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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Companion burials in the Kingdom of the Avocado : indirect evidence of human sacrifice in late and terminal Classic Maya Society

  • Author(s): Pitcavage, Megan R.
  • et al.

In this paper I demonstrate the validity of indirect methods of identifying human sacrificial victims within companion burial contexts in the absence of anthropogenic cut marks on bone. My argument is supported by the preliminary investigation of the funerary assemblage from the site of Pusilhá, Toledo District Belize, which includes two companion burials involving an elite principal individual accompanied by the partial remains of one or more companion individuals. Using comparative caries frequency as an indicator of the relative quality of diet, and additionally as a proxy for hierarchical access to food resources, in combination with supplemental evidence from general health markers and biocultural practices, I demonstrate a bimodal distribution between principal and companion individuals. This cumulative data reveals that lifestyle differences are reflected in the companion burials at Pusilhá supporting the hypothesis that the ritual offerings of companion remains represent sacrificial victims ceremonially offered to the principal individuals rather than their revered ancestors

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