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Ritual responses to drought: An examination of ritual expressions in Classic Maya written sources

Jobbová, E; Helmke, C; Bevan, A; (2018) Ritual responses to drought: An examination of ritual expressions in Classic Maya written sources. Human Ecology , 46 (5) pp. 759-781. 10.1007/s10745-018-0019-6. Green open access

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Abstract

Planting and rain-beckoning rituals are an extremely common way in which past and present human communities have confronted the risk of drought across a range of environments worldwide. In tropical environments, such ceremonies are particularly salient despite widespread assumptions that water supplies are unproblematic in such regions. We demonstrate for the first time that two common but previously under-appreciated Maya rituals are likely planting and rain-beckoning rituals preferentially performed at certain times of the year in close step with the rainy season and the Maya agricultural cycle. We also argue for considerable historical continuity between these Classic Maya ceremonies and later Maya community rituals still performed in times of uncertain weather conditions up to the present day across Guatemala, Belize, and eastern Mexico. During the Terminal Classic period (AD 800-900), the changing role played by ancient Maya drought-related rituals fits into a wider rhetorical shift observed in Maya texts away from the more characteristic focus on royal births, enthronements, marriages, and wars towards greater emphasis on the correct perpetuation of key ceremonies, and we argue that such changes are consistent with palaeoclimatic evidence for a period of diminished precipitation and recurrent drought.

Type: Article
Title: Ritual responses to drought: An examination of ritual expressions in Classic Maya written sources
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s10745-018-0019-6
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-018-0019-6
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Epigraphy, Agriculture, Precipitation, Ritual, Maya, Belize, Guatemala, Eastern Mexico
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10064213
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