Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationSouthern Illinois U., Carbondale
Grant numberGr. 9555
Approve DateOctober 11, 2017
Project TitleRice, Dr. Prudence M., Southern Illinois, Carbondale, IL - To aid research on 'The Sacred Landscape of Nixtun-Ch'ich' (Peten, Guatemala): Excavations in the E-Group'
PROVIDE A BRIEF, GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF YOUR PROJECT IN PLAIN ENGLISH (UNFORMATTED — WITHOUT BULLETS OR NUMBERED LISTS). The proposed project concerns landscape archaeology: investigation of the early (Middle Preclassic, 800–400 BC) sacred landscape of the southern-lowland Maya site of Nixtun-Ch’ich’, PetÃ©n, Guatemala. The focus is an ‘E-Group’ structural complex, thought to have played a role in horizon-based solar astronomy. At Nixtun-Ch’ich’, this element of the site’s ‘built’ landscape is juxtaposed with an unusual ‘natural’ feature: a sinkhole (Fosa Y). The site’s gridded layout, modeled on a crocodile’s back, is tied to Maya mythology. The E-Group and Fosa Y create a ‘landscape of Creation,’ the terrestrial world conceived as a giant crocodile floating in a primordial sea. The sinkhole, Fosa Y, represents a point of entry and egress of the sun on its daily journey, viewed from the E-Group, and it is also the ‘hole’ in a fantastic mythological creature, a ‘hole-backed starry deer-crocodile.’ The E-Group and Fosa Y lie on the site’s centerline, thus centering the sacred landscape. The proposed 3-month project centers on excavations around the two main (east and west) structures of the E-Group (Fosa Y was excavated in previous seasons). Questions address the juxtaposition of these ‘built’ and ‘natural’ features of the sacred landscape: Why and how were they created and maintained? What was their relationship to the overall layout of a mythological deer-crocodile? Given concerns about false binaries between built and natural landscape components, how did the E-Group constitute a ‘lived’ or ‘thirdspace’ and how was it experienced by the site’s residents? Excavations in the E-Group will be directed toward exploring this relationship through architectural and artifactual (and related) remains. Interpretations will address the relations among place-making, identity formation, and political power as they can be elucidated with respect to ritual architecture and sacred landscapes as part of the emergence of complex societies.