Pilgrimage to the edge of the watery underworld: An ancient Maya water temple at Cara Blanca, Belize

Lisa J. Lucero, Andrew Kinkella

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The Classic Maya (ad 250-950) landscape was imbued with sacred, animate qualities. Of particular significance were openings in the earth, such as caves and pools because, as portals to the underworld, the Maya could communicate with gods and ancestors to petition for plentiful rain and crops. The 25 pools of Cara Blanca, Belize embody such a place; their isolation from settled communities and the relatively sparse but unique architecture near pools suggest that it served as a pilgrimage destination. Growing evidence from exploratory dives and excavations at a possible water temple indicate that the Maya increased their visits in response to several prolonged droughts that struck between c. ad 800 and 900. Not only do we present results from a type of site that has been little explored, we also detail how non-elites dealt with climate change via ritual intensification and pilgrimage. It also serves as a lesson for how we deal with climate change today - that relying on traditional means rather than changing our course of action can have detrimental repercussions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-185
Number of pages23
JournalCambridge Archaeological Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 4 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Archaeology


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