Ritualizing a Nonroyal Building Termination at the Classic Maya Capital of Tamarindito, Guatemala Academic Article uri icon


  • Classic Maya “killed” objects. They broke and dispersed ceramic vessels. After adding exotic artifacts, they burned everything, buried the deposit with marl, and tore down associated rooms or buildings. This complex set of interrelated activities has been classified as a termination ritual. Instead of accepting this as a natural category, we study how the Classic Maya strategically differentiated some practices from others. Our case study are the deposits in Structure 5PS-12, an eighth-century AD building at the outskirts of the royal capital of Tamarindito, Guatemala. Destroyed wall foundations and evenly distributed wall fall indicate that Structure 5PS-12 was dismantled. Complete tools and exotic artifacts are found within the wall fall and on the floor. Refitted ceramic sherds show that partial vessels were broken apart and scattered across the building. The combination and sequence of these practices reveal a deliberate strategy to distinguish some practices from others. Its practitioners may have witnessed a fire ceremony conducted by the divine rulers of Tamarindito in AD 762. Structure 5PS-12 attests to shared and possibly copied ritual procedures, whereas unique practices establish a local way of abandonment. The process of differentiation allows people to display but also question shared cultural frameworks. The Maya ritualized practices in a social discourse about appropriate norms and behaviors.

publication date

  • 2019