An Interdisciplinary Approach to Exploring the Human Experience and Conceptualization of Caves

Holley Moyes
Humanities and Arts
UC Merced

Drawing on 16 years of archaeological research, this project will be the first synthetic study of ancient Maya cave use and will be a significant contribution to studies of ritual and power in prehistory. These caves were used exclusively as ritual venues during the Classic Period and provide a window into the ritual life and ideology of the Maya people. As powerful ritual venues, they were also highly politicized spaces for elites, functioning to legitimize their right to rule. Employing practice theory coupled with a behavioral archaeological approach to analyze research findings, the project focuses on cave architecture and the establishment of performance space to understand the use of these spaces over time and to explore how ritual was used to establish and maintain political hierarchies.