Formative Mass Burials in the New River Valley, Belize



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The Formative period in Maya archaeology is one that has not been studied and researched as much as the Classic period. It was previously believed the Northern Maya Lowlands were only lightly inhabited during the Formative period, but through archaeological excavations it was discovered there was a widespread presence during this period. Although the politics of the Early and Middle Formative are not too clear at the moment, evidence of politics can be found in the Late Formative. It was theorized by Patricia McAnany that a site hierarchy in the New River Valley existed with the highest position having been occupied by Lamanai followed by Cerros, Nohmul, Cuello, and ending with K’axob. Through studying the mortuary treatment of the mass burials of Cuello and K’axob, this study aims to analyze the site hierarchy in the New River Valley of Belize. It was found that the mortuary treatment supported the existence of a hierarchy between Cuello and K’axob. Cuello was of a higher position in the hierarchy than the smaller village of K’axob. This was supported by the mass burials of Cuello having more grave offerings that were obtained through long-distance trading. Cuello’s mass burials also contained more individuals than those of K’axob. The mass burials of K’axob contained 7 individuals in mass burial 1-1 and 10 individuals in mass burial 1-2, compared to Cuello mass burial 1 had 32 individuals and mass burial 2 had 15 individuals. There was more evidence of trauma found on the skeletal remains of the individuals found in the mass burials of Cuello.



bioarchaeology, mass burials, cuello, k'axob, formative period, maya, archaeology, hierarchy