As portals to the supernatural realm that creates and animates the universe, caves have always been held sacred by the peoples of Mesoamerica. From ancient times to the present, Mesoamericans have made pilgrimages to caves for ceremonies ranging from rituals of passage to petitions for rain and a plentiful harvest. So important were caves to the pre-Hispanic peoples that they are mentioned in Maya hieroglyphic writing and portrayed in the Central Mexican and Oaxacan pictorial codices. Many ancient settlements were located in proximity to caves.
This volume gathers papers from twenty prominent Mesoamerican archaeologists, linguists, and ethnographers to present a state-of-the-art survey of ritual cave use in Mesoamerica from Pre-Columbian times to the present. Organized geographically, the book examines cave use in Central Mexico, Oaxaca, and the Maya region. Some reports present detailed site studies, while others offer new theoretical understandings of cave rituals. As a whole, the collection validates cave study as the cutting edge of scientific investigation of indigenous ritual and belief. It confirms that the indigenous religious system of Mesoamerica was and still is much more terrestrially focused that has been generally appreciated.
James E. Brady is Associate Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Los Angeles. Keith M. Prufer is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas.
This volume represents a unique contribution to the published data on ritual cave use in Mesoamerica. . . . No other volume includes such a range of sites, materials, or methodological approaches.
— Charles Golden, University of Pennsylvania Museum, coeditor of Continuities and Changes in Maya Archaeology: Perspectives at the Millennium
This volume on Mesoamerican ritual cave use is a significant achievement on the editors' part and a major contribution to cave research. It is also a landmark in research on religion, ritual, and worldview in Maya studies as a whole.
— Journal of Latin American Studies
1. Introduction: A History of Mesoamerican Cave Interpretation (James E. Brady and Keith M. Prufer)
Part 1: Central Mexico
2. Rites of Passage and Other Ceremonies in Caves (Doris Heyden)
3. The Cave-Pyramid Complex among the Contemporary Nahua of Northern Veracruz (Alan R. Sandstrom, illustrated by Michael A. Sandstrom)
4. Constructing Mythic Space: The Significance of a Chicomoztoc Complex at Acatzingo Viejo (Manuel Aguilar, Miguel Medina Jaen, Tim M. Tucker, and James E. Brady)
Part 2: Oaxaca
5. Pre-Hispanic Rain Ceremonies in Blade Cave, Sierra Mazateca, Oaxaca, Mexico (Janet Fitzsimmons )
6. Sacred Caves and Rituals from the Northern Mixteca of Oaxaca, Mexico: New Revelations (Carlos Rincón Mautner)
Part 3: The Maya Region
7. Some Notes on Ritual Caves among the Ancient and Modern Maya (Evon Z. Vogt and David Stuart)
8. Shamans, Caves, and the Roles of Ritual Specialists in Maya Society (Keith M. Prufer)
9. Cave Stelae and Megalithic Monuments in Western Belize (Jaime J. Awe, Cameron Griffith, and Sherry Gibbs)
10. A Cognitive Approach to Artifact Distribution in Caves of the Maya Area (Andrea Stone)
11. Cluster Concentrations, Boundary Markers, and Ritual Pathways: A GIS Analysis of Artifact Cluster Patterns at Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize (Holley Moyes)
12. Ethnographic Notes on Maya Q'eqchi' Cave Rites: Implications for Archaeological Interpretation (Abigail E. Adams and James E. Brady)
13. A Lacandon Religious Ritual in the Cave of the God Tsibaná at the Holy Lake of Mensabok in the Rainforest of Chiapas (Jaroslaw Theodore Petryshyn, translated and edited by Pierre Robert Colas)
14. Beneath the Yalahau: Emerging Patterns of Ancient Maya Ritual Cave Use from Northern Quintana Roo, Mexico (Dominique Rissolo)
15. Caves, Karst, and Settlement at Mayapán, Yucatán (Clifford T. Brown)
16. Concluding Comments (Keith M. Prufer and James E. Brady)
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