Buried with Children: Reinterpreting Ancient Maya 'Toys'

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Scholars have recently begun to acknowledge the absence of children in models of ancient societies and have increasingly incorporated the roles of children in their analyses of archaeological data. This paper provides a revaluation of the grave goods accompanying child burials at the Postclassic site of Mayapán in the Northern Yucatán. Grave goods associated with child burials have been previously interpreted as playthings used to occupy children. In light of current ethno historical and archaeological literature concerning children's roles in Mesoamerica, however, I conclude that these grave goods have been interpreted according to Western conceptions of the childhood experience rather than according to those of Maya culture. I propose that grave goods included with child burials at Mayapán functioned not only as playthings, but also as instruments through which children were socialized to become valued and productive members of society.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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