Journal of Anthropological Archaeology

Paris, Elizabeth H., Stanley Serafin, Marilyn A. Masson*, Carlos Peraza Lope, Cuauhtémoc Vidal Guzmán, and Bradley W. Russell



This article presents evidence from a mass grave at the Itzmal Ch’en administrative group, an outlying ceremonial center at the Postclassic period Maya political center of Mayapán, Yucatan, Mexico. The grave contains the remains of at least 20 individuals, likely the group’s elite patrons. The remains were subject to extensive postmortem treatment that included butchering, burning, and scattering, along with ritual paraphernalia and midden debris. The deposit is significant in the context of the city’s prolonged sociopolitical collapse, as radiocarbon evidence suggests that the deposit predates the final abandonment of the city. The shallow grave is instead associated with an ethnohistorically-documented period of internal conflict from between CE 1302 and 1400. More broadly, we evaluate the Itzmal Ch’en mass grave as a rare form of mortuary deposit in the Maya region, an example of desecration and ritual violence. The abandoned ceremonial plaza and grave site would have represented a macabre monument to a period of violent conflict in the city’s history that would have been visible to the city’s remaining occupants for the last half century prior to Mayapán’s final abandonment.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates, Affiliates, and Staff