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Coba Mayan Encounter

Settlement patterns and ancient sociology. Documentary studies of Maya ethnohistory as an analogue for the prehistoric past and life ways of contemporary Maya peasant populations. Yucatec Maya ethnobotany. Traditional herbal curing, ceremony and practice. Yucatec Maya ethnography, economics, religion, gender studies, and community development. Sociological analysis of Classic Maya suburban zones Analysis of households, kitchen gardens and arboriculture. Ethnobotany - A study of Maya curers, medicinal plants and their use.

Apprenticeship to two Maya curers, collection of plants and data. Yucatec Maya Women - A study of their economic contributions; Gender studies. One interesting feature of some zac beob for which a term has not been found in the Colonial dictionaries and literature is the dividing line down the middle of some zac beob such as the one from Coba to Ixil. Folan and Stuart and Folan a. There have been recent discoveries of roadways in tidal areas which are now underwater. It must be surmised that there has been a change in the sea level, perhaps as much as a couple of meters, since these roadways were built.

An example of these roadways are the zac beob discovered by Sophia Pincemin , Alfred Siemens et al. Another major linear feature is located at the mouth of the Rio Candelaria and Laguna Panlao, 55 Vargas ibid along with what are described by Siemens et al. These features are much larger than the small bridge excavated by Maria del Rosario Dominguez in association with the zac be crossing a canal between two aguadas in Calak Muul but smaller than the prehispanic bridge which apparently crossed the Usumacinta River at Yax Chilan , 56 Chiapas.

Mention should also be made of the zac be and defensive works associated with Isla Cerritos excavated by Anthony Andrews and collaborators. Andrews and Gallareta Xel Ha 58 also exhibits similar features such as a jetty-like zac be connecting an island to the peninsula and a defensive wall.

Miller Fig. The Mayan Colonial literature, particularly the Books of Chilam Balam, makes several references to particular features associated with zac be where various types of activities took place. Bolles n. One of the more common terms is xay be which refers to a fork in a road such as the junction of Zac Beob 6 and 7 leading to Pak Chheen 59 and Caanal Kaax 60 in Coba.

There are various other examples of forks in the road at Coba. Related to the term xay be are the terms hol can be referring to a crossroad and hol can heleb and hol can lub which is a resting place at the crossroads.


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  • It is a common practice to have resting places or lub built where paths converge in the Northern Maya area. These resting places are normally tables built out of stone positioned so that a traveler carrying a load with a tumpline can back up to the table and lower the load onto the table without having to squat down.

    Although something such as these resting places would seem difficult to locate archaeology, it would appear that one example probably exists in Coba. It is at the juncture of Zac Be 8 and 13 where a large flat stone is to the found. George Stuart: personal communication: The existence of these crossroads should be of interest to those who have worked in Coba because it is at Coba where one of the most elaborate of crossroads exists, formed by a raised platform with a small shrine on top and a fallen stelae fragment on its north side.

    This crossroads is reached by four ramps at the junction of Zac Beob 1 and 3 and is located a short distance from the major Group B built along the shores of Laguna Coba and Macan Xooc. In the majority of the references to crossroads and forks in the road in the Books of Chilam Balam a statement is made that houseflies and blue-tailed flies shall cry at the crossroads.

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    Coba - 1st Edition

    While never explicitly stated, it seems that the intent of these phrases is that ambushes will take place at the crossroads or at forks in the road resulting in the gathering of houseflies and blue-tailed flies to feed and lay their eggs on the corpses resulting from armed conflicts. According to Camargo, the meaning of the month name Ochpaniztli 63 which begins on September 18th is "sweep the roads". It would seem that the idea of sweeping the roads, at least in the Mexican highlands, had a definite time when this activity takes place. So far in the Mayan sources no indication has been found stating that this activity takes place at a certain time of the year.

    It would seem though that like so many other activities in an agrarian society, it makes sense that this activity should occur at a specific time of the year, and is not an activity which occurs randomly throughout the year. A search has been made through the Mayan texts themselves for more specific information, but there is nothing specific said about this activity, not even when it should take place.

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    As is the case when we say "leap year", and expect the listener to know what we mean, it seems that just the mention of the activity is considered to be enough information for the reader by the writer, and that a more thorough explanation is not necessary. The term u matan miz be 64 refers to a section of road which is to be swept and cleaned of weeds by a particular town, barrio, or person. This statement not only reminds one of a type of civic duty but the fact that roads were probably built based on sections assigned to a group of individuals.

    Such might be the case for the Ma Chucaani 65 Zac Be 26 in Coba , where only some sections of one stretch of this zac be was made with a raised roadbed, leaving spaces in between them. Folan and Stuart A similar thing was observed only a few years ago in the construction of a new road from Tekax to Becan Chheen , 66 Yucatan in , resulting in some sections of the road being completed before others, thus producing empty spaces on the road that, in this case were later built in by teams of pieceworkers. Folan , personal observation Similarly, a section of the zac be between Uci and Kan Zahcab 69 was at first missing, namely the beginning section between Kancab and Ucan Ha which was later added on.

    According to Landa, it was on those cleaned roads during the Kan 70 years associated with the bacab Ah Can Tzic Nal 71 that an image of Chac Uayab Haab 72 was carried to the east, which is the world direction for the Kan years, ostensibly at the limits of a village marked by a pile of stones now referred to as ppic tun in Maya and mojoneras in Spanish. Several mythological personages have been associated with roadways.

    Generally speaking some manifestation of the goddess Ix Chel is considered as being the guardian of these personages. One of these manifestations is Ix Zac Beliz or "she who walks the white road". Although Ix Zac Beliz is considered to be the maternal grandmother of the rain god Chac , 73 it is Ix Chel herself who is depicted in a mural in Tulum as carrying two small images of Chac according to Sabloff and Rathje while walking on some type of leveled area which may be a roadway.

    In Coba the deity Chiribias, also known as the Virgin de Guadalupe and Ix Chebel Yax , 74 with her husband Itzam Na 75 who lives in Lake Coba in the form of an alligator, are related to zac beob strongly associated with water. Folan and This is the dwelling place of the Lords of the Underworld, who are depicted on the sides of the Ball Court engaged in a game using the head of Hun Ah Pu as the ball. Del Angel Tafoya. This perhaps explains the source of the material in the cigars smoked by Enchanted Twins in their journey through the Underworld as explained in part by the above authors.

    Folan, ibid. It is here that the Enchanted Twins took a turn to the west on the black road to continue their journey.

    Coba: A Classic Maya Metropolis (Studies in Archaeology)

    There is also a zac be between the Temple of the High Priest's Grave with its feathered serpents, a graphic representation of Kukul Can on its balustrades and the Cenote X-Toloc. Cobos, this symposium. We can thus surmise that not only the Enchanted Twins, but Kukul Can and X-Quic , 80 the mother of the Enchanted Twins are associated with cenotes and zac beob of both a subterranean and terrestrial nature, especially since Villa Rojas ibid informs us that it is the King Ucan 81 or Kukul Can who built the zac be between Coba and Yaxuna.

    Kukul Can also shows up in relationship to the underground route between Acan Muul and Uxmal and between Mani 82 and Ich Caan Ziho , where he was accompanied by X-Nuc Mani , 83 a mythological female who will pass out little nut shells of water in exchange for children when the end of the world comes Burns reminding us of the recurring problem of climate change and drought in the Peninsula of Yucatan. It should be also noted that there seems to be an association between child sacrifice to X-Nuc Mani and the child seen in the Cenote in Dzibil Chaltun and also child sacrifice in the neighboring Open Chapel where a child was left on the altar ostensibly as an offering, according to local beliefs.

    X-Nuc is also associated with the route from Chan Santa Cruz to the Rio Hondo passing through the town of Noh Bec 84 where she and two kakaz baaloob 85 as well as the Bob 86 live according to Valentina Vapnarsky Also of great interest to us are the mythological characters associated with crossroads and resting places. Ralph Roys has informed us of an Ix Hol Can Be or "lady opening-at-the-four-roads" or crossroads listed in an incantation for traveler seizure that may probably be related to Ix Chel in her form as the Ix Tabay , as well as Cit Hol Can Lub referring to "father-opening-at-the-four-roads" or crossroads.

    This progression is analogous to the analysis of the various types of roads of the Maya. Although many people have come to regard zac be only as roadways used for ceremonial, commercial or militaristic purposes at one time or another, as well as linking kinship groups in the case of the celestial and terrestrial zac beob be as shown in our early work in Coba , Folan we are also discovering that they are associated with many different personages mostly associated with Ix Chel and her alternate guises and with Kukul Can , X-Nuc and her neighbors and secondarily with the Chacoob , Itzam Na and the Enchanted Twins, with X-Quic probably being related to the virgins who were supposedly lowered into the Cenote Sagrado with the hope of receiving a message from the gods regarding prognostications of the year to come.

    Folan , We have also learned from the dictionaries that certain type activities take place in certain parts of a zac be, some of which can be confirmed archaeologically.

    Where is Lowland Maya archaeology headed?

    Also of importance is the notice of the term which denotes family relationships. It should be recalled, however, that work on zac beob is only just beginning. Although it was thought by some only a few years ago that no zac beob existed in the Peten 87 of Campeche and Guatemala, recent discoveries have proved otherwise.

    Examples of these discoveries include those by Pincemin , Siemens et al and Vargas in the Rio Candelaria area, by Hansen and this symposium and others including Gomez , Roldan et al. Furthermore, from our preliminary work in and around Calak Muul , Campeche, it would seem that discoveries of roadways are just getting started. We must remember, however, that not only field work, but ethnographic and linguistic efforts not only compliment but give life to those right-of-ways of the ancient Maya, touching upon many aspects of their sociopolitical and mythological organization.

    However, Morley gives the following: The word sacbe sacbeob, plural means in Maya "artificial road" - sac, "something artificial, made by hand"; and be, "road.

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    This is a misinterpretation of an alternative meaning of zac. Bach is the bird Ortelis vetula pallidiventris Roys or Cissolopia yucatanica Folan a , and is called chachalaca in Spanish. Compare with the following entries in the Vienna: Alberca de agua: koba; pek. However, the Books of Chilam Balam consistently spell this name as Coba. Often these texts refer to Coba as Kinchil Coba.

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    A rough English equivalent might be "innumerable". Strictly speaking, kinchil equals 3,, The meaning of this alternative name is not absolutely certain. The use of cabal as given in this name is consistent with Mayan plant nomenclature. During the colonial period and today the Mayan populace refer to the city as Ho , from which the writers of Spanish historical sources get T-Ho or Ti Ho. Chel also means "rainbow". The other cenote is X-Toloc , mentioned later in this paper. In the colonial Mayan texts there is no special name for the Cenote Sagrado.

    The name ofthe site is Chi Chheen or Chi Chheen Itza , or occasionally Uucil Yaab Nal seven quantities of corn , and the cenote itself is refered to simply as chheen. Over the front door of the cathedral facing the central plaza of Zac Ii there is a shield which has a representation of this bird.

    According to the folklore of the present Mayas, in the olden times there was a road suspended in the sky stretching from Tulum and Coba to Chichen Itza and Uxmal. This pathway was called cuxan sum or sac be.