Ancient Maya Sacred Geography: the watery underworld of Cara Blanca, Belize

Start: Feb 04, 2014 06:00 PM

Location: Room 209, Institute of Archaeology

Cara Blanca, Belize

Lisa J. Lucero (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) will give a seminar sponsored by the World Archaeology Section at the Institute on 4 February.


The ancient Maya landscape was imbued with sacred, animate qualities, which the Maya either left untouched or transformed using prescribed concepts. Of particular significance were openings in the earth, such as caves and pools, which the Maya considered portals to the underworld or Xibalba and in which they left countless offerings to petition gods and ancestors to bring forth rain and bountiful crops. Cara Blanca is a place in central Belize where there are 25 pools which served as watery portals.

The isolation of the pools from settled communities and the relatively sparse but unique architecture around them, such as temples and sweatbaths, suggest that Cara Blanca served as a pilgrimage destination.  Growing evidence from exploratory dives and excavations at a temple at the edge of a pool indicate that the Maya increased their visits to Cara Blanca in response to a series of prolonged droughts that struck the Maya area between c. 800 and 930 C.E.  In addition to yielding information on ancient Maya pilgrimage, water ceremonies and sacred geography, pools also yield information about rainfall patterns and landscape transformation.

The seminar will be followed by a reception in the Staff Common Room (Room 609).

All welcome!

Any enquiries about the event may be directed to Elizabeth Graham.