Patterns of Jade Consumption and Disposal at Cerros, Northern Belize

  • Garber J
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Jade artifacts have been recovered from a wide variety of contexts throughout the Maya Lowlands. Intact artifacts are usually recovered from tombs, burials, and dedicatory offerings. For the most part, the intact jade artifacts from Cerros. a Late Preclassic Maya center in northern Belize, fall within this range. However, the majority of Cerros jades are broken and were recovered from contexts that deviate from the normal Late Preclassic Maya pattern of jade consumption and disposal. In three locations at Cerros, quantities of jade were broken and scattered about. Such activity occurred during the abandonment of masonry and perishable struc-tures and is interpreted here as being a form of termination ritual. The importance of jade in Mesoamerica as a material symbol of wealth, power, and prestige is noted by several investigators (Coe 1965; Digby 1964; Easby 1961; Proskouriakoff 1974; Ruz Lhuillier 1952; Thompson 1966; Tozzer 1941). Jades are recovered from several contexts in the Maya area including caches, burials, tombs, and sacrificial offerings. Beads, plaques, pendants, ear flares, inlays, and mosaics are the most common artifact forms (Rands 1965). Caches, tombs, and dedicatory offerings that usually contain intact jade objects sometimes con-tain raw or partially worked jade, as was the case at Kaminaljuyfu (Kidder et al. 1946) and Seibal (Willey 1978) where jadite boulders and pebbles were cached in structures, presumably as dedicatory offerings. The unbroken condition of jades from these contexts contrasts sharply with that of broken jade artifacts recovered from the Late Preclassic center of Cerros in northern Belize (Figure 1). During the course of excavations at Cerros from 1974 to 1981 (Freidel 1979), 236 jade artifacts were recovered from a variety of contexts; 221 are of Late Preclassic or Pro-toclassic date. These deposits containing broken jade artifacts are interpreted here as being the result of termination rituals that usually consist of the removal of plaster facades, the burning of ceremonial fires, the scattering about of white marl, and the smashing of jade and ceramic ar-tifacts. THE DATA FROM CERROS

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  • James F Garber

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