Abstract: The Dark Side of Archaeology: Sacred Caves of Ancient Mesoamerica


Throughout the Americas caves have been used as sacred spaces for thousands of years and nowhere is this better illustrated than in Mesoamerica. Ethnography, ethnohistory, iconography, epigraphy, and archaeology all contribute to our understanding of the meanings of these spaces for Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican societies.  Because caves have been utilized almost exclusively for ritual, they provide an unrivaled context for studying Pre-Columbian religion. This talk looks at how we know what we know about Mesoamerican caves and presents archaeological examples of some of the most spectacular sites and what we have learned from them.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Stone Houses and Earth Lords: Maya Religion in the Cave Context, 2005, edited by Keith Prufer and James Brady, University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

In the Maw of the Earth Monster: Mesoamerican Ritual Cave Use,2005,edited by James Brady and Keith Prufer, Universityof Texas Press, Austin.

Images from the Underworld: Naj Tunich and the Tradition of Maya Cave Painting, 1995, by Andrea Stone, University of Texas Press, Austin.



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