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Burials, tombs, and offerings – Lamanai, Belize

Items such as ceremonial flints, ceramic vessels, or figurines were important to the ancient Maya, so much so that they are often placed in caches and offerings to appease various gods, deities, and rulers.  It is often the case that caches and offerings are placed along the primary or transverse axis of a structure.  The primary access (see image below) is defined as "a line through the center of a structure from front to rear, generally perpendicular to the exterior wall face of the building and bisecting the central front doorway" (S. Loten and D. Pendergast).  These lines although not defined by the Maya certainly were perceived and seen as very important, sometimes referred to as the life line of a building, in a way giving the building a life and identity, and we certainly know how important structures and buildings were to the Maya.

This primary access often served as the guiding principal in the placement of tombs and burials.  Once social stratification was evident during Classic period we see elaborate burials and tombs placed along the primary axis.  Individuals placed in these tombs typically are members of the elite ruling class but sometimes include skilled craft persons and high priests. 

 
Late Classic (AD 500) tomb, Structure N9-56 (Mask Temple)

One of only a few tombs recovered thus far at Lamanai, discovered by trenching the structure along the primary axis – considered a vaulted eccentric elite burial by D. Pendergast – the individual was found to be in a cocoon chamber with a wooden frame plastered with coarse textiles soaked in lime – the human remains had been encased with a red pigment (most likely cinnabar based) and then covered in clay to help slow decomposition – the pelvis of the individual was placed within a large Classic period plate decorated with a hummingbird

 

         

Ceremonial flint & Lexicon Illustration, Lamanai – Belize

Above illustration is from S. Loten and D. Pendergast's, A Lexicon of Maya Architecture – depicted is the primary and transverse axes – the ceremonial flint (LA1426) from Structure N10-7, recovered along the transverse axis – it is an anthropomorphic chert figure that was most likely placed in an architectural dedicatory cache 

Cache, Structure N10-43 (High Temple) – Lamanai, Belize

Dedicatory building cache recovered by D. Pendergast – Classic period Blackware vessel, an image of Structure N10-43 seen below

    

Caches from the first Spanish Church at Lamanai, Belize

Maya residing at Lamanai still carried out traditional caching practices despite Spanish influence – these figurines were placed in dedicatory construction offerings in the late 1500's  

 

 

Stemmed unifacial blade points from Ottawa, the residential & elite administrative complex – Lamanai, Belize

LA1337 and LA1336 are lot numbers assigned to material that was cached underneath the prominent plinths on Structure N10-28 – although not as glamorous as other caches found at Lamanai it is still a significant find – D. Pendergast (foreground) is standing in the core of the lower terrace and the plinth (large square slab serving as a base) is the massive limestone directly to his right (one of our famous patented zinc field trays is resting on it) – the plinth was removed to investigate beneath it – significant areas like this as well as central stairs, benches, and other such architectural elements often can be clues to where the Maya may have placed important offerings


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