Prudence Rice

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Southern Illinois U., Carbondale

Grant number

Gr. 9555

Approve Date

October 11, 2017

Project Title

Rice, 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’, Petén, 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.