Piedras Negras - Piecing Together the Past

The Mayan Sweat Bath

For his doctoral research, Mark Child investigated the famed sweat baths of Piedras Negras, a feature known elsewhere but of relative rarity outside the Usumacinta basin. This group contained high-quality masonry and most likely served as a residence of nobles or lesser royalty. The advent of this type of structure raises many questions, none answerable at present: Do they represent a new cult of purification? Do they simply replace perishable versions as yet undetected? Is their number attributable to different treatments or illnesses? Or do they correspond to the needs of different lineages or lords, a conjecture perhaps supported by their varying date? Whatever their precise use, they served as efficient and ingenious chambers. P-7 proved to have a cistern above its steam room, collecting rainfall for bathing. The reconstruction of P-7 allowed Child to bring hot stones into its rejuvenated fire-box. When basted with water, the rock generated heat that became almost intolerable within minutes, particularly if an unwise bather stood atop benches within the chamber.

Sweat Bath Screen Images
   Background to the site
   Explanation of the practice of the sweat bath in Mayan culture
   Explanation of the features of a sweat bath
   Description of the Ek Wind God
   What the Sweat Baths teach researchers about the Mayans
   Discussion of the study of Humeral Pathology
   Explanation of the process of taking a sweat bath

Previous Page  |  Introduction  |  Next Page

Return to top of page