A Diachronic Approach to the Sociopolitical Role of Ancestor Veneration at Xunantunich, Group D
The work presented in this dissertation is the culmination of six years of field and lab work focused on the structural unit, Group D, at the Maya site of Xunantunich. This study explores the perceptions of "ancestors" through a case study of the Xunantunich, Group D eastern shrine and adjoining courtyard. Group D is an enduring example of power reflected in the creation and manipulation of space. The Late Classic period creators of Group D utilized the communal perception of an important ancestral space, a Late Preclassic hilltop shrine, to legitimize a new ritual location. All too often ancestors are characterized through kinship alone when reality indicates a multitude of definitions, manifestations, socio-political roles, and variety of ways in which they are incorporated in ritual spaces. This research demonstrates the location was an important feature in both the Early and Classic Xunantunich ritual landscape. Particularly, the reevaluation of Group D's function within the Classic period suggests modifications to how eastern shrines are understood in Maya archaeology. Finally, this research considers how special function locations, such as Group D, reflect the overall political environment of the Belize River valley.