Image - Cacao Pod Vessel - K6706 © Justin Kerr FAMSI © 2000:
Stephen L. Whittington & Robert H. Tykot

Analysis of Kaqchikel Skeletons: Iximché, Guatemala
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Figure 1. Map of southern Guatemala, showing the location of Iximché in relation to language areas and some important sites.

Research Year:  2000
Culture:  Maya
Chronology:  Late Classic to Post Classic
Location:  Guatemala
Site:  Iximché

Table of Contents

Previous Related Work at Iximché
Description of Current Project
Analytical Procedures
List of Tables
Traits used to determine sex for Iximché crania
Cross-tabulation of age, sex, and type for Iximché crania
Decapitation Damage at Iximché
Results of analyses of stable isotopes in bones from Iximché
Results of analyses of stable isotopes in teeth from Iximché
Sources Cited


War, prisoners, and human sacrifice were part of the religious complex which influenced the ruling elite and its institutions in Late Postclassic highland Guatemala. Chronicler Friar Francisco Ximénez described human sacrifice as practiced by the people of Guatemala. After extraction of the heart, which was offered to the idol, the heads were put on poles on a special altar dedicated to this purpose, where they remained for some time, after which they were buried. The bodies of the sacrificed were cooked and eaten as sanctified flesh (Guillemin, 1969:27; 1977:258). Aspects of this religious complex show up in the human remains excavated at Iximché, the Kaqchikel Maya capital (Figure 1).

Founded by refugees from the K’iche kingdom in the 1470s or 1480s, Iximché was strategically located on a hilltop surrounded on three sides by steep ravines. Spaniards and their native allies from México arrived in 1524 under the command of Pedro de Alvarado. With the Kaqchikel as allies, they conquered the K’iche and other enemies of Iximché. Alvarado founded the first colonial capital of Guatemala at Iximché. The outbreak of hostilities between the Kaqchikel and the Spanish and a revolt within the Spanish ranks led to the ultimate destruction and abandonment of Iximché in 1526.

George Guillemin excavated Iximché between the late 1950s and the early 1970s. Excavations occurred only within the elite section of the site. Unlike many archaeologists excavating lowland Maya sites during that period, Guillemin seems to have had an intuitive understanding of the value of human remains for interpretation of the past. He carefully excavated and stored almost all of them, although not all are described in detail in his field notes and publications.

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Analysis of Kaqchikel Skeletons: Iximché, Guatemala  (232 KB)

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Submitted 06/01/2000 by:

Hudson Museum
University of Maine

Robert H. Tykot
Department of Anthropology
University of South Florida

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