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Human Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 759–781 | Cite as

Ritual responses to drought: An examination of ritual expressions in Classic Maya written sources

  • Eva Jobbová
  • Christophe Helmke
  • Andrew Bevan
Open Access
Article
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Abstract

Planting and rain-beckoning rituals are an extremely common way in which past and present human communities have confronted the risk of drought across a range of environments worldwide. In tropical environments, such ceremonies are particularly salient despite widespread assumptions that water supplies are unproblematic in such regions. We demonstrate for the first time that two common but previously under-appreciated Maya rituals are likely planting and rain-beckoning rituals preferentially performed at certain times of the year in close step with the rainy season and the Maya agricultural cycle. We also argue for considerable historical continuity between these Classic Maya ceremonies and later Maya community rituals still performed in times of uncertain weather conditions up to the present day across Guatemala, Belize, and eastern Mexico. During the Terminal Classic period (AD 800-900), the changing role played by ancient Maya drought-related rituals fits into a wider rhetorical shift observed in Maya texts away from the more characteristic focus on royal births, enthronements, marriages, and wars towards greater emphasis on the correct perpetuation of key ceremonies, and we argue that such changes are consistent with palaeoclimatic evidence for a period of diminished precipitation and recurrent drought.

Keywords

Epigraphy Agriculture Precipitation Ritual Maya Belize Guatemala Eastern Mexico 

Introduction

The Maya are one of the best-known civilisations of Mesoamerica, noted for their art, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, calendrical systems, and their hieroglyphic script – one of the few fully developed writing systems of the pre-Columbian Americas. Maya Classic period (AD 250-900) texts are well-known for their commemoration of the passing of time and are focused especially on the deeds of kings, including royal births, enthronements, marriages, rituals, and wars. However, Terminal Classic (AD 800-900) texts are something of an exception in remaining essentially mute about the warfare and social upheavals that other archaeological evidence suggests were pronounced at this time. Instead, Terminal Classic texts constantly emphasise ritual continuity via the proper perpetuation of key ceremonies. This narrative and rhetorical shift in the last century or so of the Classic period is not only interesting in its own right, but also implies a growing disjunction between what was actually taking place and what the texts relate. Given this dissonance, it is worth asking why this narrative change appears at precisely this time in Maya history, what was the nature of the rituals the texts record, and what these ceremonies tell us, directly or obliquely, about the preoccupations of the Terminal Classic Maya?

Although the relationship between records of royal ceremonial performance and the wider ecological and agricultural concerns of Maya society has been discussed before (e.g., Freidel and Shaw 2000; Lucero 2006; Schaafsma and Taube 2006; Dunning and Houston 2011), in this paper we explore the relationship in a novel way by combining multiple sources of evidence (epigraphic, ethnographic, palaeoclimatic, and modern rainfall data) in order to examine possible links between specific Maya rituals and periods of environmental stress. The increasing range of palaeoclimatic archives indicating diminished precipitation and even recurrent severe droughts during the Terminal Classic provides context for our discussion (Brenner et al. 2002; Leyden 2002; Rosenmeier et al. 2002; Webster et al. 2007; Wanner et al. 2008; Kennett et al. 2012, Douglas et al. 2015). Such evidence undermines the perception of people from temperate climates that the humid tropics are characterized by abundance of water. To people who live there, variable rainfall patterns–too little or too much rainfall per rainy season, enough rainfall but at the wrong time, or a series of long dry seasons–have always been critical issues.

We also provide context and greater time depth for the attention paid to food production crises in much later Maya literature, such as prophecies recorded in the Chilam Balam books (dated mostly to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries AD; Roys 1967: 122; Edmonson 1986; Bricker and Miram 2002) or the Dresden and Paris Codices (dated to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD; Love 1994; Grube 2012). Whereas earlier Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions focus mainly on royal life, texts referring directly to drought do exist, although perhaps surprisingly there are only two such references in the thousands of known Classic period texts. The first is a hieroglyphic text from the site of Comalcalco (in present-day Tabasco, Mexico), from the final resting place of a Maya priest named Ajpakal Tahn, whose burial urn was richly furnished with jade jewellery, shark’s teeth, carved shell and human bone pendants, obsidian blades, a flint eccentric, and stingray spines with glyphic texts as well as iconographic scenes (Armijo Torres 1999; Armijo Torres and Zender 1999; Armijo et al. 2000; Zender 2004: 250). One of the stingray spines bears a text that says rather uncompromisingly: ‘there was drought, there was famine in the thirteenth year’ (Zender 2004: 257, 543), which, based on associated calendrical notations, places the drought in the latter half of the eighth century1 (Fig. 1). The second is a prophetic rather than historical reference that is found on the Central Tablet of the Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque, which may refer to a drying out or to the ‘withering’ of the World Tree (Lacadena 2006; Guenter 2007: 32). These two texts confirm a deeper history of drought in the region, but raise the question of whether these two references to drought and famine are all that it is to be found in the hieroglyphic record, or whether we are overlooking some indirect evidence?
Fig. 1

Inscribed Stingray Spine 3, of Urn 26 from Comalcalco, which records an event of drought and famine in AD 783 (after Zender 2004: 543, Fig. 73)

Conspicuous investment in ritual practice is a widespread human response to periods of climatic stress, with rain-beckoning during episodes of drought being especially common cross-culturally. While also considering the wider character of the Classic Maya glyphic corpus, we place considerable emphasis on two particular rituals, one involving the ‘scattering’ of precious substances and the other a ‘bathing’ ritual involving a particular pair of deities. These are in fact the two most commonly-recorded rites in the Terminal Classic period, and we argue below that they were both closely related to the yearly agrarian cycle, respectively symbolizing the act of sowing and the invocation of rain-bearing clouds. Beyond this general agricultural and ecological link, we examine the temporal and spatial distribution of these rituals, which suggest a close association with periodic as well as protracted droughts.

Rain-beckoning rituals

Ritual activity as a mechanism for dealing with environmental stress has been discussed in many ethnographic and archaeological studies worldwide (e.g., Frazer 1911; Butree 1930), but also specifically in the Maya area. For instance, Nash (1970: 45) discussed cave rituals to beckon rain performed in Chiapas during the times of drought. Similar rituals have been reported also among the Tzotzil of Zinacantan (Gossen 1999: 185) as well as Nahua and Otomi people in Veracruz (Sandstrom 2005), and the use of ritual as a coping strategy to anticipate and mediate risk among the Lowland Maya has been discussed by Freidel and Shaw (2000). Various ritual obligations related to agriculture in the Maya area are also documented (e.g., Wilk 1991; Tzul 1993; Flores and Balam 1997; Hatse and De Ceuster 2001; Grandia 2004). Recent ethnographic fieldwork at six different villages in the Cayo and Toledo districts of Belize (Downey and Jobbová 2011) gathered first-hand information from local informants about recent historical climate variability, experiences of drought, and short-term responses to changing weather patterns2 and provides important modern context for such Classic Maya practices. A further goal of this research was to identify modern-day ceremonies related to drought or other types of climate stress, to establish their time-depth and determine whether such practices persisted in Belize into the twentieth century. The results indicated a variety of coping strategies with regard to environmental disaster or stress (especially drought, but also locusts, and hurricanes), including a surprising variety of rituals that could be enacted during periods of drought. While this ethnographic study found many local differences among accounts of general-purpose and drought-related rituals across the two study regions of Belize, one or two documented modern rituals exhibited greater coherence, of which perhaps the most interesting is a rain-beckoning ceremony called Ch’a-cháak known especially in the Yucatan, but also in parts of northern and central Belize. Clearly, this ritual is related to Chaahk, the ancient Maya deity of rain, the personification of thunder and associated with rain and clouds (see Stone and Zender 2011: 41; Wrem Anderson and Helmke 2013). One ritual, however, was described in nearly identical ways in both study regions: if it did not rain, the village’s saint was taken out from the church and ‘bathed’ in a spring, or left out in the sun until the stone started to sweat at which point the water was poured over it. Interestingly, the eminent Mayanist Sir J. Eric S. Thompson documented a similar ritual during his ethnological research in the 1930s at San José Succotz (Cayo district) and San Antonio (Toledo district). In describing the rain-beckoning ceremonies he writes:

If the prayers for rain are not effective, the Mayas call the attention of the saints to the drought. Any saint from the church is taken outside and placed well in the sun, so that he or she may be convinced how parching are the hot rays of the sun. Undoubtedly in earlier times a statue of one of the rain gods was the victim of this irreverent treatment. At present no statues of the old gods survive and the Christian saints have to suffer in their place. Sometimes the saint is taken out of the church and marched around the building, while prayers are offered to Huitz-Hok and Santa U [the moon]. The previous night is passed in vigil (1930: 53).

The use of effigies in agricultural and/or specifically rainmaking rituals has a long tradition and is geographically widespread. In ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Sumer, Hittite Anatolia, Classical Greece and Rome, such ceremonies involved god effigies being carried to a river and washed, often followed by a sacrificial offering and a communal meal (Başgöz 1967: 305). Many aspects of these rituals are still used in rainmaking-ceremonies today, or have persisted until recently. For example, in Turkey children make a doll, carry it around the village, and at each house water is poured over the head of the doll. They are offered food, which is then cooked and eaten (Başgöz 1967: 304).

Emphasis on rainmaking rituals is also obvious in past and present activity in other tropical environments such as south-east Asia. One widely celebrated Southeast Asian holiday is the Songkran festival (from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti describing astrological passage, and marking the beginning of a new Solar year; Monier-Williams 1899: 1127). This New Year festival, under different names, is celebrated, for example, in Burma, Cambodia, and Laos (Fig. 2a), but can be traced back to India and Hindu rituals. It is performed in the middle of April (Fig. 2b), corresponding to the hot and dry period of the year, before the start of the monsoon, when people are praying for good rainfall and abundant harvest in the upcoming season. During the Songkran festival people cleanse Buddha images by pouring scented water over them and smaller effigies are often taken out of the monasteries and carried through the streets while people sprinkle water at them (Milne 1924; Rajadhon 1956, 1958, 1961; Ashley 2005). Similar rituals, with slight variations, are performed during the T’ngai Leang Saka (the third day of a Cambodian New Year) and Boun Pi Mai (Laotian New Year) (Rajadhon 1961; Chiebriekao 2008).
Fig. 2

Bathing and sowing rituals in South-East Asia. a) Bathing a statue of the Buddha in Laos with scented water. b) The comparable Songkran ritual in Laos. c) The royal ploughing ceremony in Thailand (images in the public domain)

In Thailand and Cambodia, a royal ploughing ceremony is called Phra Rat Cha Phithi Charot Phra Nangkhan Raek Na Khwan (literally the ‘royal ploughing ceremony marking the auspicious beginning of the rice growing season;’ Royal Institute Dictionary 1999) (Fig. 2c). It is an ancient ritual of Hindu origin, dating back to the Sukhothai period (AD 1238-1438) and usually taking place in May, June, or July, the exact date being set by Brahmin astrologers of the royal household. During this ceremony the king, as lord of the harvest, tills the ground with a plough pulled by sacred bulls. At the end of the ceremony, the king scatters rice over the ploughed furrows, which is then quickly gathered by people who believe that it will ensure a good harvest. More than a religious ritual, the ploughing ceremony is a state event that has both political and economic significance, functioning as a reminder of a bond between the king and farmers (Crawfurd 1830). This same ceremony has also been recorded in Burma as one of the rain invoking rites, which the king himself is obliged to perform in order to prove his nobility and illustriousness, with such royal actions emphasising his role as a ‘Peasant King’, ‘one of them,’ and theoretically inspiring peasants to work hard for a plentiful harvest (Maung Nyunt 1997). It is worth noting the differences between Songkran rain festivities and the southeast Asian royal scattering/ploughing ceremony in terms of the greater agency given to ordinary people in the first case, but the more hierarchical, royal interventions involved in the second. One reason may be the interest the king and state might have in rice as a taxable commodity, much as Maya kings may have had with respect to maize.

Possible Classic Maya parallels

The ceremony described by Thompson (1930) above provides a link between contemporary rain calling rituals and those he recorded in the 1920s, but it is very likely that at least some of these rituals or certain aspects of them might have survived from pre-Columbian times. Several anthropologists and archaeologists focusing on contemporary Maya rituals have commented on the extent that pre-Columbian beliefs can still be detected (e.g., Thompson 1930; Vogt 1976, 1998; Schuster 1997). Ethnologist Evon Vogt said that ‘considering that 500 years have elapsed since the Spanish Conquest, I am impressed with the enduring nature of Classic Maya concepts and beliefs’ (cited in Schuster 1997: 50). Furthermore, ritual theorist Pierre Smith (1982) made a distinction between ‘periodic’ and ‘occasional’ rites. Whereas periodic rituals are performed cyclically, occasional rituals are performed on an ad hoc basis, thereby increasing ritual frequency. For example, increased frequency of ritual activity in times of environmental stress among the Maya has been documented by several ethnographic studies (e.g., Girard 1949, 1995; Freidel and Shaw 2000). More important for this particular study are recent studies of material remains in caves of Western Belize (Moyes 2006; Helmke 2009; Helmke et al. in press), which have shown that there is an evidence of increased ritual activity in caves during the latter part of the Late Classic period (ca AD 680-960) coincident with climatic drying. Based on the evidence, authors of these studies argue that this ritual activity can be associated with rain-making and agricultural security. This emphasis on ritual activity in the archaeological record corresponds well with increased ritual focus of Terminal Classic Maya texts.

Among ceremonies commemorated on Classic Maya monuments, there are two that prevail during the Terminal Classic and that we examine in detail below. The first involves the ‘scattering’ of precious substances and the other the ‘bathing’ of a particular pair of deities, known as the “Paddler Gods” (Schele and Miller 1986: 52, 183; Freidel et al. 1993: 91-94; Stone and Zender 2011: 51, 69; Stuart 2016). A good place to start is with the stelae from the sites of Ixlu and Jimbal where we can see depictions of the Paddler deities in the upper portions of the scene, amidst dotted-scroll motifs that represent clouds, floating above the king, who performs a ‘scattering’ ceremony (Schele and Miller 1986: 52, 183; Stuart et al. 1999: 169-70) (Fig. 3a). The Paddlers are an important pair of Maya deities whose names remain undecipherable. One is nicknamed the Old Jaguar paddler, recognizable by his jaguar spots and the ear of a feline, whereas the other, the Stingray Paddler has a prominent stingray spine or sharpened bone piercing his septum (Fig. 3d). Their names are often represented in the glyphs as signs that resemble diminutive and stylised paddles, wherein the one is qualified by a sign for k’in (‘sun, day,’ perhaps ‘light’) and the other by ak’bal (‘night’) or ahk’ab (‘darkness’) (Stuart 1984: 13-15) (Fig. 3c). These deities are often depicted paddling a long dugout canoe, as for example in the scene incised on a human bone found in Burial 116 at Tikal, Guatemala, where the Paddlers ferry the deceased Maize God across the waters of the underworld to a place of resurrection (Freidel et al. 1993: 92; Stone and Zender 2011: 51) (Fig. 3b). From other texts, we know that this pair of Maya deities is associated not only with the creation of the world (Freidel et al. 1993: 92) but also with rain. Stela 1 from the site of Jimbal, for instance, specifically mentions Chaahk, the Maya deity of thunder and rain in connection with the names of the Paddler Gods.
Fig. 3

The Paddler deities in ancient Maya imagery and writing. a) Stela 2 at the site of Ixlu dated to AD 879 in the Terminal Classic. b) The Paddler deities ferrying the deceased Maize god to the watery underworld (drawings by Linda Schele © Los Angeles County Museum of Art). c) The name glyphs of the Paddler deities in the shape of diminutive and stylized paddles (Stucco text at Tonina). d) The name glyphs of the Paddlers representing their profiles and characteristic traits (Stela C at Quirigua) (drawings by Christophe Helmke)

In the ritual depicted on Stela 2 of Ixlu, the Paddler Gods are depicted floating within dotted-scrolls (Fig. 3a). Earlier studies identified this scroll motif as representing blood (Schele and Miller 1986: 52, 183; Stuart 1988: 184) and thus the Paddlers were thought to be born from the blood of the king’s auto-sacrifice (Stuart 1984: 14-15; Schele and Miller 1986: 52, 183). Nevertheless, with the decipherment of the glyph for muyal ‘cloud’ in Classic Maya, the dotted-scroll motif is now understood as representing clouds, both of rain and incense, the two being symbolically equivalent (Houston and Stuart 1990). More recently, Stuart and Houston have suggested that these scenes depict the Paddler Gods undergoing a ‘bathing’ ritual, as a kind of rite of purification, possibly related to ‘rainmaking rituals’ (Stuart et al. 1999: 169-171).
Fig. 4

a) Jimbal Stela 1, dated to AD 879 in the Terminal Classic. Note the paddler deities floating above the king who brandishes his sceptre. The glyphic captions name each of the Paddler deities as a Chaahk entity (final glyph in each caption), personifying rain and thunder (drawing Linda Schele © Los Angeles County Museum of Art; glyphic captions drawn by Christophe Helmke, based in part on photographs of the Atlas Epigráfico de Peten, courtesy of Dirección de Patrimonio Cultural y Natural de Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, Guatemala). Examples of the yatij ‘bathing’ expression connected to the Paddler deities in Classic Maya writing. b) Side of Stela 22 at Naranjo (ya-AT-ji) where the Paddler deities are qualified as junpik k’uh ‘eight thousand gods’. c) Detail of Monument 42 at Tonina (ya-ti-ji) that provides the Paddlers with the title Nahho’ Chan Ajaw or ‘kings of the First Five Skies’ (drawings by Christophe Helmke, after drawings by Ian Graham and Peter Mathews)

Examination of the texts that accompany these scenes led Stuart and Houston to note the close affinity between the Paddler Gods and a particular verbal statement (Fig. 4b-c) that is usually written as ya-AT-ji or ya-ti-ji (the latter phonetic spelling has enabled the decipherment of the more common logographic spelling, Stuart et al. 1999: 169; David Stuart, pers. comm. 2000). Analysed as y-at-ij, the root of this verbal expression is at ‘to bathe,’ which is interpreted as a nominalised construction (marked by the suffix) with a possessive prefix. This would prompt the translation of ‘it is the bathing of the Paddler Gods’ (Prager 2013: 261), in the passive mood, assuming that at is intransitive, based on Ch’olan cognates (Stuart et al. 1999: 169). Nevertheless, the constructions involving this expression and the Paddlers may also be interpreted as transitive constructions, involving a perfective suffix –Vj, not least since the cognate atih in Ch’orti’ is the transitive form of ‘bathe, wash’ (Wisdom 1950: 454). On this basis, the clause would be translated as ‘the Paddler Gods bathe(d)’ (MacLeod 2004: 294; Alfonso Lacadena, pers. comm. 2013).

The second, ‘scattering’ ritual is more clearly part of a longer tradition, with a relatively wide geographical distribution across Mesoamerica. It is often represented both in iconographic and glyphic form. In iconographic form, it appears probably as early as 900 BC on the Humboldt Celt, where Justeson (1986: 443) interpreted it as the ceremonial casting of maize kernels. The scene usually involves a ruler with outstretched arms and open hands throwing or scattering small round objects (Fig. 5a). In written form, this action is represented by a glyph depicting an open hand with small dots falling from it (Fig. 5b-c). The early glyphic form may be recorded in Isthmian writing on La Mojarra Stela 1 in Veracruz dating to second century AD (Justeson and Kaufman 1993: Fig. 6). Many Early Classic examples are also known from Teotihuacan, the great metropolis in the central Mexican highlands (e.g., Helmke and Nielsen 2014: 89-91, 93, Figs 9a-b, 11). In Maya writing the glyph in question is read chok, meaning ‘to scatter, sprinkle’ (Stuart 1984: 9; Schele and Grube 1995: 40). While this reading is clear, there remains on-going debate about what the bead-like objects falling from the hand represent, with suggestions that they are droplets of water (Kelley 1962: 40; Dütting 1974: 50; Thompson 1962: 300f), grain (Thompson 1962: 300f; Justeson 1986: 443; Proskuriakoff 1993), blood (Stuart 1984: 9, 1988: 187-8; Schele and Miller 1986: 181-182), incense pellets (Love 1987: 11-14) or a combination of these (see Landa in Tozzer 1941: 140-144).
Fig. 5

The choko’w ch’aaj ‘the scattering of drops’ ritual in Classic Maya imagery and writing. a) Stela 1 at Aguateca that shows the local king performing a scattering ritual in AD 741 (drawing by Ian Graham, after Graham 1968: Fig. 3). b) The verbal root of this ritual is represented in writing by a hand that scatters drops (written CHOK-wa-ch’a) on Arroyo de Piedra Stela 2. c) The same expression (written u-CHOK-ji) on Tonina Mon. 104 (drawings by Christophe Helmke)

Fig. 6

Comparison between the frequency and seasonality of rituals and other types of events against mean monthly rainfall. The mean rainfall values are calculated from weather stations in regions with chok and at statements for approximately 1950-2000 (www.worldclim.org) and are used as a proxy for the distribution of rainfall throughout the year (for distribution of rainfall in Maya lowlands see Fig. 11b). a) Seasonality of chok statements. b) Seasonality of at statements. c) chok and d) at statements in comparison to seasonality of e) warfare statements and f) the incidence of known dated texts, contrasting the Late Classic incidences against those of the Terminal Classic

On the basis of these suggestions and juxtaposing the ‘scattering’ and the ‘bathing’ rituals with the observations from the cited ethnohistorical studies, we propose the following hypotheses:
  1. 1.)

    As acts symbolising the sowing of crop seed, and the invocation of rain-bearing clouds, these rituals were closely related to the agrarian cycle. As such, the ‘bathing’ rituals may be the precursors, or proto-forms, of some of the later rain-beckoning ceremonies described above, such as the ‘bathing’ of the village’s saint, or the ceremonies known among the Yukatek Maya as ch’a-cháak, attested in both the ethnohistoric and ethnographic sources (i.e., Rejón García 1905; Gann 1917; Irigoyen 1976; Love 1984, 2011; Freidel et al. 1993). They are rain-beckoning rituals and at present are performed annually at the end of the dry season, immediately preceding planting and sowing. Similarly, the ‘scattering’ rituals might be also interpreted as related to agricultural ceremonies, celebrating in their emulation, the cycles of planting and sowing of grains on the open field.

     
  2. 2.)

    These rituals may have originated not just in response to general fears about water scarcity, but also to particular episodes of drought and, without pre-supposing this conclusion, it should be considered whether they might not therefore provide historical markers of time periods with diminished precipitation.

     

Analytical Approach and Data

In order to test the above hypotheses, we have reviewed the entire corpus of hieroglyphic texts, noting all known occurrences of these two particular kinds of rituals: ‘the scattering of drops’ or uchoko’w ch’aaj in Classic Maya and ‘bathing’ or yatij. As there is some diversity in the manner in which these two expressions are recorded in the glyphic texts we refer to each in the remainder of this text by the verbal root of the action: chok and at respectively. The focus on these two rituals is also advantageous since at is best known for the Terminal Classic, whereas chok is documented for the entirety of the Classic period but also with a high relative incidence in the Terminal Classic. Thus, rather than focusing on a single ritual action, we are able to compare and contrast the spatial and temporal incidence of these two distinct but symbolically-related rituals, seemingly relevant to the semantics of agrarian practices. Our working database consists of information about the site from which the chok and at statement originates, the date of the statement (or the particular historical iterance) and also the latest date of the text (to assess the degree of overlap between the written source and the event recorded, or whether the historical iterance is highly retrospective). Altogether, 23 at (‘bathing’) statements can be recognized from inscribed monuments at seven different sites across southern Mexico, Guatemala, and western Honduras. Of these, 19 can be securely dated (Table 1). We also have added four further monuments that are missing explicit written references to ‘bathing’ but which have scenes clearly depicting this ritual iconographically (e.g., Ixlu, Stela 2; Jimbal, Stela 1) (Table 2). For chok (scattering) rituals, there are as many as 124 statements from 38 different sites across southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and western Honduras, of which 112 can be securely dated (Table 3). Below, we first explore the monthly distribution of chok and at statements, in order to see if there was a preference for performing these rituals during certain seasons (especially given that the Maya solar calendar did not account for annual drift, and as such the emic temporal intervals are not inherently locked to a given seasonality). Ideally, we would explore the seasonality of only those statements with non-period ending dates, which are more likely to represent explicitly special events such as droughts. Owing to small sample size and the dating of the majority of examples to the Terminal Classic, where texts were preferentially raised on period ending dates, this is not feasible. To compensate for this uncertainty, we compare the seasonality of at and chok statements with the seasonal spread of a much larger set of dated Maya texts undifferentiated by topic (using the database compiled by Guenter [2014], which contains the vast majority of Late Classic and Terminal Classic texts), as well as with other types of events mentioned in texts such as statements about warfare (using Maya Hieroglyphic database ([MHD]; compiled by Macri and Looper [1991] cited in Kennett et al. 2012, SM, Table S7) or royal accessions (using a database compiled by Martin 2014). To further elucidate the timing of chok and at occurrences, we compare these to the seasonal distribution of total rainfall in Maya area. We also compare the longer-term temporal distribution of chok and at statements throughout the Classic period with palaeoclimatological evidence to explore whether any relationship between the occurrence of these statements and drier periods can be substantiated. Again, to control for possible biases in the overall textual sample, the temporal distribution of chok and at statements is assessed against the temporal distribution of known dated Maya texts from the vantage of the entire glyphic corpus (using a database compiled by Prager 2008). In terms of temporal distribution we look at statement distribution both throughout the time of their existence (Early Classic to Post-classic) to explore their diachronic change, and also separately for Early/Late Classic and Terminal Classic to explore the ways in which their occurrences differ between these two periods.
Table 1

Monuments with written statements of “bathing” ritual

Site name

Monument number

Clause date

Julian date

Season

Date C

Text date (dedication)

Gregorian date

Date M

Transcription

Tikal

Stela 40

9.1.13.0.0 6 Ajaw 8 Sotz’

17 June 468

June

468

9.1.13.0.0 6 Ajaw 8 Sotz’

18 June 468

468

ya-AT-ji?..Paddlers

Copan

Stela 2

9.10.15.13 0 6 Ajaw 8 Mol

22 July 648

July

648

9.11.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 8 Mol

14 October 652

652

AT-ti-ji

Copan

Stela 12

9.11.0.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Keh

9 October 652

October

652

9.11.0.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Keh

14 October 652

652

ya-ti-ji Paddlers

Copan

Altar Stela 1

9.12.0.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Yaxkin

26 June 672

June

672

9.12.0.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Yaxkin

1 July 672

672

ya-ti-ji Paddlers

Copan

Altar H

9.13.0.0.0 8 Ajaw 8 Wo

13 March 692

March

692

9.13.0.0.0 8 Ajaw 8 Wo

18 March 692

692

ya-ti-ji

Tonina

Monument 134

9.13.5.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Pop

15 February 697

February

697

9.13.5.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Pop

20 February 697

697

ya-ti-ji Paddlers

Copan

Stela J west

9.13.10.0.0 7 Ajaw 3 Kumk’u

20 January 702

January

702

9.13.10.0.0 7 Ajaw 3 Kumk’u

26 January 702

702

ya-ti-ji Paddlers

Tonina

Monument 139

9.13.10.0.0 7 Ajaw 3 Kumk’u

20 January 702

January

702

9.13.10.0.0 7 Ajaw 3 Kumk’u

26 January 702

702

ya-ti-ji Paddlers

Tonina

Monument 56

9.13.15.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Pax

25 December 706

December

706

9.13.15.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Pax

31 December 706

706

ya-ti-ji Paddlers

Tonina

Monument 63

9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwan

29 November 711

November

711

?9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwan

5 December 711

711

ya-ti-ji Paddlers

Piedras Negras

Stela 3-right side

9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwan

29 November 711

November

711

9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwan

5 December 711

711

ya?-ti-ji Paddlers

Naranjo

Stela 2

9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwan

29 November 711

November

711

9.14.1.3.19 3 Kawak 2 Pop

16 February 713

713

yatij? Paddlers

Naranjo

Stela 23

9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwan

29 November 711

November

711

9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwan

29 November 711

711

ya-AT-ji Paddlers

Tonina

Monument 136

9.14.5.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 K’ank’in

2 November 716

November

716

9.14.5.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 K’ank’in

8 November 716

716

ya-AT?/ti?-ji? Paddlers

Guaquitepec

Stela 1

9.14.10.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Mak

7 October 721

October

721

9.14.10.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Mak

9 October 721

721

ya-ti-ji

Tonina

Monument 110

9.14.10.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Mak

7 October 721

October

721

9.14.10.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Mak

9 October 721

721

ya-AT-ji Paddlers

Tikal

Stela 24s

9.19.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Mol

22 June 810

June

810

9.19.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Mol

28 June 810

810

ya-AT-ji-?- Paddlers

Tikal

Stela 24f

9.19.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Mol

22 June 810

June

810

9.19.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Mol

28 June 810

810

ya-AT?-ji Paddlers

Ixlu

Altar 1

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Chen

20 June 879

June

879

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Chen

26 Jun 879

879

ya-AT-ji? Paddlers

Tonina

Frag. X

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

ya-ti-ji

Tonina

Monument 42

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

ya-ti-ji Paddlers

Tonina

Monument 138

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

ya-ti-ji-Paddlers u-CHOK-wa

Copan

Papagayo

NA

NA

NA

NA

9.4.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Yax

18 October 514

514

ya-AT-ji

Table 2

Additional 4 monuments with iconographical depictions of “bathing” ritual.

Site name

Monument

Clause date

Julian date

Season

Date C

Text (Dedication) date

Gregorian date

Date M

Transcription

Ixlu

Stela 1

10.1.10.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 K’ank’in

3 October

October

859

10.1.10.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 K’ank’in

9 October 859

859

depicted Paddler gods in clouds

Tikal

Stela 11

10.2.0.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Keh

13 August 869

August

869

10.2.0.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Keh

17 August 869

869

Depicted Paddler gods in clouds

Jimbal

Stela 1

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Ch’en

20 June 879

June

879

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Ch’en

26 Jun 879

879

depicted Paddler gods in clouds

Ixlu

Stela 2

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Ch’en?

20 June 879

June

879

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Ch’en?

26 June 879

879

depicted Paddler gods in clouds

Table 3

Monuments with written statements of scattering ritual

Site name

Monument number

Clause date

Julian date

Season

Date C

Text date (latest)

Gregorian date

Date M

Transcription

Yaxchilan

HS 1

8.17.2.12.5 4 Chikchan 18 Woh

10 June 379

June

379

9.16.10.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Sip

17 March 761

761

CHOK-? ch’a-ji?

Quiriguá

Monument 26

9.3.0.0.0 2 Ajaw 18 Muwan

27 January 495

January

495

9.3.0.0.0 2 Ajaw 18 Muwan

30 January 495

495

u-CHOK [ch’a]-ji

Piedras Negras

Altar 1

9.4.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Yax

14 October 514

October

514

? 9.13.0.0.0

18 March 692

692

? CHOK-?-ya?

Palenque

Palace XIX Throne W

9.6.7.0.0 7 Ajaw 8 K’ayab

9 February 561

February

561

9.15.5.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Ch’en

26 July 736

736

u-CHOK ch’a-ji

Calakmul

Stela 33

9.7.10.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Sak

12 October 583

October

583

9.11.5.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Sak

18 September 657

657

CHOK-ch’a?-ji?

Calakmul

Stela 33

?9.8.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Ch’en

20 August 593

August

593

9.11.5.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Sak

18 September 657

657

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji?

Caracol

Stela 1

9.8.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Ch’en

20 August 593

August

593

?9.8.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Ch’en

24 August 593

593

CHOK

Naranjo

Altar 1

9.8.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Ch’en

20 August 593

August

593

9.8.2.14.3 7 Ak’bal 11 Sotz’

23 May 596

596

u-CHOK-?

Caracol

Stela 6

9.8.10.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Xul

29 June 603

June

603

9.8.10.0.0 Ajaw 13 Xul

4 July 603

603

u-CHOK

Caracol

Stela 3

9.9.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Pop

16 March 623

March

623

9.10.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 8 Kayab

25 January 633

633

CHOK-wa

Altar de Sacrificios

Altar Stela 9

9.10.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 8 K’ayab

22 January 633

January

633

9.10.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 8 K’ayab

24 January 633

633

u-CHOK

La Honradez

Stela 4b

9.10.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 8 K’ayab

22 January 633

January

633

9.10.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 8 K’ayab

27 January 633

633

u?-CHOK-wa

Yaxchilan

Stela 3

9.10.16.10 13 7 Ben 16 Sek

5 June 649

June

649

NA

NA

NA

CHOK-?

Copan

Stela 3b

?9.11.0.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Kej

9 October 652

October

652

?9.11.0.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Kej

14 October 652

652

CHOK?

Copan

Stela 13

9.11.0.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Kej

9 October 652

October

652

9.11.0.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Kej

14 October 652

652

u-cho-ko-wa ch’a

Copan

Altar Stela5

9.11.0.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Kej

9 October 652

October

652

9.11.15.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Mol

28 July 667

667

u-CHOK

Copan

Altar Stela 5

9.11.0.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Kej

9 October 652

October

652

9.12.0.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Yaxk’in

1 July 672

672

u-chok-??

Palenque

Palace Tablet

9.11.0.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Kej

9 October 652

October

652

9.14.8.14.15 9 Men 3 Yax

14 August 720

720

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Tonina

Monument 28

9.11.5.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Sak

13 September 657

September

657

9.11.5.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Sak

18 September 657

657

u-CHOK ch’a?-ji?

La Corona (Site Q)

Panel 3?

9.11.10.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Ch’en

18 August 662

August

662

9.11.10.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Ch’en

20 August 662

662

u-BAH-ti-CHOK-ko-ji

Rio Azul

Stela 2

9.11.10.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Ch’en

18-Aug

August

662

9.11.10.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Ch’en

August 662

662

u-CHOK-wa?

Copan

Stela 5

9.11.15.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Mol?

23 July 667

July

667

9.11.15.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Mol

28 July 667

667

CHOK?

Tonina

Monument 113

9.12.0.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Yaxk’in

26 June 672

July

672

9.12.0.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Yaxk’in

1 July 672

672

u-CHOK-ch’a-ya?

La Corona (Site Q)

Panel 1

?9.12.5.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Xul

31 May 677

May

677

9.12.5.7.4 4 K’an 7 Mak

27 October 677

677

u- CHOK

Copan

Stela 6

9.12.10.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Sotz’

5 May 682

May

682

9.12.10.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Sotz’

10 May 682

682

u-CHOK ch’a-ji?

Tonina

Monument 8, side 3

9.12.10.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Sotz’

5 May 682

May

682

9.12.10.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Sotz’

7 May 682

682

u-CHOK-wa

Tonina

Monument 8, side 4

? 9.12.10.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Sotz’

5 May 682

May

682

9.12.10.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Sotz’

7 May 682

682

u-CHOK- ?

Tonina

Monument 111

9.12.16.3.12 5 Eb 20 Xul

14 June 688

June

688

9.13.0.0.0 8 Ajaw 8 Wo

18 March 692

692

u-u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Aguateca

Stela 5

9.13.0.0.0 8 Ajaw 8 Woh

13 March 692

March

692

?9.13.0.0.0 8 Ajaw 8 Woh

18 March 692

692

u-CHOK ch’a-ji

Copan

Stela J West

9.13.10.0.0 7 Ajaw 3 Kumk’u

20 January 702

January

702

9.13.10.0.0 7 Ajaw 3 Kumk’u

26 January 702

702

CHOK ch’a-ji

Dos Pilas

Stela 1

9.13.15.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Pax

25 December 706

December

706

9.13.15.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Pax

31 December 706

706

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

La Corona (Site Q)

HS 2 Block XI

(El Peru, panel 8)

9.13.18.16.4 13 K’an 2 K’ank’in

29 October 710

October

710

?9.14.3.5.15? 13 K’an 2 K’ank’in

31 October 710

710

CHOK-ka-ja

Naranjo

Stela 23

9.13.18.9.15 1 Men 13 Yaxk’in

22 June 710

June

710

9.13.19.6.3 3 Ak’bal 16 Sip

12 April 711

711

CHOK ti-PET-ni

Dos Pilas

Stela 8

9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwan

29 November 711

November

711

9.12.0.10.11 13 Chuwen 19 K’ayab

25 January 673

673

u-cho-ko-wa ch’a-ji

Naranjo

Stela 30 back

9.14.3.0.0 7 Ajaw 18 K’ank’in

13 November 714

November

714

9.14.3.0.0 7 Ajaw 18 K’ank’in

19 November 714

714

u-CHOK-ja?

Dos Pilas

Stela 11

9.14.5.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 K’ankin

2 November 716

November

716

9.14.5.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 K’ankin

4 November 716

716

u-CHOK-wa-ch’a-ji

Dos Pilas

Stela 15

9.14.10.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Mak

7 October 721

October

721

9.14.10.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Mak

9 October 721

721

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Tonina

Monument 110

9.14.10.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Mak

7 October 721

October

721

9.14.10.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Mak

9 October 721

721

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji?

Tonina

Monument 7

9.14.17.9.0 1 Ajaw 3 Wo

27 February 729

February

729

9.14.17.9.0 1 Ajaw 3 Wo

5 March 729

729

u-CHOK [ch’a]-ji

Aguateca

Stela 3

9.15.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Yax

16 August 731

August

731

9.15.0.0.0. 4 Ajaw 13 Yax

22 August 731

731

u-CHOK [ch’a]-ji

Aroyo de Piedra

Stela 2a

9.15.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Yax

16 August 731

August

731

9.15.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Yax

22 August 731

731

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-[ji]

Oxpemul

Stela 12

9.15.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Yax

16 August 731

August

731

9.15.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Yax

22 August 731

731

u-CHOK-wa?

Tikal

Stela 21

9.15.3.6.8 3 Lamat 6 Pax

6 December 734

December

734

9.15.5.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Ch’en

26 July 736

736

CHOK[i]-wa-ch’a-ji

Tonina

Monument 164

9.15.3.15.5 11 Chikchan 18 Xul

1 June 735

June

735

9.15.5.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Ch’en

26 July 736

736

u-CHOK-ji

Aguateca

Stela 2

9.15.5.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Ch’en

20 July 736

July

736

9.15.5.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Ch’en

26 July 736

736

u-CHOK ch’a-ji

Palenque

Palace XIX Throne W

9.15.5.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Ch’en

20 July 736

July

736

9.15.5.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Ch’en

26 July 736

736

u-CHOK

Aguateca

Stela 1

9.15.10.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Mol

24 June 741

June

741

9.15.10.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Mol

30 June 741

741

u-CHOK ch’a-ji

Aguateca

Stela 1

9.15.9.9.0 5 Ajaw 8 K’ayab

26 December 740

December

741

9.15.10.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Mol

30 June 741

741

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Dos Pilas

Bench 01

9.15.9.9.0 5 Ajaw 8 K’ayab

26 December 740

December

741

9.15.10.17.15 7 Men 13 Yaxk’in

20 June 742

742

CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Moral

Altar 2

9.15.10.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Mol

24 June 741

June

741

?9.15.8.14.9 1 Muluk 17 Sotz’

?25 April 740

740

u-CHOK ?

Nim Li Punit

Stela 1

9.15.10.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Mol

24 June 741

June

741

9.15.10.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Mol

30 June 741

741

u-CHOK ch’a-ji

Dos Pilas

Stela 4

9.15.11.0.0 12 Ajaw 18 Yaxk’in

19 June 742

June

742

9.15.11.0.0 12 Ajaw 18 Yaxk’in

23-Jun

742

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Piedras Negras

Stela 40

9.15.14.9.13 11 Ben 16 Pax

13 December 745

December

745

9. 15.15.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Xul

4 June 746

746

CHOK [ch’a-ji]

Piedras Negras

Stela 40

9.15.15.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Xul

29 May 746

May

746

9. 15.15.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Xul

4 June 746

746

CHOK [ch’a-ji]

Quiriguá

Stela S

9.15.15.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Xul

29 May 746

May

746

9.15.15.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Xul

4 June 746

746

u-CHOK ?

Seibal

HS 1

9.15.14.17.18 7 Etz’nab 16 Xul

29 May 746

May

746

9.16.0.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Sek

5 May 751

751

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Seibal

HS 1

9.15.15.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Xul

29 May 746

May

746

9.16.0.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Sek

5 May 751

751

u-CHOK-wa-ch’a-ji

Calakmul

Stela 62

9.16.0.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Sek

3 May 751

May

751

9.16.0.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Sek

9 May 751

751

CHOK?

Quiriguá

Stela H East

9.16.0.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Sek

3 May 751

May

751

9.16.0.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Sek

5 May 751

751

u-CHOK? ch’a-ji

Quiriguá

Stela J East

9.16.5.0.0 8 Ajaw 8 Sotz’

6 April 756

April

756

9.16.5.0.0 8 Ajaw 8 Sotz’

8 April 756

756

u-CHOK-ji

Quiriguá

Stela F East

9.16.10.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Sip

11 March 761

March

761

9.16.10.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Sip

13 March 761

761

cho-ka-ja-ch’a-ji

Sacul

Stela 1

9.16.10.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Sip

11 March 761

March

761

9. 16.10.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Sip

17 March 761

761

u-CHOK ch’a-[ji]

Yaxchilan

Stela 1

9.16.10.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Sip

11 March 761

March

761

9.16.10.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Sip

17 March 761

761

u-CHOK

La Pasadita

Lintel 2

9.16.15.0.0 7 Ajaw 18 Pop

13 February 766

February

766

9.16.15.0.0 7 Ajaw 18 Pop

19 February 766

766

u-CHOK-wa

Quiriguá

Stela D East

9.16.15.0.0 7 Ajaw 18 Pop

13 February 766

February

766

9.16.15.0.0 7 Ajaw 18 Pop

19 February 766

766

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Quiriguá

Stela D West

9.16.15.0.0 7 Ajaw 18 Pop

13 February 766

February

766

9.16.15.0.0 7 Ajaw 18 Pop

19 February 766

766

u-cho-ko-wa ch’a-ji

Tikal

Stela 22f

9.16.17.16.4 11 K’an 12 K’ayab

23 December 768

December

768

9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Kumk’u

24 January 771

771

CHOK[i] ch’a-ji

Oxpemul

Stela 2

9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Kumk’u

18 January 771

January

771

9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Kumk’u

24 January 771

771

u-CHOK-wa

Pomoná

Panel 1

9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Kumku

18 January 771

January

771

9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Kumku

24 January 771

771

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Quiriguá

Stela E East

9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Kumk’u

18 January 771

January

771

9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Kumk’u

20 January 771

771

u-CHOK-ch’a-ji?

Quiriguá

Stela E West

9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Kumk’u

18 January 771

January

771

9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Kumk’u

20 January 771

771

CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Quiriguá

Stela C West

9.17.5.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 K’ayab

23 December 775

December

775

9.17.5.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 K’ayab

25 December 775

775

u-CHOK-wa

Bonampak

Stela 1

9.17.10.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Pax

26 November 780

November

780

9.17.10.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Pax

2 December 780

780

u-CHOK-ch’a-ji

Ixkun

Stela 2

9.17.9.6.14 7 Hix 2 Sek

14 April 780

April

780

(IS) 9.17.9.0.13 3 Ben 6 K’ayab

21 December 779

779

u-CHOK

Ixtzutz

Stela 4

9.17.10.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Pax

26 November 780

November

780

9.17.10.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Pax

2 December 780

780

u-CHOK-ko-wa ch’a-ji

Naranjo

Stela 33

9.17.10.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Pax

26 November 780

November

780

9.17.10.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Pax

28 November 780

780

u-CHOK

Naranjo

Stela 19

9.17.10.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Pax

26 November 780

November

780

9.17.10.0.0 12 Ajaw 8 Pax

28 November 780

780

u-CHOK

Bonampak

Stela 3

9.17.15.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Muwan

31 October 785

October

785

9.15.15.3.13 13 Ben 16 Kumk’u

18 January 786

786

u-CHOK ch’a-ji

Quiriguá

Altar O’ c

9.17.15.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Muwan

31 October 785

October

785

9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

11 October 790

790

u-u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Tikal

Stela 19f

9.17.18.3.1 2 Imix 9 K’ayab

15 December 788

December

788

9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

11 October 790

790

CHOK-wa-?

Ixkun

Stela 4

?9.17.18.7.6 9 Kimi 9 Sip

10 March 789

March

789

?9.17.18.7.6 9 Kimi 9 Sip

16 March 789

789

u?-CHOK?

Ixkun

Stela 1

9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

5 October 790

October

790

(IS) 9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

11 October 790

790

u-CHOK

Ixkun

Stela 1

9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

5 October 790

October

790

(IS) 9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

11 October 790

790

CHOK ch’a?-?

Ixkun

Stela 1

9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

5 October 790

October

790

(IS) 9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

11 October 790

790

ti-CHOK ch’a-ji?

Naranjo

Stela 14

9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

5 October 790

October

790

9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

7 October 790

790

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-[ji?]

Nim Li Punit

Stela 21

9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

5 October 790

October

790

9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

11 October 790

790

u-CHOK-wa

Yaxha

Stela 13

9.18.3.0.0 12 Ajaw 3 Mak

19 September 793

September

793

9.18.3.0.0 12 Ajaw 3 Mak

21 September 793

793

u-CHOK-wa? ch’a

Quiriguá

Altar P’

9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Kej

9 September 795

September

795

9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Kej

11 September 795

795

cho-ko-wa ch’a-ji

Quiriguá

Zoo P north cartouche

9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Kej

9 September 795

September

795

9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Kej

11 September 795

795

u-CHOK-ch’a

Quiriguá

Zoo P south

9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Kej

9 September 795

September

795

9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Kej

11 September 795

795

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

Tonina

Monument 34

9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Kej

9 September 795

September

795

9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Kej

11 September 795

795

u-CHOK?

Caracol

Stela 11

9.18.10.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Sak

13 August 800

August

800

9.18.10.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Sak

19 August 800

800

u-CHOK-ch’a?-ji?

Nim Li Punit

Stela 14

9.18.10. 0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Sak

13 August 800

August

800

9.18.10.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Sak

17 August 800

800

u-CHOK- ?

Quiriguá

Stela I north

9.18.10.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Sak

13 August 800

August

800

9.18.10.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Sak

15 August 800

800

u-CHOK-ji

Quiriguá

Stela K south

9.18.15.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Yax

18 July 805

July

805

9.18.15.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Yax

20 July 805

805

u-CHOK-?

Quiriguá

Structure 1B-1

9.19.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Mol

22 June 810

June

810

9.19.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Mol

24 June 810

810

u-CHOK-ko-wa

Quiriguá

Structure 1B-1

9.19.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Mol

22 June 810

June

810

9.19.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Mol

24 June 810

810

u-CHOK-ko-wa

Uaxactun

Stela 7

9.19.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Mol

22 June 810

June

810

9.19.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 18 Mol

28 June 810

810

?- ch’a

Caracol

Altar 12

9.19.10.0.0 8 Ajaw 8 Xul

30 April 820

April

820

9.19.10.0.0 8 Ajaw 8 Xul

6 May 820

820

u-CHOK-wa?

Itzan

Stela 6

9.19.19.16.0 6 Ajaw 18 Pop

28 January 830

January

830

9.19.19.16.0 6 Ajaw 18 Pop

21 Oct 822

822

u-CHOK-wa? ch’a-ja

Tonina

Monument 104

10.0.7.9.0 3 Ajaw 3 Sak

30 July 837

July

837

10.0.7.9.0 3 Ajaw 3 Sak

1 August 837

837

u-CHOK [ch’a]-ji

Caracol

Stela 17

10.1.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 K’ayab

24 November 849

November

849

10.1.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 K’ayab

30 November 849

849

u-CHOK ch’a-?

Seibal

Stela 10

10.1.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 K’ayab

24 November 849

November

849

10.1.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 K’ayab

30 November 849

849

u-CHOK-ko-wa

Ucanal

Stela 4?

10.1.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 K’ayab

24 November 849

November

849

10.1.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 K’ayab

30 November 849

849

u-CHOK-wa

Ixlu

Stela 1

10.1.10.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 K’ank’in

3 (7) October 859

October

859

10.1.10.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 K’ank’in

9 October 859

859

u-CHOK-?-wa

Tikal

Stela 11

10.2.0.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Keh

13 August 869

August

869

10.2.0.0.0 3 Ajaw 3 Keh

17 August 869

869

CHOK depicted

Ixlu

Altar 1

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Ch’en

20 June 879

June

879

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Ch’en

26 June 879

879

u-CHOK-ko-wa ch’a-ji

Jimbal

Stela 1

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Ch’en

20 June 879

June

879

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Ch’en

26 Jun 879

879

u-CHOK-ko-wa ch’a-ji

Ixlu

Stela 2

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Ch’en

20 June 879

June

879

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Ch’en

26 June 879

879

CHOK depicted

Jimbal

Stela 2

10.3.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Yaxk’in

28 April 889

April

889

10.3.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Yaxk’in

4 May 889

880

u-CHOK

Uaxactun

Stela 12

10.3.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Yaxk’in

28 April 889

April

889

10.3.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Yaxk’in

4 May 889

889

CHOK-?-ja

Tonina

Monument 158

10.3.15.0.0 6 Ajaw 8 Sip

9 February 904

February

904

10.3.17.9.0 9 Ajaw 18 Sak

30 July 906

906

u-CHOK-wa

Copan

?Img0075

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

u-CHOK-wa ch’a-ji

El Palmar

Stela 18

? 10 Ajaw 8 Sak

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

u-CHOK-ch’a

Coba

Stela 1

NA

NA

NA

NA

9.12.10.5.12 4 Eb 10 Yax

25 August 682

682

? U-CHOK-? ch’a-ji?

Jimbal

Stela 1

? Teotihuacan date?

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

u-CHOK-ko?-ja

Nim Li Punit

Stela 4

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

?-CHOK?

Tortuguero

pSARC00

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

u-CHOK-?

El Peru

Stela 39 sides

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

u-CHOK-wa?

Jimbal

Stela 1

NA

NA

NA

NA

10.2.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Ch’en

26 Jun 879

879

u-CHOK ch’a-ji

Lubaantun

Marker 2

NA

NA

NA

NA

9.18.0.0.0 11 Ajaw 18 Mak

11 October 790

790

u-CHOK-wa

Quiriguá

Stela A

millions of years

NA

NA

NA

9.17.5.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 K’ayab

29 December 775

775

u-CHOK-ch’a

Tonina

Monument 138

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

u-CHOK-wa

Tonina

Monument 137

?6 Imix 9 Muwan - much earlier or much later?

Very early date

NA

NA

9.15.5.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Ch’en

26 July 736

736

u-CHOK-wa

Tonina

Monument 99

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

CHOK-?

The seasonality of chok and at statements

Given that chok and at rituals appear to be related to agricultural practices, we examined the frequency of such statements over different months of the year (Fig. 6). Direct comparison with modern monthly rainfall totals does not demonstrate a significant association; however, the relationship between seasonal variability and occurrence of at statements (p=0.107) deserves further examination (Fig. 6a-b). The wettest periods are typically between May-June and September-October, with a short drier spell in August (known as the ‘meagre season’ in Belize or canícula elsewhere in Maya area) and a true dry season from February to April (Hastenrath 1967; Magaña et al. 1999). The high points of precipitation roughly correspond with high occurrences of chok and especially at statements: more precisely, there is a significantly higher frequency of at statements in June, October, and November (X2, p=0.016) and likewise significantly higher chok occurrences in June and October (p=0.041), even if the overall seasonality of chok statements seems less pronounced than for at (albeit in part due to differing sample sizes). A closer connection still is with present-day planting seasons in the Maya area. The first and primary planting occurs in May, at the end of the dry and beginning of the rainy season, and the second planting in October-November, especially prevalent in the humid central lowlands (i.e., Peten, Belize, Chiapas, and Tabasco) and often involves fast-ripening varieties of maize (Brewbaker 1979: 107; Nations and Nigh 1980: 10-13; Downey and Jobbová 2011: 179).

Assuming there has been no dramatic change in rainfall seasonality since the Classic Maya period, it follows that local populations would rely on these months to bring the rain, especially in May before the main planting season. This is substantiated by modern practices among traditional Maya communities, where they often plant a week or two before the onslaught of the expected rains. Our suggestion is therefore that the high number of occurrences of at statements in June reflects situations where planting had occurred, but the expected rains had not yet arrived, and as a result rituals petitioning for rain were performed. A modern example of this behaviour was observed in Crique Sarco village in southern Belize in 2011, where locals had already planted by the end of May, but the expected rains were delayed. People were concerned and said that they would wait another few weeks, but if the rains still did not come, they would have to perform rainmaking ceremonies. Another example is a festival performed by contemporary Yucatec Maya, known as Pa’puul, or ‘breaking pots,’ which serves as a petition for rain in Yucatan, Mexico, and is performed on the 24th of June. The festival involves frogs associated with water, with the breaking of pots producing a sound thought to evoke the clap of thunder and rain (Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian 2012). Many aspects of the Pa’puul festival most likely originate in ancient Maya tradition, not least since particular period ending ceremonies involved the discard of pottery and kitchen utensils at the turn of the calendrical phase (Tozzer 1941: 151-152; see also Pendergast 1971: 9). It is clear that the occurrence of at statements is highly seasonal, supporting the hypothesis that these rituals were somehow involved in, or represent an early form of rain-beckoning rituals. There is less observable seasonality for the chok rituals, and while this may partly reflect the latter’s wider geographical and temporal distribution, it is probably more due to the fact that chok or ‘scattering’ rituals were more general purpose ceremonies possibly associated with annual sowing and fertility, and initially less closely related to rainfall. We can further assess the seasonality of chok and at statements by comparing them with other kinds of events mentioned in Maya texts, such as royal accession, warfare, or indeed the overall background sample constituted by all known and dated Maya texts. Maya texts in general exhibit a more random distribution across the year (Fig. 6f), whereas texts relating warfare events show a slightly greater but statistically insignificant prevalence during the dry season (Fig. 6e), which is similarly the case for accession events (Martin 2014: chart 3). Martin has suggested that the Classic Maya planned public ceremonies at times when it would be easiest to travel and when it was least likely that the ceremony would be spoiled by rain, and similarly that warfare would be more likely to take place during the dry season than the wet season when people are occupied by planting (see also Schele and Freidel 1990: 62; Martin 2014: 100, 170-174). In summary, chok and at statements exhibit higher seasonality than other kinds of texts and stronger congruence with the start of the rains and planting seasons.

Palaeoclimate and chok and at statements

Our second hypothesis is that these rituals may have originated in response to particular episodes of drought and as such could serve as markers of diminished precipitation. To address this, we compare the distribution through time of chok and at statements against palaeoclimatic evidence for periods of greater or lesser rainfall (Fig. 7). However, since there is considerable geographical variability in climatological records, the central Peten—roughly a geographic median of the Maya world—was chosen as a case study area. This region provides palaeoclimatic data from the Macal Chasm speleothem (Akers et al. 2016), the sites located in the area mention both chok and at rituals, and in fact produced the majority of chok and at statements during the Terminal Classic period (Fig. 8). Nevertheless, our finds suggest that the marked increase in the number of the at statements in the period AD 652-751 closely follows an overall increase in the incidence of hieroglyphic texts in general (Fig. 7). There is, however, a small second peak in at statements between AD 850 and 900 by which time the number of hieroglyphic texts in general has decreased considerably. The peak in occurrence of chok statements appears slightly but significantly later than the overall increase in hieroglyphic texts (KS-test, p=0.05). The palaeoclimatic data from different regions of Maya lowlands match this increased incidence of chok statements well (Table 4).
Fig. 7

Comparison between palaeoclimatic records (Macal Chasm, Akers et al. 2016; Lake Punta Laguna, Curtis et al. 1996; Chaak/Tzabnah, Medina-Elizalde et al. 2010; Lake Chichancanab, Hodell et al. 2005) and incidences of chok and at statements. The dark gray band indicates the Late Classic wetter period and the lighter grey band indicates Terminal Classic with diminished precipitation indicated by most palaeoclimatic records. The temporal distribution of chok and at dates was compared to the temporal distribution of all known Maya dates known from the glyphic corpus to determine whether the correspondence between the appearance of the respective statements and periods with diminished precipitation is significant

Fig. 8

Comparison between the Macal Chasm speleothem data (Akers et al. 2016) and temporal distribution of chok and at statements (note that monuments with iconographic scenes are included)

Table 4

Major droughts according to palaeoclimatic data from selected localities in the Maya area, arranged according to temporal incidence.

Locality

Dry period

Reference

Punta Laguna

AD 750-850

Curtis et al. 1996

Laguna Yaloch

AD 750-900

Wahl et al. 2013

Macal Chasm

AD 750-900

Akers et al. 2016

Lake Coba

AD 760-770

Hodell et al. 2007

Lake Chichancanab

AD 770-870

Hodell et al. 2005

Lake Salpeten

AD 800-900

Rosenmeier et al. 2002

Tzabnah Cave

AD 804-938

Medina-Elizalde et al. 2010

Yok Balum Cave

AD 820-870

Kennett et al. 2012

Lake Coba

AD 830-890

Hodell et al. 2007

Punta Laguna

AD 910-990

Curtis et al. 1996

To summarise, during the Early/Late Classic period, it seems that incidences of chok rituals closely follow the incidence of texts in general (Fig. 9a), suggesting that we should not interpret chok rituals as responses to unusual events but rather as general-purpose ceremonies performed at period-endings in the Maya calendar and/or as part of other important ceremonies, such as accessions. It is further noteworthy that chok rituals appear as highly hierarchical, with a focus on the ruler as the principal officiator, underscoring his key role in the social structure as a bringer of agrarian fertility. During the Terminal Classic period, however, the incidence of chok rituals becomes more seasonal and more closely matches that of the at statements (Fig. 9b), suggesting that chok rituals were being repurposed in this period to focus on ensuring agricultural security at risky periods of the year. Indeed, many Terminal Classic monuments suggest a pattern where chok and at rituals were performed conjointly (Fig. 10a-b, such as Jimbal Stela 1 where Jaguar Paddler is shown performing the scattering, Fig. 4a).
Fig. 9

The Seasonality of chok statements during the Early/Late Classic and Terminal Classic periods in comparison to seasonality of dated texts during the same periods

Fig. 10

Examples of the late co-occurrence of chok (green) and at (blue) events on the same monuments. a) Tonina Monument 138 (drawing by Ian Graham © the President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, PM# 2004.15.6.16.28). b) Ixlu Altar 1 (drawing © Linda Schele, Los Angeles County Museum of Art). c) Depiction of Ajpakal Tahn of Comalcalco and texts commemorating some of the rituals that he performed at regular intervals, especially on the day 10 Sip in the Haab calendar. The dates in parentheses represent the proleptic Gregorian calendar (drawings by Marc Zender, after Zender 2004: Figs. 71-76)

We also see other changes in the character of the Maya textual sources in the Terminal Classic. By AD 800 the obvious war narratives such as the texts from Naranjo, Yaxchilan, Piedras Negras, and Bonampak disappear almost altogether (Helmke et al. 2010: 120-121) and the period between AD 800-850 involves attempts at re-establishing and maintaining the ‘old order’ with former adversaries conducting joint rituals and visiting each other (e.g., Caracol and Ucanal, Tikal and Calakmul at Seibal) (Grube 1994: 95-97; Helmke et al. 2010). Between AD 850-910, there are more references to period endings and rituals (e.g., Ixlu, Jimbal, Xunantunich, Machaquila, Uaxactun, Tonina) (Schele and Grube 1995). These shifting emphases in the texts were further accompanied by changes in the composition and iconography of stelae, with a de-emphasis on the king as sole autocratic ruler, and an increased emphasis on so-called confrontation scenes, wherein power-sharing and decentralisation are apparent between multiple actors (especially pairs, Chase 1983: 105 -110) and the appearance of emblem glyphs and other royal titles at formerly secondary centres (Martin and Grube 2000: 98-99; Rice and Rice 2004: 133-134; Valdés and Fahsen 2004; Zrałka 2008: 200; Helmke et al. 2010: 109-110; see also Murphy et al. (2016) who argue that the increased frequency of agriculture related rituals and diminished accession and ruler-focused rituals are related to change in political organisation between Maya Classic and Postclassic period). In addition, there are also changes in settlement patterns and in many cases a decrease in overall population (e.g., for the Belize River Valley see Willey et al. 1965; Ford 1990; LeCount and Yaeger 2010; Hoggarth 2012; for the Peten Lakes see Rice and Rice 1980, 2004; Rice 1986).

Spatial patterning of chok and at statements

A further important feature of a number of chok and at statements is that they do not occur evenly across the whole Maya world with certain sites producing such statements well in excess of the number of hieroglyphic texts at these sites in general (X2, p=5.9e-8, p=2.8e-24). If we further compare the distribution of at statements against the map of modern precipitation values (Fig. 11b), all sites with at statements are predominantly located in areas with moderate totals of annual rainfall, especially the sites in Peten (i.e., Tikal, Ixlu, Jimbal and Naranjo), but also Copan in Honduras. More precisely, they can be characterised as falling into something of a ‘goldilocks’ zone between high and low annual precipitation regimes, with variation in rainfall likely to have considerable effect both inter-annually and over longer time periods. Furthermore, sites with at rituals are located in areas without easy access to groundwater and in the case of Tikal and Jimbal also without surface water sources. It is therefore possible that ‘bathing’ rituals were perceived of as more important in this region with unpredictable but highly consequential environmental stress than either in the rain-poor, but groundwater rich northwest Yucatan, or the rain-rich southern highlands. If we consider only chok (‘scattering’) statements, the Early/Late Classic period distribution (Fig. 11a) is much more regionally variable, but more closely matches the clustering of the at statements in a core geographical region during the Terminal Classic (Fig. 11b).
Fig. 11

a) Distribution of chok and at statements of the Early and Late Classic against the distribution of all sites with glyphic texts. b) Distribution of Terminal Classic period chok and at statements against modern annual rainfall patterns (Elevation model from NASA SRTM; rainfall distribution from www.worldclim.org

Beyond this general geographic patterning, it is worth emphasising that the incidence of these rituals was likely further conditioned by individual actors at specific places on specific occasions. For example, Tonina contributes 9 of the 23 known at expressions, and the six datable examples from this site occur within a span of only 24 years. The Tonina examples are also performed at regular intervals, corresponding to the celebration of so-called hotun intervals of about five years (i.e., AD 697, 702*, 706*, 711, 716, 721),3 suggesting that a single ritual specialist might have been responsible for the entire set in much the same way as Comalcalco texts commemorate the rites performed by a single priest named Ajpakal Tahn over a period of 12 years (Fig. 10c, Zender 2004: 250).

Conclusions

There is a close correspondence between the occurrence of at and chok statements and the onset of rainy seasons. This strongly supports our hypothesis that these rituals were closely related to the agrarian cycle, symbolizing the act of sowing, and the invocation of rain-bearing clouds. The frequency of at (‘bathing’) statements through time matches the frequency of surviving Maya texts overall, indicating that Classic period examples of ‘bathing’ rituals were an already well-established tradition that perhaps was even performed annually (in a wider agricultural context) at the end of the dry season and before the second planting. There is a small second peak in at statements during the Terminal Classic, corresponding with a statistically-significant increase of chok rituals. This also coincides with other changes in the Terminal Classic, such as shifts in narrative form and content, as well as changes in settlement patterns, all of which can now be linked in various ways to palaeoclimatic records suggesting a period of more frequent droughts. More precisely, the increased seasonality of ‘scattering’ statements and their appearance alongside ‘bathing’ rituals in Terminal Classic texts suggest that the focus of these rituals became more narrowly-focused on food security and rain-making, particularly for sites lying in the Maya heartland where diminished or delayed precipitation would have had considerable adverse consequences.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    The text is headed by a calendar round that is anchored to the 17th k’atun, or the 9.17.0.0.0 Period Ending, corresponding to AD 771. The mention of the ‘thirteenth year’ can be interpreted as either 9.17.13.0.0 or AD 783, as the authors prefer, or alternatively within the 17th k’atun as 9.16.13.0.0 or AD 763 (Zender 2004: 257; see also Guenter 2014: 286).

  2. 2.

    Approval for human subjects research was received from the University of Arizona Human Subjects Protection Program (No. 09-0418-02) and the Institute for Social and Cultural Research (Permit No. ISRC/H/2/5).

  3. 3.

    The dates marked with asterisks conform to this five-year pattern since these events were performed on 20th of January 702 and on the 25th of December 706.

Notes

Funding

The ethnographic research briefly mentioned in the article was funded by National Science Foundation and by Alphawood foundation (funding was awarded to the Principal Investigator of the project Dr. Sean Downey). However, the research that forms the main part of this article was conducted separately from the ethnographic project (as a part of a PhD research of the first author), without any specific funding apart from AHRC scholarship received for the PhD research in general.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Approval for human subjects research was received from the University of Arizona Human Subjects Protection Program (No. 09-0418-02) and the Institute for Social and Cultural Research (Permit No. ISRC/H/2/5).

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Institute of Cross-cultural and Regional StudiesUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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