Myth, Ritual, and the Classic Period Maya Sweat Bath

Sweat baths have been used in Mesoamerica for well over a millennium. During this long span of time, the Mesoamerican sweat bath has held a relatively consistent place within mythology; the structure is an Old Goddess, a grandmother who both generates and destroys the living population. The discovery of a unique sweat bath structure at the Classic Maya site of Xultun, Guatemala offers a look into its use and associated deities. The exterior of the structure is ornamented with painted stucco depicting a single figure in a squatting position where each segment of their limbs is formed by amphibian and reptilian conflations. A large interior deposit contained an assemblage of mainly aquatic fauna, including several large cane toads and iguanas matching the illustrations on the structure’s exterior as well as an infant and burned adult remains. While archaeological evidence for sweat baths is common throughout Mesoamerica, the Xultun sweat bath provides a wealth of details regarding religious associations surrounding these structures, including the strong link between Old Goddesses, the aquatic realm, and the cyclical and transformative process of existence. This lecture is free and open to the public. Mary Clarke is an archaeologist and archaeological illustrator currently pursuing a PhD in Archaeology at Boston University. Her foci are the Ancient Maya and Mesoamerica more broadly, digital applications in archaeology, and virtual worlds, specifically their use in community and public archaeology.

Monday, February 25, 2019 at 4:30pm to 4:30pm

E. William Doty Fine Arts Building (DFA)
2301 TRINITY ST , Austin, Texas 78712

Event Type

Arts & Humanities


Department of Art & Art History, College of Fine Arts

Target Audience

Students, General Public

Import Type

COFA/Art & Art History


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