Image - Cacao Pod Vessel - K6706 © Justin Kerr FAMSI © 2002:
Joseph W. Ball and Jennifer T. Taschek

The Late Classic Palace Polychromes of Cahal Pech, Belize: Documentation and Analysis
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Link to Figure 1a. Cahal Pech

Research Year:  1996
Culture:  Maya
Chronology:  Late Classic
Location:  Belize River Valley, Belize
Sites:  Cahal Pech and Buenavista del Cayo

The research effort undertaken with the support of FAMSI grant number 95083 has three broad objectives. These are: (1) the full descriptive and comparative documentation of the Late Classic royal court polychrome pottery vessels from the hilltop palace-center, Cahal Pech; (2) analysis of the social and other cultural roles performed by this pottery within the context of Classic Maya civilization; (3) initial documentation and analysis of the overall distribution of such pottery among the functionally distinct and status-differentiated sites of the upper Belize Valley. Documentation and analysis is to be based on the extensive excavations carried out over the last 15+ years by San Diego State University, Trent University, the Belize Department of Archaeology, and other institutions. To implement the stated ends we envisioned three final products: first, a complete, annotated catalogue of all whole and restorable Late Classic polychrome vessels from the Cahal Pech palace illustrated at full-scale in both full color and black-and-white in rollout format (see table below for color illustrations). As indicated in our original proposal, the severe erosion of virtually all recovered Cahal Pech ceramics renders their photographic documentation infeasible, and artists’ renderings in colored pencil will serve in place of these. Each Cahal Pech specimen will be complemented by analogous, similar, or identical counterparts from the Buenavista del Cayo royal palace to document the extent of interaction and/or intensity of relationships between the two palace populations (see examples shown below). We believe the number, nature, and closeness of identities and similarities among palace polychromes to be an excellent index of the social "closeness" of the court communities represented by them. The catalogue will also serve as a major data resource for ourselves and others examining the spatial and social distribution of Late Classic polychrome vessels and styles throughout the greater Belize Valley region and beyond.

Second, we will ultimately produce an analytical monograph discussing the social distribution, uses, and significance of palace polychromes throughout Maya civilization as a whole as well as within the immediate Cahal Pech-Buenavista zone. Finally, we will provide a shorter, derivative article based on the two foregoing studies for general dissemination via some appropriate venue such as Ancient Mesoamerica.

Table of Illustrations
Click on image to view higher resolution.
Link to Figure 1. Cahal Pech Link to Figure 2. Buenavista Link to Figure 3. Buenavista
Link to Figure 4. Cahal Pech Link to Figure 5. Buenavista Link to Figure 6. Buenavista
Link to Figure 7. Cahal Pech Link to Figure 8. Cahal Pech Link to Figure 9. Cahal Pech
Link to Figure 10. Cahal Pech Link to Figure 11. Cahal Pech Link to Figure 12. Buenavista
Link to Figure 13. Cahal Pech Link to Figure 14. Buenavista Link to Figure 15. Buenavista
Link to Figure 16. Cahal Pech Link to Figure 17. Cahal Pech Link to Figure 18. Cahal Pech

To date, we have completed the cleaning, segregation, sorting into formal ceramic groups and types, typological identification, non-proportionate quantification, and preliminary physical descriptions of all available polychrome ceramic materials from the Cahal Pech palace. In addition, approximately one-third of the whole or restorable vessels have been illustrated together with Buenavista counterparts (see examples). The total collection has been determined to include 42 whole and restorable vessels representing five established ceramic groups and fifteen distinct ceramic types. Of these, ten of the types are local in origin while five are foreign to the Belize Valley. Over the coming year, we will complete and formalize the descriptive treatments, develop the analytical and interpretive portions of the study, and complete all remaining illustrations. Final descriptive, analytical, and, graphic work is expected to be completed by late 1997. Both the annotated catalogue and the planned derivative article will also be completed by that time. Incorporating, as it will, the substantially larger, more diverse, and more elaborate palace polychrome collections from Buenavista del Cayo, the planned interpretive monograph will be somewhat longer in preparation.

Link to Figure 18a. Cahal Pech

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The Late Classic Palace Polychromes of Cahal Pech, Belize: Documentation and Analysis  (655 KB)

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Submitted 11/01/1996 by:
Joseph W. Ball, Ph.D. and Jennifer T. Taschek, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
San Diego State University

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