Sedimenting social identity: The practice of pre-Columbian Maya body partibility

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


While researchers of the pre-Columbian Maya have recognized that considerable variability characterizes treatment of dead bodies, few have scrutinized the practice of body partibility. The materiality of this practice indicates the ways in which social identities become transposed and then sedimented over generations. As one particularly cogent example, I examine a royal tomb from Dos Hombres, a ceremonial center located in northwestern Belize. The burial is also compared to other royal tombs in the region. While cultural continuities are identifiable, the Dos Hombres tomb is unique given its combination of attributes, namely the residential context into which it was entombed, its associated architecture, the approximately 20,000 obsidian flakes placed atop it, and the two decedents contained within-one of whom exhibited intentional body partibility. To make sense of this complicated burial, I take my cue from scholars who attend to mortuary processes that are materially subtle and often extended. Doing so facilitates distinction between myriad meanings encoded in corporeal manipulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Bioarchaeology of Space and Place
Subtitle of host publicationIdeology, Power, and Meaning in Maya Mortuary Contexts
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781493904792
ISBN (Print)1493904787, 9781493904785
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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