Posthumous Body Treatments and Ritual Meaning in the Classic Period Northern Petén: A Taphonomic Approach

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5.1. Introduction

After death, people';s bodies usually undergo cultural practices. These may vary depending on the circumstances of demise, the individual';s role in society, and, most importantly, shared mortuary traditions. Posthumous body treatments usually follow scatological belief codes and also practical considerations, destined to preserve or, in some cases, transform or destroy the mortal remains of the dead as part of mourning and commemoration. Particularly within prehispanic Maya society, the importance of posthumous ritual resides in the preparation and protection of the immortal spirit until integrated into the world of the dead (Ruz, 1991). Apart from ancestral body manipulations, there are a series of treatments and contexts that lack clear funerary status. In the material record, these assemblages appear as isolated concentrations of remains that do not show any obvious postmortem attention directed toward the deceased (see Tiesler and Cucina, 2003; Ti