"Things that were used in life had to be de-animated, terminated, before they entered the next stage of their life history," Lucero said. Pieces were likely given away or placed in other sacred sites, such as caves, she said.
The rimless vessels were intriguing, Lucero said. Other studies have found broken, but nearly complete vessels at temple sites, with the missing pieces located in nearby homes.
"Breaking off the rims is a lot of work," Lucero said. "Removing the rims may have been a way of de-animating them as well as giving a piece to somebody else." Perhaps the Maya revered the fragments of vessels or the bones of their ancestors in the same way that people today hold onto to, and cherish, religious relics, she said.
The new analysis supports her hypothesis that many of the elaborate rituals performed by Maya rulers and elites had a basis in the domestic rituals of their subjects. She argued in her 2006 book, "Water and Ritual: The Rise and Fall of Classic Maya Rulers," that the rulers reinforced community cohesion (as well as their own status) by adopting traditional domestic rituals and performing them on a grand scale.
"Nearly everything royal emerged or developed or evolved from domestic practices," she said. "So it makes sense to turn that around and use what we know about the rulers to interpret what we find in the commoners' homes."
Lucero has spent more than 20 years studying settlements and sacred sites that were important to the Maya in Belize, and works under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology, which is part of the National Institute of Culture and History, Government of Belize.
|Contact: Diana Yates|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign