Images from the Underworld

[ Latin American Studies ]

Images from the Underworld

Naj Tunich and the Tradition of Maya Cave Painting

By Andrea J. Stone

A comprehensive look at Maya cave painting from Preconquest times to the Colonial period, plus a complete visual catalog of the cave art of Naj Tunich, some of which has been subsequently destroyed by vandals.



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8.5 x 11 | 304 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-72652-9

In 1979, a Kekchi Maya Indian accidentally discovered the entrance to Naj Tunich, a deep cave in the Maya Mountains of El Peten, Guatemala. One of the world's few deep caves that contain rock art, Naj Tunich features figural images and hieroglyphic inscriptions that have helped to revolutionize our understanding of ancient Maya art and ritual.

In this book, Andrea Stone takes a comprehensive look at Maya cave painting from Preconquest times to the Colonial period. After surveying Mesoamerican cave and rock painting sites and discussing all twenty-five known painted caves in the Maya area, she focuses extensively on Naj Tunich. Her text analyzes the images and inscriptions, while photographs and line drawings provide a complete visual catalog of the cave art, some of which has been subsequently destroyed by vandals.

This important new body of images and texts enlarges our understanding of the Maya view of sacred landscape and the role of caves in ritual. It will be important reading for all students of the Maya, as well as for others interested in cave art and in human relationships with the natural environment.

1. Introduction
2. The Topographic Context of Maya Cave Painting
3. A Further Exploration of Topographic Context: The Mesoamerican Landscape and the Cave
4. Maya and Mesoamerican Cave Painting: A Survey of Sites and Images
5. Naj Tunich: An Introduction to the Site and Its Art
6. Images from Naj Tunich
7. The Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of Naj Tunich by Barbara MacLeod and Andrea Stone
8. A Catalog of Naj Tunich Paintings and Petroglyphs
9. Maya Cave Painting: Summary of a Tradition
Appendix A. The Geologic Context of Maya Cave Paintings by George Veni
Appendix B. Standard Cave Map Symbols

"The present volume is not only an extraordinarily detailed and insightful analysis of the painted representations and texts found in Naj Tunich but also a complete survey of all known Maya painted caves. . . . Stone has given us a major monograph on a major Maya site. For completeness of presentation, for clarity of writing, and for depth and scope of analysis, it is a model of what a final report should be, but seldom is."
—Michael D. Coe, Journal of Anthropological Research