To Be Born an Ancestor: Death and the Afterlife among the Classic Period Royal Tombs of Copán, Honduras
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CitationFierer-Donaldson, Molly. 2012. To Be Born an Ancestor: Death and the Afterlife among the Classic Period Royal Tombs of Copán, Honduras. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThis goal of this dissertation is to participate in the study of funerary ritual for the Classic Maya. My approach evaluates comparatively the seven royal mortuary contexts from the city of Copán, Honduras during the Classic period from the early 5th century to early 9th century CE, in order to draw out the ideas that infused the ritual behavior. It is concerned with analyzing the tomb as a ritual context that is a materialization of a community's ideas about death and the afterlife. The heart is the data gathered from my participation in the excavation of the Classic period royal tomb called the Oropéndola Tomb. In addition to the archaeological data, the project draws from ethnohistoric, ethnographic, epigraphic, and iconographic sources as important loci for ideas of how to interpret the archaeological data. The project stands at the intersection of the work by Patricia McAnany's (1995; 1998; 1999) on the role of ancestors in Maya life, James Fitzsimmon's (2002, 2009) comparison of mortuary ritual across sites, and Meredith Chesson's (2001c) study on the relationship between social memory, identity and mortuary practice. The analysis of the Oropéndola Tomb and its comparison to other royal tombs at Copán was an opportunity to investigate our understanding of Classic Maya conceptualizations of death and the afterlife within one city. After a consideration of how to identify a Maya royal tomb, I was able to confirm that the Oropéndola Tomb is a royal tomb that likely belonged to one of rulers of the site during the second half of the 5th century CE, and that it contains funerary offerings that reflect the identity of the deceased in his role as a warrior and contains information reflecting how the Maya of Classic period Copán conceptualized the afterlife.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:9548615
- FAS Theses and Dissertations 
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