Discovery of an ancient vase bearing one of the longest hieroglyphic texts uncovered in the Central America lowlands offers clues into the mysterious breakdown of Maya civilization, according to a Baylor scholar who led the excavation.
Julie Hoggarth, PhD, assistant professor of anthropology in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences, found the shattered vessel amid artifacts associated with the abandonment of the royal palace complex at Baking Pot, a Maya archaeological site in the Belize River Valley.
Hoggarth co-authored the publication A Reading of the Komkom Vase Discovered at Baking Pot, Belize along with Christopher Helmke, PhD, of the University of Copenhagen, and Jaime J. Awe, PhD, of Northern Arizona University.
The vase’s 82 fragments were found in a large ritual deposit that had been covered with collapsed limestone blocks from adjacent structures after the site’s abandonment. Researchers painstakingly pieced them together and took a flat “rollout” photo. Some pieces are missing, but researchers estimate it to be more than 60 percent of the original.
The reason for abandonment of Baking Pot is still being investigated.
“There was existing political and social stress before the droughts — intra-elite rivalry for resources and territories — and the drought likely made it worse,” she said. “Rulers were born, not elected, and viewed as intermediaries between the gods and the commoners. If the rulers weren’t bringing rain, people could have voted with their feet and left.
“We find the artifacts, and they tell us part of the story, but the hieroglyphic texts offer a more personal viewpoint by the Maya themselves of what was occurring as sites were being abandoned.”