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Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Ancient Maya Underworld

Exploring the rise and fall of Maya centres in central Belize from the cave context

Shawn Gregory Morton
Publication Year:
205 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 2 tables, 103 figures (20 in colour). With additional information online (Appendices)
Sub-series name:
Archaeology of the Maya, 2
BAR number:


As integrated and varied ritual contexts, how do changing patterns of pre-Columbian cave use inform the complex of historical, social, political, economic and related ideological processes in action during the inception, florescence, and collapse of Tipan Chen Uitz and other ancient Maya centres in Central Belize? This book aims to highlight and, within a specific regional context, to address, the tendency of the speleoarchaeology of the Maya area to isolate itself from broader topics of discourse. To this end, it explicitly contextualizes primary research in several caves along a chain of related concepts and datasets, extending from the broad body of literature on ritual and religion, through discussion of the conceptual cave context drawn from epigraphic and iconographic sources, and its invocation as recorded in contemporary (or, at least, relatively recent) ethnographic contexts and earlier post-Columbian indigenous historic sources, to the well-travelled paths of the archaeological study of caves.

Shawn G. Morton is a Lecturer in Anthropology at Northern Arizona University. Much of his work has focused on aspects of public performance and ritual within the ancient cityscape and broader landscape of the Maya region, including extensive work in the deep cave contexts of Belize.

‘This book is nicely printed and securely bound on semi-gloss paper. The text is scholarly, clear, and shows great care in preparation, with many detailed maps and diagrams. It is well illustrated with monochrome and color photos… It is highly recommended for anyone interested in the Mayan culture and the field of archeology in general.’ Margaret V. Palmer and Arthur N. Palmer, Journal of Cave and Karst Studies (National Speleological Society), 2019

‘I like the synergy between epigraphy, iconography, archaeology, and ethnography in this work. … The maps, figures, and tables are beautifully done and the bibliography is beyond exhaustive (in a good way).’ Prof. James Fitzsimmons, Middlebury College, Vermont

‘This is a highly original work. … It is exciting to see cave archaeology move past simple stratigraphy and into extremely thoughtful and useful research. … Dr Morton’s contribution will be well cited and recognised as a significant contribution to the field.’ Prof. Thomas Guderjan, University of Texas at Tyler

Table of Contents (S2910_9781407316666_ToC.pdf, 200 Kb) [Download]

Introduction (S2910_9781407316666_Introduction.pdf, 461 Kb) [Download]