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Maya Worldviews at Conquest

Maya Worldviews at Conquest

Leslie G. Cecil
Timothy W. Pugh
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Maya Worldviews at Conquest
    Book Description:

    Maya Worldviews at Conquest examines Maya culture and social life just prior to contact and the effect the subsequent Spanish conquest, as well as contact with other Mesoamerican cultures, had on the Maya worldview.   Focusing on the Postclassic and Colonial periods, Maya Worldviews at Conquest provides a regional investigation of archaeological and epigraphic evidence of Maya ideology, landscape, historical consciousness, ritual practices, and religious symbolism before and during the Spanish conquest. Through careful investigation, the volume focuses on the impact of conversion, hybridization, resistance, and revitalization on the Mayans' understanding of their world and their place in it.   The volume also addresses the issue of anthropologists unconsciously projecting their modern worldviews on the culture under investigation. Thus, the book critically defines and strengthens the use of worldviews in the scholarly literature regardless of the culture studied, making it of value not only to Maya scholars but also to those interested in the anthropologist's projection of worldview on other cultures in general.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-002-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology, Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Florine Asselbergs

    People see and interact with the world based on their knowledge, ideas, and beliefs—their worldview. A worldview translates the world into an understandable model that explains why things are as they are, what is true and what is false, what one should do or not do, and how things can be achieved. It also includes ideas and beliefs about the world’s origin and future and influences how one interacts and communicates with others and with one’s surroundings. Worldviews may be adapted when knowledge, ideas, and beliefs change, but generally they are deep-rooted in the human mind.

    In the 1520s,...

    (pp. xvii-xx)
    Timothy W. Pugh
  7. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    Leslie G. Cecil

    As a result of research into Postclassic and Colonial Maya cultures, the Maya area on the eve of Spanish contact/conquest can be described as a series of dynamic socio-political alliances and dominance relations, changing religious cults, long-distance exchange, and migrations throughout the area rather than a region of “decline, decadence, and depopulation” (A. Chase and D. Chase 1985:4). This holds true for the Maya of the Yucatán peninsula and Chiapas of México, Belize, and lowland and highland Guatemala. Many of these research programs have taken as their point of departure the various indigenous “prophetic histories” known as the Books of...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Close Encounters
    (pp. 17-38)
    Elizabeth Graham

    The contributions to this volume present a range of insights into Maya worldviews, from native engagement with history to time, cosmology, and creation. For the Late Postclassic and Colonial periods, varieties of expression are described from cave art to architecture and from ritual paths to dancing. My broad goal is articulated by Don Rice (1989:4), who reminds us that what is lacking in archaeological reconstructions of Maya society is the system of beliefs that mediated the decisions and activities that we propose took place on the basis of our interpretations of material culture. Most scholars would agree that our knowledge...

  9. CHAPTER THREE “In Recalling Things Past, I Strengthen My Heart”: Accommodating the Past in Early Colonial Yucatán
    (pp. 39-60)
    William M. Ringle

    Memory—the specifics of name, place, time, and deed—is critical to the establishment of self and community, and it is thus not surprising that each of these aspects was systematically subverted by Spanish colonial policy. Most infamous are the auto de fé’s, which attempted to root out the religious underpinnings of collective identity, and the policies of relocating and reducing native communities, but also important were the wholesale renaming of the populace and the landscape, the replacement of the native system of timekeeping with that of the Christian, and the substitution of new conventions of formal discourse for old....

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Time, History, and Worldview
    (pp. 61-82)
    Prudence M. Rice

    The concept of time—perhaps better, for present purposes, writ large as Time—is a complex abstraction related to Western scholarly notions such as history, worldview, cosmology, ideology, and spatiality, among other things. Michael Kearney (1984:94–106), in his treatise on worldview, identified time as one of its universal components. But such universality does not extend to content: concepts of time, and the cognitive systems of which they are a part, are socially constructed; perceptions and representations of time vary from society to society, Western and non-Western (see Gell 1996; Munn 1992). Conceptions of time may be linear or cyclical,...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Cosmology and Creation in Late Postclassic Maya Literature and Art
    (pp. 83-110)
    Gabrielle Vail

    The focus of this chapter is on creation stories recorded in Late Postclassic Maya painted media, including screenfold books (codices) and murals, believed to date from the mid-fourteenth to the early sixteenth centuries and to have been painted in the northern Maya area where Yucatec Maya was spoken (Vail 2006; Vail and Aveni 2004a). Maya stories of creation are focused not on one specific place but rather involve a complex movement between the earth, the underworld, and the celestial realm. What we know of this mythology comes from sources as distant geographically as Yucatán, the Guatemalan highlands, and the Petén...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Colonial Cave Art in the Northern Maya Lowlands: The Dark Side of the Maya Worldview after the Conquest
    (pp. 111-134)
    Andrea Stone

    Prior to the publication of my book, in 1995, Images from the Underworld, little was known about Maya cave art apart from Strecker’s work of the 1970s and 1980s in the Puuc area (see bibliography in Strecker and Künne 2003) and J. Eric S. Thompson’s (1975) reference to several cave art sites in Chiapas. What has emerged is a clearer picture of the Maya’s cave art legacy, which is among the richest in the world and can be traced back at least to the Late Preclassic period. In addition, we know that the preponderance of this cave art is prehispanic;...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN De Descriptio Idolorum: An Ethnohistorical Examination of the Production, Imagery, and Functions of Colonial Yucatec Maya Idols and Effigy Censers, 1540–1700
    (pp. 135-158)
    John F. Chuchiak IV

    On April 2, 1674, in the Maya town of Sital, an ecclesiastical judge, Don Joseph Montalvo y Vera summoned Maya prisoner Antonio Chable before him and through the interpreter Pedro Martin, he began to interrogate him concerning a ritual he had been caught conducting several days before.

    “Is it true that these instruments that you see here, these hanging pots, these clay idols and the food and drink offerings are yours?” sternly asked the ecclesiastical judge.

    “Yes, they are mine,” Chable replied honestly.

    “What are they for and why did you worship them?” the judge continued the interrogation.

    “They were...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Mesoamerican Communicating Objects: Mayan Worldviews Before, During, and After Spanish Contact
    (pp. 159-182)
    Miguel Astor-Aguilera

    Precolumbian Mesoamericans understood their world within much different worldviews than do Western Europeans and Euro-Americans. In this chapter, concentrating on politico-religious communicating objects, I suggest that although the Western scientific notion of separating the natural and supernatural worlds applies in our worldviews, such a dichotomy distorts Native American cosmologies. I further suggest that our continued application of the sacred and profane dichotomy has also hindered our progress in better understanding Precolumbian, colonial, and contemporary Mesoamerican cosmologies. I begin by briefly summarizing our Western theoretical separation of the natural and supernatural, followed by contextualizing Precolumbian to contemporary Mesoamerican worldviews, and conclude...

  15. CHAPTER NINE Clash of Worldviews in Late Mayapán
    (pp. 183-204)
    Susan Milbrath and Carlos Peraza Lope

    Mayapán played a dominant role in the lowland Maya area as both a political and religious center shortly following its foundation in the twelfth century.¹ Friar Diego de Landa recounts that the Cocom family was chosen to rule at Mayapán after the city was founded by Kukulcan, a culture hero associated with worship of the feathered serpent (Tozzer 1941:26). The Cocom were secular rulers apparently linked with the cult of Kukulcan (Milbrath and Peraza Lope 2003b:31–33). Among the twelve priests of Mayapán, the most powerful priests seem to be affiliated with the Xiu faction or lineage. Indeed, a Xiu...

  16. CHAPTER TEN Religious Resistance and Persistence on Cozumel Island
    (pp. 205-218)
    Shankari Patel

    From the first contact, Spanish explorers compared Maya pilgrimage to Cozumel as similar to what drew pilgrims to Jerusalem, Mecca, and Rome (Tozzer 1941). These ritual procession routes and their end points, oracular shrines, acted as conduits for trade, social and political interaction, and flow of pan-Mesoamerican beliefs and traditions. Within religious studies and geography, pilgrimage is understood as an innately religious process tied to the physical and ideological landscapes of its practitioners. Yet for anthropology and archaeology, pilgrimage continues to be explained in terms of functional models of trade, political domination, and cultural diffusion. Within ancient Maya society, iconographic...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN Changes in Maya Religious Worldview: Liminality and the Archaeological Record
    (pp. 219-238)
    Diane Z. Chase and Arlen F. Chase

    By focusing on Maya ritual symbolism found in the iconography and archaeology of the pre-contact New World, it is possible to isolate elements that significantly changed following the advent of the Spaniards. Among the aspects of Maya religion to be modified following contact were several key components of Maya worldviews—specifically, the symbolism and beliefs relating to life and death. Maya concepts of death were at odds with those stressed by the Catholic Church in the New World, and these indigenous belief systems were affected almost immediately upon contact—so much so that standard ethnohistoric references appear to reflect changes...

  18. CHAPTER TWELVE Kowoj Worldview: A View from Tipu
    (pp. 239-260)
    Leslie G. Cecil

    Tipu is the easternmost Postclassic archaeological site associated with the central Petén lakes region and was occupied from the Preclassic to the Historic period (Figure 12.1). Ethnohistorical and archaeological data suggest that Tipu is located within Kowoj territory; however, individuals at Tipu may also have had ties to the Itza socio-political group and/or the Dzuluinicob region in Belize (a province in Belize that ran from the Northern River Lagoon to the Macal River including the towns of Lamanai and Tipu) throughout the Postclassic period (Jones 1989, 1998). Many Spanish documents produced from the period of conquest and conversion concerning Tipu...

  19. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Agency and Worldviews of the Unconquered Lacandon Maya
    (pp. 261-278)
    Joel W. Palka

    Explorers trekking through the rainforests of the southern Maya lowlands during the Colonial and Republican periods encountered large numbers of Maya who they described as unconquered, non-Christian people. Many of these Maya were Lacandon,¹ who lived in scattered settlements throughout lowland eastern Chiapas, México, and adjacent Petén, Guatemala (Figure 13.1). They were Yukatek-speaking Lacandon and not the Ch’olti-Lacandon from the time of the initial conquest of the lowlands in the sixteenth century. The explorers’ accounts of the lifeways of these free Maya closely match the ethnographic descriptions of the Lacandon from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The ancestors of...

  20. CHAPTER FOURTEEN Music Syncretism in the Postclassic K’iche’ Warrior Dance and the Colonial Period Baile de los Moros y Cristianos
    (pp. 279-298)
    Mark Howell

    Having knowledge of a Precolumbian Maya cultural aesthetic of music would be valuable in revealing socially agreed-upon favored sounds and in helping fill in the blanks of a pre-conquest Maya gestalt. But as with the musics of most vanished cultures (the Harappan and Natchez come to mind), the music of the prehispanic Maya has proved elusive to modern ears. Luckily, the syncretism of Maya and Spanish music elements in a place apparently conducive to their joining, the Guatemalan highlands, has presented us a unique opportunity to discern vanished musics of the Precolumbian highland Maya through the abstraction of its hybridization...

  21. CHAPTER FIFTEEN Footpath of the Dawn, Footpath of the Sun: Maya Worldviews at Lake Atitlán
    (pp. 299-316)
    Robert S. Carlsen

    Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán is a place of extraordinary beauty. The “umbilicus of the world,” as it is traditionally called by local Maya inhabitants, was praised by Aldous Huxley (1934:128) as being like Italy’s Lake Como with the “additional embellishment of several immense volcanoes” and by the noted nineteenth-century traveler and writer John Lloyd Stephens (1969 [1854]:158) as being “the most magnificent spectacle we ever saw.” When the Maya epic Popol Vuj refers to it as the “Heart of Lakes,” Lake Atitlán is even elevated to a deified status (Edmonson 1971:4). This status must in some way explain the numerous pottery...

  22. CHAPTER SIXTEEN Maya Sacred Landscapes at Contact
    (pp. 317-334)
    Timothy W. Pugh

    The Maya derived some of their most powerful and sacred symbols from the natural world. Plants, animals, and topographic features, such as caves, mountains, and water sources, found prominent roles in the sacred landscape. Many aspects of the built environment signified natural elements—for example, temple platforms represented hills and mountains. Furthermore, the Maya directed many rituals toward deities and ancestors who controlled elements of the natural landscape such as animal abundance, disease, land fertility, and rain. The world occupied by humans was not strongly distinguished from the realms of deities, as access points to these places were scattered across...

    (pp. 335-406)
  24. List of Contributors
    (pp. 407-412)
  25. INDEX
    (pp. 413-426)