj Tunich While it is a naturally occurring cave, it has been slightly altered to accommodate tourists. The cave entrance is about 15 meters high at its tallest point. Stalactites dot the entrance making for a precarious ap proach. A boardwalk was constructed to facilitate access to the cave. It starts from the very entrance of the cave, travels through the bottleneck opening, and then all around the interior c avern. V isitor s do not step on the cave floor from the very
! '# beginn in g of their entrance to the cave until they step off the boardwalk upon their exit. I will ad dress this issue further in my analysis c hapter. The cave itself consists of only one cavern. Once past the small entrance, the cave wall s yawn open and reach an altitude of about 20 meters. The boardwalk loops around the cave, leading the visitor past a series of hieroglyphic inscriptions. These inscriptions are replicas of the actual inscriptions and paintings found within Naj Tunich The replicas are displayed in two manners. Some of the replicas were copied onto stone slabs, which in turn were propped against the walls of NT 1 Other inscriptions were copied directly onto the walls of NT 1 It is important to note that some of the paintings that were replicated i n the second manner we re placed on locations within NT 1 that suggest a connection between the script and the stone it is inscribed on. I will address this issue further in Chapter 4. Images 3.2 Example of D82 the replica (left) and D82 the origina l (right) The Process of Obtaining Permission to E nter Naj Tunich Any visitor who comes to Naj Tunich can also visit NT 1 Apart form one exception, these are the only images that tourist can see that most closely resemble the inscriptions in their original environment. All the other images from Naj Tunich are sealed behind the iron gate. The one exception is found in the entrance to Naj Tunich
! '$ Several meters in from the outside world, a large stalagmite and equally as big stalactite have joined to make on e large pillar of limestone. On one side of its undulating surface, there is one line of hieroglyphi c text that survived the looter s damage For reasons outlined previously, I felt it was important to observe the inscriptions in situ. This required me to somehow get past the iron gate that blocked the passage leading into the bowels of Naj Tunich In the summer of 2009, I started my official efforts to obtain permission to enter the interior of Naj Tunich One of my best leads was an elderly man, Don Carl os, whom I had met on the bus ride from Guatemala City to Poptn He was a secretary at the Municipio in Dolores. After hearing about my project, he offered his assistance and encouraged me to visit the IDAEH offices in Dolores. While I was delighted enoug h to have met Don Carlos, I was even more excited when my investigations around town revealed that Don Carlos was a respected member of the community. His involvement with government work spanned both space and time. While he currently worked in Dolores, h e had previously worked in the Poptn and Guatemala City. I started my research with Don Carlos, by paying him a visit at his offices in Dolores. He wrote me a letter of introduction, which he directed me to present at the mayor's office in Poptn From t here, my research led me to travel several times between Poptn and Dolores. Each time I made a contact in one town, I was directed to visit another scholar in the other town. After a few days of running back and forth, I reached a dead end at the IDAEH of fices in Dolores. The receptionist at the offices took my name and promised to forward my e mail address to the director of the organization. He, in turn, would contact me and provide me with further instructions. Several months later, I
! '% had yet to hear fr om IDAEH's regional director. It was not until I returned to the field in January of 2010 that I ran into Sophie and Jos. The couple called a few of their contacts, and within a few weeks, had obtained permission for a group of us to pass beyond the iron gate. It is important to note that without the help of my friends, I would not have managed to enter the actual cave. I will addr ess this issue of access in my a nalysis chapter. NAJ TUNICH: THE CAVE Party members and Equipment The group that entered the inner parts of Naj Tunich on January 22, 2010 included two New College students (including myself), two independent tour guides (including Jos), Sophie, and a representative of IDAEH. We outfitted ourselves with rubber boots, headlamps, flashlights, water and lunch. Jos also brought a few lengths of rope and his machete in case of an emergency. Jos lassoed us together (a safety precaution) and our group left the guard house and climbed down to the cave entrance. Cave Layou t For discuss ion purposes, I have used Stone's organization of the cave: the entrance, followed by a Main Passage from which a Northern Passage continues and a Western Passage branches off. A maze above the main tunnels yet still below ground was discovered in 1988 (Stone 1995: 128) and named K'u Multun; it ends in a pit named Mitlan Ch'en. This pit has only been explored to a depth of 180 meters, "making it one of the deepest vertical elevations in a cave in Central America" (1995: 105) The Northern Passage would connect with the la st extension of Naj Tunich, called Naj Tunel. However,
! '& the Silent Well divides the two branches, as the well is impossible to traverse without tools (i.e. rope, ladder). Figure 3.3 Diagram of Naj Tunich layout (from Stone 1995: 107) The entrance to N aj Tunich can be divided into five zones, which I have based on geographic features. What I will call the threshold is the part of the entrance that a visitor first encounters when approaching the cave. It compromises the rocky outcrop the looks out into t he large cavern that is the cave entrance. The lip of the cave ceiling ends here, its height totaling about 30 meters. From that point on the ceiling of the cave slopes downwards until it reaches the back of the cavern wall.
! '' Image 3.4 Photograph of au thor at the cave "threshold" the zone above the silt/clay plane. Photograph provided with permission from Steffi Schliep. The threshold zone includes the precarious slope the leads from the very lip of the cave to the silt and clay beds below Planted imp osingly on this slope is a large stalagmite. It almost reaches the cavern ceiling and measures several meters in diameter. This stalagmite blocks a significant portion of light that reaches the rest of the entrance cavern. Image 3.5 Photograph o f the entrance to Naj Tunich (left) looking out from the Balcony. The large stalagmite is planted squarely in the center, blocking some of the sunlight. The silt/clay plane (left) lies below the threshold.
! '( The threshold leads to the cave floor, which is composed of silt clay deposited by running water. Close to the large stalagmite mentioned earlier, traces of a contemporary Maya ritual fire are clearly evident. While a small passage opens up in the western section of the silt/clay beds, the majority o f Naj Tunich lies to the northwest. The silt/clay plains ex tend in this direction until one reach es a series of grades structures. These graded structures rise several meters off the cave silt/clay floor. According to Andrea Stone, these graded structures are the result of a cave ceiling collapse, which the ancient Maya "fitted with stone walls forming irregular terraces." (1995: 101). The terraces have a pattern of stacking that is not entirely natural. The slabs of rock have been laid down in an organize d manner that has over the year s become somewhat jumbled, but orderly nevertheless. Stone hypothesizes that these terraces helped control access to the rest of the cave and I am inclined to accept her hypothesis. W hile it is not impossible to travel up the terrace grades, they do require careful navigation. I am further convinced that these terraces act as barriers because of what lie s on the b alcony, which they lead to. As mentioned earlier, the contemporary Maya have thei r rituals on the silt/clay floor o f t he cave entrance. This is a modern development, however. The original offering site was just past the top of the terrace, on what is called the "balcony" zone. This zone is so termed because from this location, one has an impressive view of the cave flo or below, and the cave entrance beyond it. Since the balcony is several meters above the cave floor, it is much closer to the ceiling. Smoke from the offering shrine can therefore reach the ceiling quicker, causing damage to the stone surface. For this rea son, the shrine was moved from up in t he balcony to down on the cavern floor. Several stalagmites and
! ') stalactites dominate the rear part of the balcony. One large stone pillar still bears one small inscription. To reach the rest of the cave, one has to r eturn down the terraces and pass through a troublesome bottleneck that leads to an interior passage. Here, the visibility and airflow are both largely reduced. Within this area, archaeologists have uncovered several structures. Brady hypothesizes that some of these are tombs (Stone 1995: 101), while Jos is convinced that some may be sweat baths. This zone moves in a northwestern direction, steadily narrowing until it reaches the iron gate. Here, the natural tunnel walls are little more than a few meters ac ross. In order to ins tall the iron gate, however, about a meter of brick had to be placed on each side of the tunnel walls. The iron gate was installed in the middle. Sunlight does not penetrate to this point. Flashlights and head lanterns (in addition to government permission) are required to pass beyond the gate into the rest of Naj Tunich It should be noted that the iron gate that block s the interior of Naj Tunich is in large part responsib le for the division of zones I have laid out above. If the iron gate were not present, I would divide the cave entrance as follows: the threshold, cavern floor, terrace, and balcony zones would still stand; however, everything behind the balcony zone would be the interior part of the cave. To reach these sections, one has to pass a natural obstacle (the above mentioned bottleneck), which not only controls airflow and sunlight, but human traffic as well.
! '* Images 3.6 The iron gate that blocks the tunnel which continues down into the bowels on Naj Tunich Beyond the iron gate, the cave extends for almost 3000 meters in a general northward direction. While small tunnels and caverns open off the main passageway, there are two major branches to Naj Tunich Roughly 300 meters past the iron gate, the main passage splits i nto two main passages: a northern and a western. The western passage contains many inscriptions and dead ends in a small cavern where sand and silt have built up to block the passage. The northern passage continues for several hundred meters more before en ding at the Silent Well. This well has no water in it, and is impossible to descend without rope and (for the modern spelunker) proper climbing gear.
! (+ Image 3.7 Photograph of author and two other member of our expedition, looking down the Silent Well. Other Significant Features About 50 meters down from the iron gate, we find one of the two large pools in Naj Tunich. The first pool reaches from the eastern wall to about halfway across the tunnel floor. When I observed it, the water was transparent an d undisturbed. To reach the second pool, one has to climb a steep wall that has inch long notches for footholds. Recent expeditions installed a thin hand line to provide support along the precarious climb. Image 3.8 A member of our expedition navigat ing the steep wall that lies between the two pools. The notches that serve as footholds seem man made. At the top of this wall, there is a two layer pool that to modern visitors is reminiscent of a fountain. The top tier of the pool has a small conical to wer that serves as an exit for an underground spring. The water that comes out of the spring flows down a smooth fall and falls into the second tier.
! (" Figure 3.9 Two tired fountain/pool (from Stone 1995: 103) Unlike many caves across Mesoamerica, Naj Tu nich is unique in its large number of inscriptions and painting s. These inscriptions total 500 hieroglyphs and 44 figures inc luded in close to 100 paintings (Brady and Stone 1986: 19). There are several types of artwork in Naj Tunich They include handpr ints, paintings, footprints, petroglyphs, and inscriptions. The inscriptions range from simple c alendric dates and glyphs to lon ger texts, along with portraits of mythical personages and scenes of ritual activity. Andrea Stone provides a complete catalogue of the rock art in her book Images from the Underworld: Naj Tunich and the Tradition of Maya Cave Painting (1995). Stone provides brief descriptions of each inscription accompanied by a photograph. Many of her images document the inscriptions before the 1 989 vandalism, making it an invaluable reference. I will only discuss a few select few of the inscriptions and drawings that are relevant to this thesis. The drawings include depictions of ritual activity, representations of the Hero Twins, scenes reminis cent of the ball court games, emblem glyphs, and inscriptions that complement cave features. I will also analyze different inscriptions that
! (# are thought to have sexual connotations. Artwork depicting sexua l acts is highly unusual in Maya artwork and there fore I believe merits citation in this thesis.
! ($ CHAPTER IV: ANALYSIS As mentioned previously, Naj Tunich has numerous types of artwork, including paintings, inscriptions, drawings, and petroglyphs. The various forms of art depict many different themes. Some drawings depict ritual activities, such as incense burning and decapitations. Other drawings document Naj Tunich's regional importance. Perhaps most interestingly, there are some drawings that complement the cave's natural topographic features. In t his chapter of my thesis, I will analyze some of these inscriptions in the context of Maya ideology (as previously established in Chapter I). Based on this analysis I will provide what I believe is a possible interpretation of the relationship among the in scriptions at Naj Tunich, their topographic contexts, and Maya society in general. INSCRIPTIONS THAT DEPICT MAYA IDEOLOGY Inscriptions depicting rituals Ritual themes are very common among the inscriptions at Naj Tunich. In this thesis, I will address (us ing Stone's cataloguing numbers) D63, D20, D17, D11 and D18 9 D63 is located almost at the end of the Western Passage (Stone 1995: 102 3). The drawing is about nine cm high and shows a figure sitting cross legged, his torso facing the viewer, his head turn ed to look at the plate set on the floor in front of him (Stone 1995: 217). Stone interprets the wavy lines above the plate as scrolls of smoke, indicating that something is burning in the plate, probably incense (1995: 217) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "D" stands for "Drawing #" so that "D63" reads as "drawing number 63"
! (% D 11 is located on the northern wall of the Western Passage, just north of the Main Passage. The drawing is about 66 cm tall and placed higher on the cave wall than any other drawing at Naj Tunich (1995: 191). The figure sits cross legged, facing the left, his arms reaching forward with an indiscernible object in his hands. Stone interprets this as the offering of a decapitated head (Stone 1995: 192). Brady's excavations at Naj Tunich the cave support this particular reading of the drawing: "Brady's analysis of the nineteen human skeleto ns indicates that that eight of these individuals, including several children, were probably sacrificed" (1995: 143). Figure 4.1 D11showing a possible decapitation (f rom Stone 1995 : 142) Roberts also writes about the sacrificial victims found in Ma ya caves, further strengthening Stone's interpretation. At Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize, archaeologist Awe Jaime discovered 14 human skeletons," including one pile of tiny bones, all that was left of an infant. The most startling skeleton was that of a 20 year old woman. She lay sprawled in her position of death, legs and arms akimbo, as some priest had either slit her throat, cut her heart out, or disemboweled her. The skull, staring upward at eternity, seemed frozen in a silent scream" (Roberts 2004: 52) We also find decapitation as a theme in the Popol Vuh Both Hunahpu and his father die in Xibalba by decapitation (the
! (& former when he sticks his head out in the House of Bats and a bat swings down and cuts his head off; the later loses his head after the Lords of Xibalba defeat him and his brother Vucub Hunahpu (Coe 1993: 179). Perhaps most striki ng of these ritual activities depicted at Naj Tunich is D18. This image is located in the Western Passage, not far from where it splits off from the Main Passag e. The drawing is abou t two meters off the cave floor and shows two, 50 cm long figures (1995: 196) The pair embraces each other, one figure completely naked, his erect penis pressed against the second figure's genital area. The second figure has some hin ts of clothing, including a waistband and headdress. Figure 4.2 D18 depicting a sexual act (f rom Stone 1995 : 100) Several interpretations have been proposed of D18. Stone hypothesis that the figures physical features suggest that the figure with the erect penis is God K coupling with another woman a theme common in Maya art (1995: 196). Stone thinks that the second figure might be female, an interpretation that seems odd at first, since the figure has no breasts, while the other character has an er ect penis clearly marking him as male.
! (' Stone takes note of another interpretation, however: "Since males play female roles in traditional Maya performance, this female figure, indicated by her queue of hair and the manner in which intercourse is portrayed, may actually represent a male performer" (1995: 196). Jos, amateur archeologist and experienced cave guide, posits another theory: Jos believes that the drawing shows a father and son, and the sexual act is a symbolic transfer of power from one generati on to another (personal communication, 2010). D20 is another image that depicts sexual activity. It is part of a cluster of drawings located in the Western Passage, just north of where it branches off the Main Passage (1995: 102 3). This drawing is about 30 cm high and depicts a man kneeling on one leg, his hands apparently grasping his erect penis. Stone notes that the figure's pose is highly unusual in the Maya area: "The unkempt hairstyle, genial display, and oblique orientation of the figure signals hi s heightened emotional state" (1995: 197). While some interpret this drawing as a man masturbating, Stone believes that the drawing could also depict a man performing genital mutilation (1995: 197). She bases this on two other Maya depictions of masturbati on. One is the figure of God N on a vase from Cahal Pech, Belize. The other is in the Dresden Codex on page 37b, which shows the rain god Chaak ejaculating (1995: 137). Images of overt sexual activity are rare in the Maya world. Alfredo Rubio and Karl Tau be published an article detailing some of the sexual scenes found in the reliefs at San Diego, Yucatn. These scenes included depictions of enemas, masturbation, and other sexual activities (Rubio & Taube 1987: 3). For example, figure 17 shows two men
! (( in t he act of arousal. One naked figure uses a rope to strangle the second figure, which is shown to have an erection (Rubio & Taube 1987: 9). D17 is located not too far from D20, just north of where the Western Passage braches off the Main Passage (1995: 102 3). This drawing shows a figure about 65 cm tall. Like D20, the figure's body is arranged in an awkward position, indicating a state of heightened emotions (1995: 136): the figure's torso faces the right, his head looks to the left, and his arms reach dow n to grasp what might be his penis. Stone believes that the fact that this drawing is located in a cave, a more private location that a temple faade, means that the artist was attempting to "convey the trauma of rites of passage" (1995: 137). While some h old that the figure is masturbating (a ritual activity of the Maya, as previously discussed in this chapter), Stone outlines the problem with this interpretation: the figure's "penis" does not resemble phalli as observed in other examples of Maya art; and the short line extending from the penis does not resemble other depictions of semen in Maya art. The object does not resemble a bloodletting instrument either, so while the figure may be performing auto sacrifice, this interpretation is also shaky (1995: 1 37). These three drawings, (D18, D20, D63) compel Stone to believe that coitus and masturbation were rituals that took place in caves in the Maya area (1995: 140). Stone hypothesizes, and I agree, that many of these inscriptions serve as ritualistic guide s for worshippers who visited Naj Tunich (1995: 136). Thus, an inscription showing incense burning (i.e. D63) could serve as a pictographic guide for a pilgrim as to an appropriate ritual for the setting The inscriptions showing rituals, in addition to th e archaeological evidence, suggest that the Maya practiced "ritual as lived experience" (1995:136). In other words, worshipping of gods and ancestors took the form of rituals that the
! () practitioner enacted, and in such a manner communed with the supernatura ls. If this interpretation is accepted, then the inscriptions at Naj Tunich suggest that worshipers burned incense, preformed sexual acts, and offered decapitated heads all as part of "rituals as lived experience." Inscriptions depicting the Hero Twins As outlined in Chapter 1, the Hero Twins have strong connotations with caves and the Underworld. The Popol Vuh describes the Twins' trials at taking place in geographic locations that are very similar to caves, or have names that suggest they are caves. At Na j Tunich, we see two drawings that have been positively identified as the Hero Twins. Their previously established connection to the Underworld makes these decipherments all the more exciting. The first, and best drawing of t he Hero Twins is D87. Located i n the one of the furthest reaches of the North Passage, the drawing is drawn on a smooth surface of rock that has a slight downward facing tilt. The drawing is about 24 cm tall and shows two figures sitting cross legged and facing each other. The spots on the left side figure identify him as Hunahpu. The figure on the right sports patches of jaguar pelt, identifying him as Xbalenque (1995: 229 30). Another drawing depicting a mythical character is D21. Based on his woven hat and spotted markings, Michael Co e identifies this character as Hunahpu (Stone 1995: 158).
! (* Figure 4. 3 D87 depicting the Hero Twins ( from Stone 1995 : 149) As explained in the first chapter of this thesis, the Hero Twins have strong connotations with the underworld. To find images of these mythical figures in a cave, a pathway believed by the Maya to lead to Xibalba, is extremely interesting. As described in the Popol Vuh the Hero Twins must travel down to the underworld to play ball against the Lords of Xibalba. Once there, they endu re many "houses" interpreted as caves (Stone 1995) of torture and lethal ballgames with the Xibalban lords. Finding images of the Hero Twins in a ritual context emphasizes the idea of "ritual as lived experience." As a pilgrim slowly makes his way down the cave passage, he is physically reenacting the Hero Twins' decent into the Underworld. Since we know that Maya rulers often took on the persona of gods and deities (Sharer 2006: 747), this interpretation seems sound. Inscriptions that allude to Ball Co urt S tructures A further connection to the Underworld is evident when some of the drawings in Naj Tunich as interpreted as representations of ballcourt structures. According to Stone, "There is mounting evidence that the Maya conceived of the ballcourt as an extension of the Underworld. Ballcourt markers framed by quatrefoils seem to create symbolic holes
! )+ that connect the court with this nether realm" (1995: 152). Drawings 21, 31, 39, 51 all show figures standing near stepped structures. Included in every d rawing is the image of a rubber ball, indicative of the ballcourt game that was so prevalent across ancient Mesoamerica (1995: 150). Like the Hero Twins, ball courts have import ant connections with Underworld. In the Popol Vuh Hun Hunahpu and his brother are called down to Xibalba after playing a noisy game of ball. In the Underworld, the Lords defeat the pair, severing Hunahpu's head and hanging it on a tree (Christenson 2003). The Hero Twins, sons of Hun Hunahpu, also travel to the Underworld after distu rbing the lords with a loud game of ball. Unlike their father, however, the Hero Twins defeat the Lords in a game of ball. From this story, it is clear that the ballcourt game served a ritual purpose as well as entertainment. Furthermore, according to Ston e, "there is mounting evidence that the Maya conceived of the ballcourt as an extension of the underworld. Ballcourt markers framed by quatrefoils seem to create symbolic holes that connect the court with this nether realm" (Stone 1 995: 15 2). Figure 4.4 D21 showing Hunahpu at a ballcourt ( from Stone 1995 : 150)
! )" Interestingly enough, another piece of the Popol Vuh story is evident at Naj Tunich, D8 shows a peccary positioned just like the rabbit that poses as Hunahpu's head for the ballgame played agai nst the Lords of Xibalba (1995: 151). INSCRIPTIONS THAT COMPLEMENT CAVE FEATURES Andrea Stone hypothesizes, and I agree with her, that one of the uses for drawings and inscriptions at Naj Tunich was to serve markers to designate the transition from one zon e to another: the most extensive texts [at Naj Tunich] are these boundary ma r king paintings. I would interpret this pattern in terms of the ritual utilization of the cave; that is, inscriptions attest the visit of pilgrims at transitional or dramatic geol ogical features, where they would be most obvious to the passerby" (1995: 126). D52, D84, and D88 all serve this purpose at Naj Tunich. D52 is composed of hieroglyphs arranged in two vertical lines. According to Stone's spatial analysis, the inscription f rames a passageway that leads to a tunnel. In her view, "this entrance clearly marks a transitional zone between a spacious limestone passage and a more constri cted area of flowstone" ( 1995: 125) D84 like D52, also acts as a frame. Located on the right side of the large and natural archway that "gives the impression of an enormous gateway" ( 1995: 125) the image depicts the profile of a face accompanied by several hieroglyphs (1995: 228).
! )# Image 4.5 Author and another member of our expedition, in f ront of the natural archway framed by D84. Perhaps the most striking of all the inscriptions that serve as boundary markers is D88. This drawing is located at the entryway that leads from the Northern Passage to the K'u Multun passage above (1995: 125). T he drawing itself is composed of four clusters of vertically written Maya glyphs. The topographic transition here is more obvious, as access to the K'u Multun maze is restricted to only a few entrances/exits all of which require sc aling of the cave wall ( 1 995: 128). In addition to serving as a marker between the K'u Multun mazes and the North Passage, D88 is also an exciting find because of the archaeological context associated with it. In front of D88 and the entrance to the maze tu nnels above, archaeolog ists excavated "one of the most remarkable archaeological assemblages found in a Maya cave: a stone structure, which appears to have functioned as an altar, accompanied by votive offerings and a p ainted inscription [D88]" ( 1995: 128).
! )$ Figure 4. 6 Dia gram of D88 and altar in front of it ( from Stone 1995 : 128) The altar in front of D88 is composed of a heap of rocks piled against the wall, with a vertical slab rising 70 cm into the air. Atop this rock dangle two pot tery rims ( 1995 128). Within the pile s of rock and rubble supporting the altar, archaeologists found charcoal and one piece of jade, both of which clearly mark the altar as the s ite of ritual ceremonies ( 1995: 128 9). Next to the altar, archaeologist s found a smashed "Late Classic basal ridge d, polychrome plate" (1995: 129). The dating of this artistic style on the plate matches the time period inscribed in D88: 18.104.22.168.0 in the Long Count or roughly A.D. 692 (1995: 128). Perhaps the best example of a drawing that complements a cave feature is D82. This drawing is located on the North Passage, just after the Main Passage splits with the Western Passage (1995: 102 3). The drawing is placed on a portion of the cave ceiling that reaches down to within a few meters of the cave floor. This positio ning made the drawing particularly susceptible to the 1989 vandalism, which left the drawing barely recognizable. Not only is D82's topographic positioning significant, but so is the positioning of the glyphs within the text.
! )% To facilitate the discussion o n D82, Stone drew a diagram that divides the drawing into rows (labeled numerically) and columns (labeled alphabetically). D82 is composed of 16 glyphs arranged in three rows and 8 columns. Traditional reading of the glyphs would have us start at A1 (see diagram) and move to B1. Then A2 is read, followed by B2. This pattern would continue across the text, if the artist had not decided to drop two glyphs from Row 2 to Row 3. While this complicates the reading of the entire drawing) rearranging the text in s uch a manner resulted in the inscription more closely following the cave ceiling's edge, which does in fact dip more dramatically just below the two glyphs in Row 3 (1995: 119; the text is shown below). Maya artists not only chose readily visible locatio ns for some of their drawings, but they also used the natural cave features to serve as image boundaries. For example, D11 (discussed above) is painted high up on the cave wall, set within a natural niche in the cave's undulating rock surface (1995: 121 ) Other drawings, such as D 39 and D40 are painted within the boundaries of "smooth limestone casts" (1995: 118). I have already described D39 in this chapter. However, it is important o note that the badly preserved image of the ballcourt is drawn within th e confines of the cracks in the rock around it, which form a sort of natural frame. A very similar scenario is evident in D40, which is located just above D39 on the cave wall. D40 shows three figures that scholars have come to call los musicos 10 also pai nted within the confined of the rock cracks (1995: 209). INSCRIPTIONS THAT REFLECT REGIONAL POLITICAL ACTIVITY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 10 Spanish for "the musicians"
! )& Regional political activity is another common theme observed in the drawings at Naj Tunich. D21 is one of the drawings that document pilgrims' sacred journies to Naj Tunich. According to Stone, Naj Tunich was a very important pilgrimage site for the ancient Maya. More specifically, Stone argues that it was Maya scribes, members of the se cond tier of Maya nobility, who most often visited Naj Tunic h ( 2005: 136). In order to prove this argument, Stone turns to the iconographic representations of scribes in Maya art. One vase, dubbed by Stone as LOU 16, displays a "mythical cave environment." Stone contends that one of the figures within the cave is a traveling scribe. The evidence that Stone provides for this interpretation is found in the analysis of the painting's composition. First, Stone points out that the vase carries the glyphs that scholars have shown to identify caves and other stone enclos ures. Furthermore, Stone shows that the central figure of the scene is that of a pilgrim. She argues that the hat worn by the figure, accompanied by the cloth head wrap underneath, is a common mode of identification for travelers in ancient Maya iconograph y (2005: 137 38). Figure 4. 7 D11 at Naj Tunich: a scribe identified by his cloth head wrap and the a shell paint pot placed in front of him. (from Stone 1995: 147) As mentioned above, Stone believes that the figure is not only a pilgrim to the cav e, but a scribe as well. T he other figures seen on the vase support this notion The vase
! )' shows figures that have been identified as deities and patrons of scribes. One deity holds a codex, while others carry shell paint pots. In this arrangement, one figu re is of particular interest. The figure is that of an old man who is holding out a shell paint pot to the pilgrim shown emerging from a cave. The pilgrim, in turn, holds ou t his hand to receive the pot. Accepting the interpretation of a shell paint pot as the artistic emblem of a scribe, Stone concludes that the pilgrim figure must be that of a scribe (2005: 138). Figure 4.8 LOU 16 depicting a cave as a quatrefoil and sacred aperture ( from Prufer & Brady 2005 : 136) I have already discussed in this ch apter how D82's topographic positioning is significant. However, the drawing is also important, for it documents the regional activity in the southeastern Petn at the time of inscription. While the complete translation of the text remains elusive, scholar s have interpreted some of the phrases within the inscription. I spent an afternoon reviewing these interpretations with epigrapher Gabrielle Vail.
! )( Figure 4.9 Diagram of D82 (from Stone 1995: 179) Our examination of the text revealed that, as Stone c laimed (1995: 179), C1 does have a reference to a Caracol lord. F1 is a toponym that reads tok'tun, a possible corruption of Xultun (Vail 2010). G1 is the emblem glyph for Calakmul, extending Naj Tunich's zone of influence a few hundred kilometers to the n orth. H1 is somewhat deteriorated so epigraphers cannot translate the entire glyph. However, a portion of the glyph does survive, and it translates as holy lord of" (Vail 2010). Based on this interpretation, we can assume that the glyph was a reference to a now unknown location. C3 is the Sacul emblem glyph, a site about 30 km north of Naj T unich. Another version of the S a c ul emblem glyph also appears elsewhere in the cave, in D25, glyph blocks B3 B4. Stone also documents the appearance of the Ixtutz emble m glyph. Ixtutz is located about 30 km northwest of Naj Tunich further west than the site of Sacul ( 1995: 101). Figure 4.10 The Sacul Emblem glyph as seen in D82 (from Stone 1995: 179)
! )) In summary, D82 shows the reader that the artist was aware of a political relationship between Ixtutz, Sacul, Calakmul, Caracol, possibly Xultun, and other un deciphered locations. Figure 4.11 Map of the Maya area showing archaeological sites mentioned in the Naj Tunich texts. (adapted from Martin and Grube 200 8: 10) Some of these interpretations are further emphasized by the translation of drawings 28, 29, and 30 Each of these drawings is situated vertically, following the line of the cave wall as it makes a sharp bend in the Western Passage ( 1995: 125) The following is a rough translation of D29, generously provided by Professor Vail from her work with the Maya Hieroglyphic Database Project sponsored by Martha Macri: Glyph block A1 A2 records a date in the 52 year cycle, which may correspond to 22.214.171.124.3 in the Long Count, or 771 A.D. On this date, Chack Tz'il May ik K'an B'iyan (A6 A8) Holy lord (A9) and painter (A11) from the south (A10) "witnessed" (A3) at Nompan (A4 A5) a possible name for Naj Tunich Accompanying (B1) Cha k Tz'il was Upakal K'inich Sak
! )* Chan (A13 A15) a painter (A12), companion (B1) and younger brother (B2) to Cha k Tz'il. Figure 4.12 Diagrams for D29 (left) and D28 (right) (from Stone 1995: 166, 168) From this translation, we can deduce that Cha k Tz'il came to Naj Tunich to "witn ess" something. A possible interpretation for "witness" is to perform or take part in a religious ritual. It is important to note that not only is Cha k Tz'il a "Holy lord" and a
! *+ painter, but his companion and younger brother is also painter/scribe, a profe ssion that was also designated to the Maya elite (2005: 136). It is possible that Cha k Tz'il and Upakal K'inich traveled to the cave together on a pilgrimage. Once having arrived at Naj Tunich, the nobles preformed religious rites that allowed them to comm une with the supernaturals. It is important to note that this inscription also has political connotations. Vail interprets the location Nompan as a toponym, possibly the original name of Naj Tunich (2010). Stone translates this toponym as "mo'pan" which i s similar to the river and Maya language group of the same name. Furthermore, the inscription speaks of a "lord from the south," meaning that Naj Tunich must have had visitors from that direction, as evident by the presence of the inscription. D28 has a s imilar translation to D29, ccording to Vail (personal communication, 2010). It speaks of Mam Na Chan Ak (A5 A7) who c ame to Nompan (A4) from Xultun (A8) a nd "witnesses" (A3) Nasimal Chen Ak (A12 A14), a child (A17) and artist/scribe (A16 ) came as his comp anion (A18 ) All the same interpretation that were derived from D29 can be applied to this glyph group. D28 also has one other interesting element. The artist describes Nasimal Chen Ak as a "child." This allusion to multiple generations present at a cave c eremony support Doris Heyden's hypothesis of caves as sites for ritual passage, specifically ones relating to a person's life cycle (i.e birth, ascension, death) (Heyden 2005). ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH The information that I presented on Maya ideology in Chap ter I, and the analysis above, are further reinforced by the interviews I conducted during my field season in
! *" January of 2010. Eliseo B'atz', a professor of Kaqchikel Maya and experienced spiritual guide, explained to me that in modern Maya ideology, every geographic feature of our landscape is paired with a nawal or spirit companion. Eliseo was very clear in making a distinction between nawals and gods. Nawals are not gods, but rather their instruments. In other words, while nawals are capable of independ ent action, their purpose in inhabiting geographic feature is to assist the gods. Eliseo explained that when a ritual was to be preformed, the spiritual guide had to first ask the nawal for permission to physically, emotionally, and ritualistically enter h is domain. Eliseo recounted a time after he had experienced a particularly powerful and successful communion through the ritual fire, he took a walk along the slopes of a mountain in search of another ritual site that locals had informed him about. After a few minutes of walking, Eliseo misplaced his foot and badly sprained his ankle; he took this as a sign form the hills' nawal that he had transgressed onto sacred property. Eliseo had already communed with God that day and had no business seeking this par ticular ritual site. Eliseo also explained that the geographic location of ceremonies varied according to the ritual's purpose. A ritual conducted on a hilltop would induce healing in a patient. For fertility and rain, spiritual guides travel to caves and perform rituals within them. These contemporary cave ceremonies are documented across Mesoamerica, as outlined in Chapter II. At Naj Tunich, Sophie attended a ceremony that took place on February 15 of 2009. While she managed to take pictures of the cere mony (which she generously provided to include in this thesis) she was not able to discern the specific
! *# purpose of the ceremony. She reported, however, that several member of La Compuerta were present, both ladino and Maya families. Celestino, another exp erienced Kaqchikel professor, provided me with important information pertaining to the division of cave zones in January of 2010. For the purposes of explaining myself, I used Stone's division of zones: the entrance to he cave; the Main Passage; the Wester n Passage, the Northern passage, and K'u Multun. Celestino, however, divided the cave sections slightly differently: the entrance to the cave, the middle, and the very end of the cave passage. The location of a ceremony within the cave is indicative of it s purpose. Rituals preformed at the entrance of the cave are for light matters such as mild ailments. The further one progresses into a cave for a ritual, the more serious the problem. Therefore, ceremonies conducted in the deep bowels of the cave reflect worshippers who had very serious problems and required extreme assistance from the netherworld. This idea is corroborated by archaeologist Awe's interpretations of the artifacts unearthed at Actun Tunichil Muknal in Belize. Awe believes that the sacrific es at the cave were meant to appease the rain god Chaak during the 9 th century. However, unbeknownst to the Maya, their entire world was undergoing a series of multi decadal droughts (Demarest 2004: 256). As their prayers and sacrifices were not answered, the priest moved their ceremonies deeper into Actun Tunichil Muknal (Roberts 2004: 53), signaling a growing concern and sense or urgency to their prayers. Celestino also provided me with information that supports the previously proposed ideas within Maya ideology. Like Eliseo, Celestino pointed out that every cave has a nawal. He also corroborated the importance of water within a cave. He explained
! *$ that water was also a sacred feature of caves, and that in such cases, the nawals take the form of serpents. I find his information particularly interesting, not just because of the previously described connection among caves, serpents, and water, but also because my personal experiences corroborate this relationship. During the summer of 2009, I partook in an a rchaeological project in Roatn, Honduras (located in the southeastern tip of what is traditionally known as the Maya area). The purpose of this project was to excavate the summits of the various hilltops across the island. On one of our survey expeditions our group came across a series of caves set on a mountain crest. It was clear from the geological formations and existence of caves at ground level and below, that the mountain peak was submerged at some point in the distant past. Like the underwater gro ttos that still exist, and the cave entrances evident between ground level and hilltops, the cave located on the mountain peak was probably created by the ocean currents and then left exposed when either the sea level dropped or the plate beneath the islan d pushed it up. In either case, a slew of caves were left behind to dot the Roatn landscape. During a series of personal interviews with the boys who acted as our local guides, I learned that while that hilltop cave was safe to explore, there were others which they warned me against exploring. One cave, which our guide refused to take me to, has been said to be home to a mystical dwarf and a supernaturally large snake. While Roatn has a multitude of different Indian ethnic groups, the existence of this my th in this particular region leads me to believe that it is a residual myth that survived from ancient Maya times. CONCLUSION
! *% Naj Tunich serves as an excellent case study for examining the connection between Maya cave art and iconography, and ancient Maya society. From the interpretation of D 82 and D28 30, we can draw a rough map of the political relationships between different Maya sites that surround Naj Tunich. These inscriptions name Sacul, Ixtutx, Caracol, Calakmul, and Xultun (among several other un deciphered toponyms) as sites that had some sort of relationship to Naj Tunich, as evidenced by their inclusion in the inscriptions found within the cave. Also, we see these inscriptions situated across the cave, almost as if they were meant for advertisin g: the inscriptions are topographically situated so that any visitors to the cave could not miss seeing them as they walked by. Therefore, the characters and their actions, as described within the text, would be available for any literate person to observ e. In the chapter above, I provide several other examples of text and images that take advantage of the cave's natural features. Finally, some of the inscriptions at the cave, as unequivocally proved by the presence of the altar in front of D88, served th e function of providing the observer with a spiritual guide to the appropriate rituals allowed within Naj Tunich. As seen in the images, rituals included the burning of incense, ritual execution and decapitation, and varying types of sexual activities. In my opinion, and as established by previous scholars, Naj Tunich and other caves served as sacred sites where pilgrims could journey to perform important rituals. The images at Naj Tunich show forms of "ritual as lived experience" which allow for worshipper s to commune with their gods. Furthermore, I believe that the iconographic representations of the Hero Twins and ballcourts painted within caves, reinforce the idea
! *& of caves as sacred pathways. This thesis had examined how the Hero Twins are anthropomorphi c representations as the Sun and Moon//Venus. Therefore, their passage through caves, as reenacted by worshippers, is representative of the Sun and Moon/Venus' daily journey through the Underworld.
! *' CHAPTER V: CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS As outlined in C hapter II, the Mesoamerican cave complex continues today. From personal communications, I have learned that Naj Tunich is still an active ceremonial site. Photographs from a February 2009 ceremony corroborate this idea. We see other contemporary ritual loc ations at Paq'alibal, near Santiago, Atitln, which "is arguably the most sacred place in the universe, for it is the cave in which dwell the nawals deified ancestors who bless the world with rain and fertility" (Roberts 2004: 40). During my personal trav els throughout the Guatemalan landscape, I heard that contemporary Maya preformed animal sacrifices in the Grutas de Lanqun. However, interviews with local residents cast doubt on this idea, as many sources reported that the communities around Lanquin beg an such rituals only after they identified the rituals as a potential source of income from tourists who come to see "authentic" Maya rituals. SACRED PATHWAYS As discussed in my analysis chapter, caves in the Maya area were seen a sacred spaces, where beca use of their connection with the netherworld, worshippers could more easily commune with the gods. The archaeological evidence, presented at Naj Tunich in the form of images, support s the idea that the Prehispanic Maya concidered caves as pathways to the Un derworld. As Demarest discusses, "The epicenters of Maya cites were constructed as great stages for the production of the religious spectacles that bound together their polities under the K'uhul Ajaw [Maya ruler]. The temples, palaces, and ballcourts of t hese centers were carefully placed to draw upon sacred knowledge of the sky (as formalized in
! *( Maya astronomy) and the earth (as embodied in their concepts of sacred geography)" (2004: 201). If Maya cities were organized in such a manner as to reflect cosm ological and ideological importance, then cannot caves, as intricate elements of settlement configurations (i.e. at Dos Pilas, Tikal, Uaxactn), also be one of the "great stages" where holy lords reenacted "religious spectacles" and other rituals? I believ e that, yes, caves were the stages of reenacted rituals, especially those pertaining to the Hero Twins and their journey to the Underworld. By traveling through Naj Tunich and staging the mythical story of the Hero Twins walking down to Xibalba, the nobili ty of the Maya could further reinforce their connection with the world of the supernatural. I must point out, however, that my interpretation of these images and their relationship to Maya ideology is one of several possibilities. As time passes and new t ranslations for hieroglyphs and new interpretations of iconography become available, new meanings will become attached to these images, while others will disappear. Scholars in the future may prove that the glyph "to witness" may not have had any connectio ns with pilgrimages and rituals, in which case, a different interpretation of D29 30 would have to be proposed. ISSUES OF HERITAGE AND REPRESENTATION Heritage Another issue that needs to be addressed, however briefly, is the issue of heritage and represe ntation in Naj Tunich and La Compuerta. As explained in Chapters II and III, the guides at Naj Tuinich are member of La Compuerta and the cave guides' committee that acts as liaisons among the community, IDEAH, and tourists. These men, as I saw no
! *) women pr esent as guides, are virtually volunteers: they do not receive any payment except for the tips left by tourists. Tourists are not charged a cover price to enter the park which contains the cave; therefore, all maintenance funds must come from donations, co ntributions, and government coffers. These men also represent the section of the community that views the cave as a potential source of income. In our brief talk after our cave explorations, Don Felipe explained that the community would very much like to expand the preservation of the cave and increase the number of tourists that reach their town. They believe that this will bring industry and development to their remote town, where even electricity is not yet available. However, on the other hand, one mu st consider the issues presented by an increase in tourists. With greater notoriety, the cave would require even more intense guardianship. Previous acts of vandalism have left some of the cave's most beautiful inscriptions all but unintelligible (i.e. D82 ). If articles and other news stories start to circulate around the world about Naj Tunich and its impressive inscriptions, the artifacts will become more valuable and all the more tempting to looters. My time in Poptn, Dolores, and La Compuerta made it clear that the community has very little say in the handling of the cave. The cave falls under the authority of the federal government, and IDEAH and CONAP can close the park if they deem it necessary. However, the government has allowed the local communit y to perform rituals, not at the original altar on the Balcony, but down in the silt/clay plane where the fire's smoke cannot harm the ceiling.
! ** While still situated within the entrance of the cave, this change in topographic context must somehow change th e significance of the altar, just as moving the altar in a Catholic church from the end of the cross shaped structure to the entrance would. Such a change would put the altar behind the church's congregations. Similarly, if the Balcony acted as a raised pl atform from which priests could enact rituals, observed from the crowd below, then changing the altar's location from the Balcony to the silt/clay plane would be placing the altar amongst the worshippers. This is outside the purview of my thesis, as more a nthropological evidence and sound ethnographic analogies would have to be employed to render my hypothesis significant or not. However, entering the bowels of Naj Tunich was such a diplomatic and political headache, that I cannot possibly believe that loc al Maya would have an easier time gaining access to the deep sections of the cave. For one, I know that the average Maya family does not have the disposable time, money, and energy equal to that which I expended searching for permission to enter the cave. However, while the Maya may have heritage rights to enter past the iron gate, there does not seem to be a loud call for an exercise of these rights. According to one IDEAH official, Ellos estn conformes en la entrada 11 (personal communication 2010), mea ning they did not mind holding their ceremonies on the silt/clay plane. Representation While I am sure that the Guatemalan government had good intentions in constructing the replica, NT 1 it nevertheless raises issues of valid representation. As explored i n my thesis, the topographic context of each image is important and relevant to !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "" !K0!L0;741:I!8:41!83601768-1!61!M8:-.!63-!:6FF.!68!8:-!26@-!-083602-N
! "++ its decipherment. Therefore, if a replica is placed outside its original context, can it have the same meaning? I argue that it cannot, as proven by my personal experience. I s aw the images at the replica cave before I observed them in their original context in Naj Tunich. While some replicas, like that of D82, were recreated in a similar context, the inscriptions were still placed at different height levels than their original counterparts. For example, D82 in Naj Tunich is placed just above arm's reach, while in the replica, it lies on a slab that sits on the cave floor propped against the wall. While still clearly visible to the tourist wandering through the replica, it is sti ll located in a cave that is significantly smaller than Naj Tunich and has no original inscriptions of its own. Although it only lies a couple hundred meters from the original, the fact that the Maya decided not to paint anything there but to extensively d ecorate the walls of a nearby cave points to a significant difference in the importance of each cave in the ancient Maya view. FUTURE WORK As for the future of the archaeological and anthropological work at Naj Tunich, I would like to see a study of the i mages' spatial distribution in relation to topographic features. An analysis of this topic might provide important interpretations of caves as ritual sites. As mentioned earlier, not all caves bear evidence of ritual use. Therefore, the location and contex t of each image must reflect some deeper meaning connected with Maya ideology and cosmology. Furthermore, I would like to see more complete translations of the text found at the cave. A study of their translations and possible interpretations could yield important information about both the cave's purpose and their author's purpose in visiting the cave.
! "+" Furthermore, we could learn more about the political climate in the Petn region at the time of the inscriptions. From my exploration of the cave, it is c lear that preservation is also something that has to be addressed. Since money for maintenance must come from the government, which does not have much to hand out in the first place, it is unlikely that large renovations be made any time soon. At the time of my visit in 2010, the road out to La Compuerta had been repaired only a year or two earlier so that trucks could pass through relatively unencumbered. Also, the guides were in the process of constructing a thatched roof that would serve as shelter for a ny tourists who decided to camp near the cave entrance. However, I find it interesting that while the replica had a boardwalk running through it (to prevent visitors from stepping on the cave floor), the actual cave has no such protection. Entrance is gain ed by climbing down any available, safe surface. This means that human feet break off and disturb the rock formations and soil deposits that lead down from the sinkhole at the entrance of the cave up to the Balcony. Also, during our expedition within the original cave, several party members pointed out the brown moss that covered extensive tracks of the walls along cave passages. Our guides informed us that it was a type of moss that creeped down from the ceiling, swallowing the stone and anything on its surface beneath its hungry spread. Unless the moss' advance is stopped, it will eventually cover and destroy many of the inscriptions at Naj Tunich. In closing I must say that I enjoyed working in caves for this project very much. As a twin, I felt a d eep connection with the project and wish to further investigate the connection among the Hero Twins, caves, and sacred pathways. As Stone wrote, "C aves,
! "+# the world over, are physically and psychologically powerful places. They move us to deep and primordial responses, and constitute the archetypal place of transition between the upper world and the underworld day and night, life and death (Stone 1986:18). Even a novice anthropologist such as myself could feel the powerful sense of sacred space that emanate s from a geographic feature, such as a cave.
! "+$ APPENDIX A Keyhole entrance to Actun Actun Tunchil Muknal (from Brady and Prufer 2005: 272) Map of cave sited discussed in thesis (from Martin and Grube 2008: 10) D28 and D29 in their topographic contexts (f rom stone 1995 : 123)
! "+$ D82 in its topographic context (from Stone 1995: 123) D82 after the 1989 vandalism (f rom Stone 1995: 111) Map of Naj Tunich layout (part 1) (from Stone 1995: 102) Map of Naj Tunich layout (part 2) (from Stone 1995: 103)
! "+% February 15, 2009 ceremony at Naj Tunich. Photograph provided with permission from Steffi Schliep. February 15, 2009 ceremony at Naj Tunich. Photograph provided with permission from Steffi Schliep. Altar locate d on the Balcony at Naj Tunich Pot sherd one of our expedition members fou nd in Naj Tunich
! "+& Example of a difficult passage through Naj Tunich Example of a difficult passage through Naj Tunich Members of our expedition examining a p ossible tomb Possible sweatbath found outside the iron gate
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