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part three Special Buildings In addition to the household buildings, we found a few special buildings that we did not expect to find.They have taught us that there was a far greater richness, complexity, and sophistication to village life than we had imagined and that commoners were not under the total economic, political, and religious control of the nearby elite. Rather, significant manufacturing and exchange went on within the village with no evidence of elite manipulation. And for certain specific purposes, the religious life of the village went on in a small complex of specially built structures. Further, civic and political functions were the focus of at least one building facing the town plaza. This section begins with a close look at that civic complex by Andrea Gerstle. Cerenians used solid earthen walls for their civic buildings and faced them onto a formal plaza. Structure 3, the largest building excavated so far in the village, was apparently used for the adjudication of disputes, with local authorities (probably village elders) seated on the large benches in the front room listening to both sides before they announced their decision and sealed the deal with liquid dispensed from a large vessel sitting on the southern bench.The construction and maintenance of the civic center presumably was the responsibility of all families living in the village. A very different building is explored by Brian McKee. Like Structure 3, it was built with solid earthen walls, but the resemblances stop there. It had an earthen shell dome, a large firebox in the center, and an extensive thatched roof to protect the earthen architecture from the elements. It was Tseng 2002.3.21 12:14 6272 Sheets / BEFORE THE VOLCANO ERUPTED / sheet 93 of 238 82 payson sheets a large sweat bath that could seat almost a dozen people, and thus was a multihousehold or community facility, apparently maintained by the nearby Household 2. Service relationships within communities are notoriously difficult to document in archaeological sites, but we believe we are making some progress in this domain. Attention then turns to the two religious buildings , which were constructed at the highest elevation in the village at its easternmost extent and which share an orientation different from the above-mentioned domestic and special buildings. They also are different from the other buildings in that they were extensively painted white with red decorations and each successive floor is at a higher elevation as one progresses inside, presumably indicating leaving the secular world for the sacred. Numerous lines of evidence indicate that they both were maintained by the residents of Household 1, just to the west. One of these religious structures, a building with massive columns and a large antechamber that we prosaically call Structure 10, was dedicated to feasting and village festivals, as delineated by Linda Brown and Andrea Gerstle. The ceremonialism apparently was focused on deer, probably as symbols of fertility and sustenance, and it appears that ancient Cerén was celebrating the maize harvest in a similar manner. The eruption occurred at the time of the first maize harvest when a festival was taking place. Traditional Maya communities today have ceremonies at the time of the first maize harvest that focus on deer, fertility, and sustenance; perhaps ancient Cerén was celebrating the maize harvest in a similar manner. The eruption apparently interrupted the festival, as only part of the food was consumed . The other ritual building, just 5 m farther east, is today called Structure 12. As interpreted by Scott Simmons and Payson Sheets, it was used for divination , evidently by a woman. It is the most complex building excavated at the site so far and had no functioning assemblage of artifacts inside it, at least not functioning in utilitarian ways like those found in the other domestic, civic, and religious buildings of the site. If the objects found in a niche under a bench were the diviner’s supernatural tool kit, then these artifacts were an assemblage that functioned in the supernatural domain. P.S. Tseng 2002.3.21 12:14 6272 Sheets / BEFORE THE VOLCANO ERUPTED / sheet 94 of 238 ...


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