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4083 - Sowing the Stone: Sacred Geography and Ritual Economy among the Highland Maya of Guatemala (Postclassic to Modern Times)

The functions of Classic Maya stelae as political monuments and possibly containers for the “spiritual essence” of rulers are well known. In contrast, it has hardly been recognized, that a similar ceremonial use of stones survived among the Highland Maya throughout the Postclassic and Colonial period into modern times. According to colonial sources the “souls” of deceased rulers were conserved in portable stones and guarded by high-ranking officials. Royal burial ceremonies included the erection of stone images representing the departed rulers as part of a sacred geography. Even among the modern Maya there is ritual featuring the “sowing” of a stone in a natural location which becomes linked to the life-force of a person. In a similar way stone features continue to play a role in ceremonies which serve for the demarcation of territories between competing communities.

Keywords: Stela, Burial, cultural continuity, Maya

Author: Frühsorge, Lars (University of Hamburg, Germany / Deutschland)

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