Crafting K'awil : a comparative analysis of Maya symbolic flaked stone assemblages from three sites in northern Belize
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This dissertation presents a material culture analysis of three archaeological assemblages of symbolic flaked stone artifacts recovered from the Maya sites of Altun Ha, Colha, and Lamanai, Belize. Individual artifacts are described and categorized guided by morphological and technological similarities. The dissertation contextualizes further the emergence of a distinct style of northern Belize symbolic lithics that exhibits linkages with regional technological antecedents. The exploration of these linkages is positioned within a theoretical framework that views material culture as a crystallization of three intersecting modes of cultural interpretation: technological knowledge, local political economy, and symbolic context. Symbolic analysis focuses on the correlation between the lithic forms and themes prevalent in other Maya artistic media. It is suggested that flaked stone symbols both structured meaning and were historically emergent. Thus, meaning of artifacts changed during the processes of production, acquisition, and ritual consumption. Technological analysis focuses on contrasting the assemblages to show how existing technology was elaborated upon in different places. The technological study resulted in the recovery of textile and pigments present on a significant number of artifacts. This supports the argument that these forms were part of a complex process of production that included painting and adorning individual artifacts prior to final deposition. Further materials characterization analysis revealed a number of interesting results with respect to the composition of these ancient materials. It is hoped that the convergence of these diverse modes of inquiry has shed new light on a frequently occurring yet enigmatic class of ancient Maya material culture.