Abstract: Using 19th Century Scholarship on a 21st Century Archaeology Project


Four very impressive Maya cave studies appeared at the end of the 19th century.  Easily the most spectacular was Eduard Seler’s investigation of Quen Santo, Huehuetenango, Guatemala from 1895-97.  Unfortunately, this work has been largely ignored by archaeologists because the book is rare and was published in German.  A restudy of the caves conducted by a California State University, Los Angeles field project allows archaeologists to integrate Seler's spectacular finds in the 19th century with the most recent advances in Maya cave investigation.  This included ethnographic studies of Maya pilgrimages to the caves that continue to this day.  The result is a wholly new appreciation of the tremendous importance of caves as sacred sites in ancient Maya cosmology.


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

James E. Brady, 2009. Exploring Highland Maya Ritual Cave Use: Archaeology & Ethnography in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, edited by James E. Brady.  Bulletin 20, Association for Mexican Cave Studies, Austin.

James E. Brady, 2011. The Maya’s Sacred Caves.  American Archaeology 15 (2):12-19.

James E. Brady, 2010. Offerings to the Rain Gods: The Archaeology of Maya Caves. In Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea, edited by Daniel Finamore and Stephen D. Houston, pp.220-223.  Peabody Essex Museum and Yale University Press, New Haven.

James E. Brady and Keith M. Prufer (eds.), 2005. In the Maw of the Earth Monster: Mesoamerican Ritual Cave Use. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Keith M. Prufer and James E. Brady (eds.), 2005. Stone Houses and Earth Lords: Maya Religion in the Cave Context. University Press of Colorado.



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