Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-lfgmx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-24T08:59:08.372Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

THE MIDDLE PRECLASSIC FIGURINES FROM CAHAL PECH, BELIZE VALLEY

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 July 2018

Nancy Peniche May*
Affiliation:
Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Calle 50 entre 57 y 59, Centro, C.P. 97000, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico
Lisa DeLance
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of La Verne, 1950 Third Street, La Verne, California 91750
Jaime J. Awe
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Northern Arizona University, 5 East McConnel Drive, P.O. Box 15200, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011
*
E-mail correspondence to: npenichemay@gmail.com

Abstract

Ceramic figurines are ubiquitous throughout the archaeological record of Mesoamerica. These small, handheld objects continue to fascinate archaeologists, and their role in the daily lives of the people who created and used them remains a point of debate in some academic circles. The figurines have been interpreted variously as children's toys, fertility fetish tools, and ritual objects. At the site of Cahal Pech, located in the Belize Valley of west-central Belize, a large assemblage of figurines has been recovered from construction fill dating to the Cunil (1200–900 b.c.) and Kanluk ceramic phases (900–350 b.c.) of the Preclassic period. In this article, we analyzed the temporal and spatial distribution of these objects in the settlement and conclude that these objects were used in a variety of ritual events. Although they mainly served as venues for invoking ancestors in domestic rituals, their discovery in public spaces suggests diverse social uses. Most importantly, their limited presence in residential and public spaces outside the Plaza B section of the site core during the late facet of the Kanluk phase may indicate that certain rituals were not performed by the entire community.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

REFERENCES

Awe, Jaime J. 1992 Dawn in the Land between the Rivers: Formative Occupation at Cahal Pech, Belize and Its Implications for Preclassic Occupation in the Central Maya Lowlands. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Institute of Archaeology, University of London, London.Google Scholar
Awe, Jaime J. 1994 Ritual, Religion, and Cultural Complexity in the Middle Formative Belize River Valley. Paper presented at the 12th Maya Weekend, University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
Awe, Jaime J. 2013 Journey on the Cahal Pech Time Machine: An Archaeological Reconstruction of the Dynastic Sequence at a Belize Valley Maya Polity. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 10:3350.Google Scholar
Blomster, Jeffrey P. 2017 Mesoamerica – Highland Formative (Early to Middle Formative) Figurines. In The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Figurines, edited by Insoll, Timothy, pp. 273297. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
Cheetham, David 1995 Excavations of Structure B-4, Cahal Pech, Belize: 1994 Operations. In Belize Valley Preclassic Maya Project: Report on the 1994 Field Season, edited by Healy, Paul F. and Awe, Jaime J., pp. 1844. Occasional Papers in Anthropology, No. 10. Trent University Press, Peterborough.Google Scholar
Cheetham, David 1996 Reconstruction of the Formative Period Site Core of Cahal Pech, Belize. In Belize Valley Preclassic Maya Project: Report on the 1995 Field Season, edited by Healy, Paul F. and Awe, Jaime J., pp. 133. Occasional Papers in Anthropology, No. 12. Trent University Press, Peterborough.Google Scholar
Cheetham, David 1998 Interregional Interaction, Symbol Emulation, and the Emergence of Socio-Political Inequality in the Central Maya Lowlands. Unpublished Master's thesis, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.Google Scholar
Clark, John E. and Colman, Arlene 2014 Olmec Things and Identity: A Reassessment of Offerings and Burials at La Venta, Tabasco. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 23:1437.Google Scholar
Coe, Michael D., and Diehl, Richard A. 1980 In the Land of the Olmec: The Archaeology of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
Cyphers Guillén, Ann 1993 Women, Rituals, and Social Dynamics at Ancient Chalcatzingo. Latin American Antiquity 4: 209224.Google Scholar
DeLance, Lisa L. 2016 Enchanting Kinship: Figurines and State Formation at Cahal Pech, Cayo, Belize. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside.Google Scholar
Derilo Tway, María B. 2004 Gender, Context and Figurine Use: Ceramic Images from the Formative Period San Andres Site, Tabasco, Mexico. Unpublished Master's thesis, Department of Anthropology, Florida State University, Tallahassee.Google Scholar
Drucker, Philip 1943 Ceramic Stratigraphy at Cerro de las Mesas, Veracruz, Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin, No. 141. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
Ebert, Claire E., Culleton, Brendan J., Awe, Jaime, and J. Kennet, Douglas 2016 AMS 14C Dating of Preclassic to Classic Period Household Construction in the Ancient Maya Community of Cahal Pech, Belize. Radiocarbon 58:6987.Google Scholar
Ebert, Claire E., May, Nancy Peniche, Culleton, Brendan J., and Awe, Jaime J. 2017 Regional Responses to Drought during the Formation and Decline of Preclassic Maya Societies. Quartenary Science Reviews 173:211235.Google Scholar
Faust, Katherine A., and Halperin, Christina T. 2009 Approaching Mesoamerican Figurines. In Mesoamerican Figurines: Small-Scale Indices of Large-Scale Social Phenomena, edited by Halperin, Christina T., Faust, Katherine A., Taube, Rhonda, and Giguet, Aurore, pp. 122. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.Google Scholar
Flannery, Kent V., and Marcus, Joyce 1994 Early Formative Pottery of the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology Memoir 27. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
Follensbee, Billie J.A. 2013 Unsexed Images, Gender-Neutral Costume, and Gender-Ambiguous Costume in Formative Period Gulf Coast Cultures. In Wearing Culture: Dress and Regalia in Early Mesoamerica and Central America, edited by Orr, Heather and Looper, Matthew G., pp. 207252. University of Press Colorado, Boulder.Google Scholar
Garber, James F., and Awe, Jaime J. 2008 Middle Formative Architecture and Ritual at Cahal Pech. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 5:185190.Google Scholar
Gifford-Gonzalez, Diane 2007 On Beasts in Breasts: Another Reading of Women, Wildness, and Danger at Çatalhöyük. Archaeological Dialogues 14:91111.Google Scholar
Grove, David C., and Gillespie, Susan D. 1984 Chalcatzingo's Portrait Figurines and the Cult of the Ruler. Archaeology 37:2733.Google Scholar
Grove, David C., and Gillespie, Susan D. 1992 Archaeological Indicators of Formative Period Elite: A Perspective from Central Mexico. In Mesoamerican Elites: An Assessment, edited by Chase, Diane and Chase, Arlen, pp. 191205. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.Google Scholar
Guernsey, Julia 2012 Sculpture and Social Dynamics in Preclassic Mesoamerica. Cambridge University Press, New York.Google Scholar
Halperin, Cristina 2014 Maya Figurines: Intersections between State and Household. University Press, Austin.Google Scholar
Halperin, Cristina 2017 Temporalities of Late Classic to Postclassic (ca. AD 600–1521) Maya Figurines from Central Petén, Guatemala. Latin American Antiquity 28:515540.Google Scholar
Hammond, Norman 1989 The Function of Maya Middle Preclassic Pottery Figurines. Mexicon 11:111114.Google Scholar
Hammond, Norman (editor) 1991 Cuello: An Early Maya Community in Belize. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
Healy, Paul F., Cheetham, David, Powis, Terry G., and Awe, Jaime J. 2004 Cahal Pech: The Middle Formative Period. In Ancient Maya of the Belize Valley: Half a Century of Archaeological Research, edited by Garber, James F., pp. 103124. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.Google Scholar
Hendon, Julia A. 2003 In the House: Maya Nobility and Their Figurine-Whistles. Expedition 45:2833.Google Scholar
Hepp, Guy D., and Joyce, Arthur A. 2013 From Flesh to Clay: Formative Period Iconography from Oaxaca's Lower Río Verde Valley. In Polity and Ecology in Formative Period Coastal Oaxaca, edited by Joyce, Arthur A., pp. 265299. University Press Colorado, Boulder.Google Scholar
Horn, Sherman III, Garber, James F., and Awe, Jaime J. 2017 And Now for Something Completely Different: Architectural Variability as a Signature of Dynamic Social Relations at Middle Preclassic Cahal Pech. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 14:7786.Google Scholar
Horn, Sherman W. III 2015 The Web of Complexity: Socioeconomic Networks in the Middle Preclassic Belize Valley. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Tulane University, New Orleans.Google Scholar
Iannone, Gyles 1995 One Last Time Among the Thorns: Results of the 1994 Field Season at Zubin, Cayo District, Belize. In Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project: Progress Report of the 1994 Field Season, Vol. 1, edited by Iannone, Gyles and Conlon, James M., pp. 11122. Institute of Archaeology, London.Google Scholar
Iannone, Gyles 1996 Problems in the Study of Ancient Maya Settlement and Social Organization: Insights from the “Minor Center” of Zubin, Cayo District, Belize. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Institute of Archaeology, University of London, London.Google Scholar
Joyce, Rosemary A. 2000 Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesoamerica. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
Lee, David F. H. 1996 Nohoch Na (The Big House): The 1995 Excavations of the Cas Pek Group, Cahal Pech, Belize. In Belize Valley Preclassic Maya Project: Report on the 1995 Field Season, edited by Healy, Paul F. and Awe, Jaime J., pp. 7797. Occasional Papers in Anthropology, No. 12. Trent University, Peterborough.Google Scholar
Lee, David F. H., and Awe, Jaime J. 1995 Middle Formative Architecture, Burials, and Craft Specialization: Report on the 1994 Investigations at the Cas Pek Group, Cahal Pech, Belize. In Belize Valley Preclassic Maya Project: Report on the 1994 Field Season, edited by Healy, Paul F. and Awe, Jaime J., pp. 95115. Occasional Papers in Anthropology, No. 10. Trent University, Peterborough.Google Scholar
Lesure, Richard G. 1997 Figurines and Social Identities in Early Sedentary Societies of Coastal Chiapas, Mexico, 1550–800 B.C. In Women in Prehistory: North America and Mesoamerica, edited by Claassen, Cheryl and Joyce, Rosemary A., pp. 227248. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
Lesure, Richard G. 1999 Figurines as Representations and Products at Paso de la Amada, Mexico. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 9:209220.Google Scholar
Lesure, Richard G. 2002 The Goddess Diffracted: Thinking about the Figurines of Early Villages. Current Anthropology 43:587610.Google Scholar
Lomitola, Lisa M. 2012 Ritual Use of the Human Form: A Contextual Analysis of the “Charlie Chaplin” Figurines of the Maya Lowlands. Unpublished Master's thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Central Florida, Orlando.Google Scholar
McAnany, Patricia 1995 Living with the Ancestors: Kinship and Kingship in Ancient Maya Society. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
Marcus, Joyce 1996 The Importance of Context in Interpreting Figurines. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 6:285291.Google Scholar
Marcus, Joyce 1998 Women's Ritual in Formative Oaxaca: Figurine Making, Divination, Death and the Ancestors. Prehistory and Human Ecology of the Valley of Oaxaca, Vol. 11. University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology Memoir 33. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
Marcus, Joyce 2009 Rethinking Figurines. In Mesoamerican Figurines: Small-Scale Indices of Large-Scale Social Phenomena, edited by Halperin, Christina T., Faust, Katherine A., Taube, Rhonda, and Giguet, Aurore, pp. 2550. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.Google Scholar
Moholy-Nagy, Hattula 2003 The Artifacts of Tikal: Utilitarian Artifacts and Unworked Material. Part B. Tikal Report No. 27-B. University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
Niederberger, C. 1976 Zohapilco: Cinco milenios de ocupación humana en un sitio lacustre de la Cuenca de México. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.Google Scholar
Peniche May, Nancy 2012 Report of the 2011 Excavations at Structure B-2 at Cahal Pech, Belize. In The Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project: A Report of the 2011 Field Season, edited by Hoggarth, Julie A., Guerra, Rafael A., and Awe, Jaime J., pp. 9096. Belize Institute of Archaeology, National Institute of Culture and History, Belmopan.Google Scholar
Peniche May, Nancy 2013 Excavations in Plaza B, Cahal Pech. In The Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project: A Report of the 2013 Field Season, edited by Hoggarth, Julie A., Ishara-Brito, Reiko, and Awe, Jaime J., pp. 128167. Belize Institute of Archaeology, National Institute of Culture and History, Belmopan.Google Scholar
Peniche May, Nancy 2014 Excavations in Plaza B, Cahal Pech: 2013 Field Season. In The Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project: A Report of the 2013 Field Season, edited by Hoggarth, Julie A. and Awe, Jaime J., pp. 2441. Belize Institute of Archaeology, National Institute of Culture and History, Belmopan.Google Scholar
Peniche May, Nancy 2016 Building Power: Political Dynamics in Cahal Pech, Belize during the Middle Preclassic. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego.Google Scholar
Porter, Muriel N. 1953 Tlatilco and the Pre-Classic Cultures of the New World. Viking Fund Publication in Anthropology, No. 19. Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, New York.Google Scholar
Powis, Terry G. 1996 Excavations of Middle Formative Round Structures at the Tolok Group, Cahal Pech, Belize. Unpublished Master's thesis, Department of Anthropology, Trent University, Peterborough.Google Scholar
Powis, Terry G., and Hohmann, Bobbi M. 1995 From Private Household to Public Ceremony: Middle Formative Occupation at the Tolok Group, Cahal Pech, Belize. In Belize Valley Preclassic Maya Project: Report on the 1994 Field Season, edited by Healy, Paul F. and Awe, Jaime J., pp. 4594. Occasional Papers in Anthropology, No. 10. Trent University Press, Peterborough.Google Scholar
Rands, Robert L., and Rands, Barbara C. 1965 Pottery Figurines of the Maya Lowlands. In Archaeology of Southern Mesoamerica, edited by Willey, Gordon R., pp. 535560. Handbook of Middle American Indians, Vol. 2. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
Rice, Prudence M. 2015 Middle Preclassic Interregional Interaction and the Maya Lowlands. Journal of Archaeological Research 23: 147.Google Scholar
Ruscheinsky, Lynn M. 2003 The Social Reproduction of Gender Identity through the Production and Reception of Lowland Maya Figurines. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.Google Scholar
Stanton, Travis W., Brown, M. Kathryn, and Pagliaro, Jonathan B. 2008 Garbage of the Gods? Squatters, Refuse Disposal, and Termination Rituals among the Ancient Maya. Latin American Antiquity 19:227247.Google Scholar
Triadan, Daniela 2007 Warriors, Nobles, Commoners and Beasts: Figurines from Elite Buildings at Aguateca, Guatemala. Latin American Antiquity 18: 269293.Google Scholar
Triadan, Daniela 2014 Figurines. In Life and Politics at the Royal Court of Aguateca: Artifacts, Analytical Data, and Synthesis, edited by Inomata, Takeshi and Triadan, Daniela, pp. 938. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.Google Scholar
Vaillant, George C 1930 Excavations at Zacatenco. Anthropological Papers, Vol. 32. American Museum of Natural History, New York.Google Scholar
Walker, Debra S. 1998 Maya Dedications of Authority. In The Sowing and the Dawning: Termination, Dedication, and Transformation in the Archaeological and Ethnographic Record of Mesoamerica, edited by Mock, Shirley B., pp. 6580. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.Google Scholar
Weiant, Clarence W. 1943 An Introduction to the Ceramics of Tres Zapotes, Veracruz, Mexico. Smithsonian Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 157. United States Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
Willey, Gordon R., Bullard, William R. Jr., Glass, John B., and Gifford, James G. 1965 Prehistoric Maya Settlement in the Belize Valley. Papers of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, No. 54. Peabody Museum, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
Zweig, Christina L. 2010 The Formative Ceramic Figurine Collection from the Site of Cahal Pech, Cayo, Belize. Unpublished Master's thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.Google Scholar