Ritual emulation of ancient maya elite mortuary traditions during the classic period (AD 250-900) at Cahal Pech, Belize

Anna C. Novotny, Jaime J. Awe, Catharina E. Santasilia, Kelly Knudson

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3 Scopus citations


In this study, we employ multiple lines of evidence to elucidate the use of mortuary ritual by the ruling elite at the ancient Maya site of Cahal Pech, Belize, during the Early Classic and early Late Classic periods (AD 250-630). The interments of multiple individuals in Burial 7 of Structure B1, the central structure of an Eastern Triadic Assemblage or E-group style architectural complex, were in a manner not consistent with the greater Belize River Valley, the only multiple individual human burial yet encountered at Cahal Pech. The sequential interments contained a suggestive quantity of high-quality artifacts, further setting them apart from their contemporaries. Among these artifacts were a set of bone rings and a hairpin inscribed with hieroglyphs, some of the few inscriptions ever found at Cahal Pech. We analyzed regional mortuary patterns, radiogenic strontium values, and radiocarbon data to test hypotheses about who these individuals were in life, why they were treated differently in death, and to reconstruct the sequence of events of this complex mortuary deposit. We contend that the mortuary practices in Burial 7 indicate an attempt by the Cahal Pech elite to identify with cities or regions outside the Belize River Valley area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-659
Number of pages19
JournalLatin American Antiquity
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2018


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology

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