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PCSNY April 11 Lecture–Cameron McNeil

April 11, 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm


Recovering the Floral Fragrance of Ancient Maya Ritual: Pollen Evidence from Copan, Honduras

Cameron L. McNeil, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Lehman College

Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca. Image courtesy of Bibliothèque Nationale de France.


Abstract: Clues to the creation of flower-laden spaces in ancient Maya temples, tombs, and palaces lie on the floors of the best-preserved of these structures. The Copan Acropolis has proved to be a particularly good site for the recovery of well-preserved pollen grains from flowers that adorned ritual spaces. Scholars have described temple spaces as thick with the odor of burned copal, pine, and offerings, but added to this was the fresh and heady fragrance of greenery and blooming buds, imparting a fecund perfume to the areas of ritual supplication. These botanical offerings and adornments were undoubtedly tied to mythical associations, as they are today in modern Maya ritual houses. Analysis of pollen from sediment cores, and macroremains from middens, aided in the interpretation of ritual botanical materials, emphasizing the importance of understanding the complete ecological context of a community in the interpretation of species commonly found in ritual spaces. Few archaeological projects in the Maya area take floor samples for pollen analysis from buried temples and tombs. As this paper will demonstrate, this is a tremendous loss regarding our understanding of ancient Maya ritual practice.


Monday, April 11, 2022

6:00 pm  EST

Institute of Fine Arts–NYU



April 11, 2022
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm




Institute of Fine Arts–NYU
1 E. 78th Street
New York, United States
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