During the Terminal Classic period (9th-10th centuries A.D.), the ancient Maya at Lamanai, Belize, began to practice pre-inhumation breakage of ceramics in mortuary contexts. Previously, the custom had been to bury whole vessels with the deceased. This conspicuous shift in behavior suggests important changes in beliefs regarding the role of ceramics in death and interment at a pivotal moment in ancient Maya culture history. Despite this significant change, there has been no published research conducted specifically on these vessels. In fact, there has been no clearly delineated set of characteristics for what qualifies as a pre-inhumation breakage vessel (PBV). This study offers a working definition for PBVs and converts the original Lamanai grave descriptions of those that contain PBVs to a classification system for ease of future comparative analyses. Finally, the sex and age of individuals buried with PBVs are considered. The result is a conjunctive analysis that provides data not only on PBV forms and quantities, grave types, and the sex and age of those interred with PBVs, but also several statistically significant correlations among these variables. I argue that the conjoined data suggest that one of the primary purposes for the pre-inhumation breakage of ceramics in mortuary contexts was a strategic one, a method selected by Lamanai leadership, and enacted community-wide, as a way to protect the community from potentially harmful energies and to maintain communal confidence at a time of great uncertainty in the southern Maya lowlands.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Enger, Ryan, "Analyzing Pre-Inhumation Breakage Ceramics at Lamanai, Belize: A Conjunctive Approach" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6699.