The Legacy of an Early Maya King:

Text, Imagery and Ritual Contexts of a Late Preclassic Cache from Structure H-XVI Sub, Uaxactun

Structure H-XVI, one of the smallest structures in Group H North, Uaxactun, continued bringing new surprises since the very beginning of its investigation. The first season revealed a small plain stela, an altar and a sizable niche built in the northern façade of the structure. The niche was formed by large monolithic stones, with a tiled floor containing offerings such as limestone and ceramic discs, and an Early Classic lip-to-lip cache vessel, whereas the architecture of the structure itself corresponds with the Preclassic period. In addition, an earlier construction phase, Structure H-XVI Sub, was discovered; the only substructure discovered so far in Group H North. Recent excavations of the substructure revealed that it is hiding an “artificial cave”, which in style of construction and material used resembles a niche built later in time in the façade of Structure H XVI. In this cave-like structure, deep below the centre of the substructure, was placed a ritual cache dating to approximately 10 BC (+/- 35 years). Its contents, which may have belonged to one of the early kings of Uaxactun, possibly even the founder of Group H North, not only serve to clarify the reason for its apparent importance and deep ritual meaning, but also provide new evidence of Preclassic Maya writing, symbolism and ritual practice. The cache included an exceptional anthropomorph bloodletter with a finely incised Late Preclassic dedication text showing partially hitherto unattested hieroglyphs. An in-depth study of the contents’ iconography and a first approach for a proposed readings of the corresponding inscription provides new insights regarding the meaning and evolution of certain signs in early Maya writing and sheds new light on the Late Preclassic history of Uaxactun.

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