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Classification and analysis of ancient Maya burials and burial customs

Welsh, W B M; (1987) Classification and analysis of ancient Maya burials and burial customs. Doctoral thesis , University of London. Green open access

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The burials and burial customs were analysed in order to learn more about some social and religious aspects of the Classic lowland Maya. The Maya did not seem to have buried their dead in cemeteries. Instead, burials were made beneath, or adjacent to, their homes. However, buildings that were usually located on the eastern perimeter of residential plazas were built with the sole intention of housing burials. These are called household shrines, and were constructed to accommodate interments of the more eminent inhabitants of these plazas. Residents of the most eminent wealth and status had their burial reserved for temples. The burials of 9 known, and several suspected, Maya kings have been found in temples. In almost every instance of a temple and household shrine burial, some sort of construction, ranging in size from an altar or stair block to an entire temple, was erected as a memorial. Rituals were then conducted on these memorials to commemorate the person buried below. This is apparently a form of ancestor worship or veneration. There are so many buildings and constructions in ceremonial centres associated with interments that, for the Maya at least, monumental architecture was related to the veneration of ancestors. Evidence also exists for the practice of human sacrifice. Not just one, but four different forms of sacrifice were found. All four may have been related to, and involved with, ancestor veneration. This evidence confirms recent interpretations about sacrifice that were based on ancient art and iconography. In total, some 20 different burial customs are identified as being Pan Maya. Identification of regional customs was more difficult, and though a few may exist, they are best considered unusually high or low instances of Pan Maya practices.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Classification and analysis of ancient Maya burials and burial customs
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by EThOS.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1546147
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