Ancient maya stone tools and ritual use of deep valley rockshelter, Belize

W. James Stemp, Gabriel D. Wrobel, Jessica Haley, Jaime J. Awe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This paper discusses the technological and microscopic use-wear analyses of the chert debitage excavated from Deep Valley Rockshelter. This rockshelter, located in the Caves Branch River Valley of central Belize, was primarily used by the ancient Maya from the Late Preclassic to Terminal Classic periods (AD 80–950) and may demonstrate a pattern of rockshelter usage by the Classic period Maya. To test whether such a pattern exists, lithic data from Caves Branch Rockshelter and other rockshelters in Belize, specifically those in the Sibun Valley and the Ek Xux Valley, are compared. Interpretations are complicated, however, by the severe mixing of deposits, which makes segregating the lithic artifacts into different reduction or use events nearly impossible. Moreover, this mixing severely hampers reconstructions of diachronic change in stone-tool use in the rockshelter. While acknowledging these limitations, our analysis suggests that the lithics in the rockshelter are primarily the result of reduction and use-related activities that originally occurred at other nearby surface sites rather than in the rockshelter itself. Consequently, the chipped-stone artifacts recovered from this rockshelter most likely result from secondary deposition of debitage for ritual purposes and represent accumulation over many years. We suspect this type of secondary deposition of debitage was also occurring at other rockshelters in Belize, based on comparisons to the chipped stone assemblages from these locations. We cannot discount the possibility that some stone tool production and use may have originally occurred in Deep Valley Rockshelter, but support for this is minimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cave and Karst Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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