Before Kukulkán: Bioarchaeology of maya life, death, and identity at classic period Yaxuná

Vera Tiesler, Andrea Cucina, Travis W. Stanton, David A. Freidel, Traci Ardren

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


This volume illuminates human lifeways in the northern Maya lowlands prior to the rise of Chichén Itzá. This period and area have been poorly understood on their own terms, obscured by scholarly focus on the central lowland Maya kingdoms. Before Kukulkán is anchored in three decades of interdisciplinary research at the Classic Maya capital of Yaxuná, located at a contentious crossroads of the northern Maya lowlands. Using bioarchaeology, mortuary archaeology, and culturally sensitive mainstream archaeology, the authors create an in-depth regional understanding while also laying out broader ways of learning about the Maya past. Part one examines ancient lifeways among the Maya at Yaxuná, while part two explores different meanings of dying and cycling at the settlement and beyond-ancestral practices, royal entombment and desecration, and human sacrifice. The authors close with a discussion of the last years of occupation at Yaxuná and the role of Chichén Itzá in the abandonment of this urban center. Before Kukulkán provides a cohesive synthesis of the evolving roles and collective identities of locals and foreigners at the settlement and their involvement in the region’s trajectory. Theoretically informed and contextualized discussions offer unique glimpses of everyday life and death in the socially fluid Maya city. These findings, in conjunction with other documented series of skeletal remains from this region, provide a nuanced picture of the social and biocultural dynamics that operated successfully for centuries before the arrival of the Itzá.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBefore Kukulkan
Subtitle of host publicationBioarchaeology of Maya Life, Death, and Identity at Classic Period Yaxuna
PublisherUniversity of Arizona Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780816537433
ISBN (Print)9780816532643
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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