Saturday, December 08, 2007
Marble vases from the Ulua valley of Honduras are some of the most amazing objects from prehispanic Maya society. Laboriously carved by hand from the hard stone, they have been typically studied as looted art objects. But the discovery of one of these vases in the potential context of an ancestor rite in Honduras suggests that they may have contained a nasty concoction consumed as part of a religious ceremony. The soil around the vessel contained remains of corn, cacao, and a purgative. Once we start talking about shamans and trances, things get a little loose, but this does suggest that at least one of the marbles was not a simple gift or prestige good, but had a higher calling.