The Implements of the Blade House: The Function and Symbolic Significance of Laurel-leaf Bifaces from Caves in Central Belize

W. James Stemp, Jaime J. Awe, Christophe Helmke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The ancient Maya produced chipped chert and obsidian tools for inclusion in religious rituals as both symbolic and/or functional implements. In this paper, we discuss one particular form of these special chipped stone tools–the large laurel-leaf biface. Laurel-leaf bifaces recovered from the cave sites of Actun Chapat, Actun Tunichil Mucnal, Actun Yaxteel Ahau, and Je’reftheel in central Belize are analyzed in terms of context, lithic raw material, production techniques, symbolism, and use-wear in order to better understand their role(s) as ceremonially significant items. When combined with ethnohistoric and ethnographic information, these analyses allow us to see laurel-leaf bifaces as both functional implements for and powerful symbols of sacrifice within ancient Maya ideology and worldview.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalLithic Technology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • caves
  • Chert
  • laurel-leaf biface
  • Maya
  • sacrifice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology

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