The Churches at Tipu and Lamanai
The Churches at Tipu and Lamanai
Abstract and Keywords
In this chapter, the excavations at Tipu and Lamanai are described, with a focus on the church at Tipu and the two churches built at Lamanai. What is known from documentary evidence about the two communities is summarized, church burials are discussed, and an attempt is made to integrate the information from archaeological and documentary sources. Reconstructions of what we think the churches looked like, based on archaeological data, are provided, and the overall narrative carries through to the end of the sixteenth century.
The ruins of colonial Tipu lie on the west bank of the Macal River in central Belize. Lamanai, in northern Belize, is on the north shore of the New River Lagoon near the point where the lagoon narrows to form the upper reaches of the New River (maps 2.3, 5.8). Both communities were a focus of conversion and conquest activity in the early Spanish colonial period. In this chapter, I present the results of the archaeological excavations of the churches at Tipu and Lamanai, and I discuss these results against the backdrop provided by the documentary record.
Archaeology at Tipu
In 1983 I assumed the direction of archaeological excavations at a place called Negroman, on the Macal River in the Cayo District of Belize, Central America. The upper reaches of the Macal drain the western flanks of the Maya Mountains, but the river then flows northward to join the Belize River at San Ignacio, the capital of the Cayo District. “Negroman” is the local name for an area that lies on the west bank of the Macal at a bend where the river's direction changes slightly from north to northeast, about 10 kilometers south of the confluence of the Macal with the Belize. The east side of the river, across from Negroman, is called “Macaw Bank.”
At the time of writing, Negroman is known in Belize as the site of one of the Espat family farms. Although by the 1990s much of the area had been planted in papaya, in the 1980s the farm had been cleared for cattle pasture. In that period, pasture dominated the perennially dry second river terrace, (p.190) and as one descended to the river, where the ground was subjected to annual floods, pasture gave way to secondary bush and to river banks bordered by bullet trees (Bucida buceras L.). The river's waters, then and now, are clear and fast-moving. Crocodiles sun themselves in bends upriver, where the force of the water is slowed by sand bars or vegetation. Where we used to approach the river, there was a conveniently wide and shady spot for bathing or washing clothes. The river itself drains metamorphic and igneous rocks and then flows through limestone, with the result that its waters have a close to neutral pH and leave no detectable residues of lime or iron or any other minerals on skin or hair or clothes. From this vantage, Negroman is a choice spot in which to manage a household.1
“Tipu,” or “Tipuj,” is a rendering, based on the colonial documents, of the Maya name for a town that thrived at this locale in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and probably for many years before.2 We know that the town was called “Tipu” because Grant Jones had for many years explored archives of documents pertaining to the Spanish invasion of Mesoamerica. Although documents on Spanish activities in Mexico and Guatemala far outnumber those on Belize, Jones was particularly interested in the role of the wider area of which Belize was a part, what he has called the southern Maya frontier.3 He followed the lead of Sir J. Eric S. Thompson,4 the well known British Mayanist who, in addition to his research in epigraphy and archaeology, searched colonial documents for information on the Spanish presence in Belize. Thompson had used references in the documents to narrow down the location of an early Spanish-period church to a community once located at the bend in the Macal, but which side? Was it Negroman, or Macaw Bank? Thompson thought it was probably Macaw Bank, but in 1978 Jones and the archaeologist David Pendergast visited the area to see if they could provide an answer to the question. Apart from the more obvious mounds that represented pre-Columbian structures, they detected a zone of distinctive, undulating relief in one of the cattle pastures at Negroman that hinted at the presence of the ruins of a long-abandoned community that could be colonial Tipu.
The first investigations at Negroman-Tipu, from 1980 to 1982, were directed by Robert Kautz and Grant Jones with the assistance of Claude Belanger. Belanger was responsible for architectural recording and mapping at Tipu, and he also played a substantial role at Lamanai in the excavation and recording of historic buildings. His involvement at both sites, and indeed my involvement at both sites, and the nature of cooperation between Pendergast and Jones has facilitated the sharing of information, with the result that what we are able to say about the elusive Spanish colonial experience in Belize has, we hope, been enhanced.
Only pre-Columbian structures were encountered when Kautz, Jones, and (p.191) Belanger began work at Negroman. At the end of the season in 1980 Jones suggested they take a look at an innocuous low mound that was distinguished by a clear east-west orientation. Jones undertook a bit of troweling, and revealed what would turn out to be the steps leading to the sanctuary of a church. Test pits eventually exposed burials associated with the Christian mission church (fig. 8.1).5 Mark Cohen of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and his students undertook research and excavation focused specifically on these burials.
The second phase of investigations at Negroman-Tipu began under my direction in 1984;6 no excavations were carried out in 1985, but fieldwork continued in 1986 and 1987. Cohen and his team directed the excavation of the burials in and around the church, which numbered 604; of these, 585 were colonial,7 and 19 were Postclassic. I focused on the structures that we had identified as part of the historic-period community center, although we also carried out excavations8 of church standing walls, collapse debris, sacristy, altar area, and nave features. Publications and reporting include results of the excavations; human skeletal indicators of health and genetics;9 dietary studies from faunal remains;10 analysis of various classes of artifacts;11 and the methods of conjoining archaeology and ethnohistory.12
Known throughout Belize as “Indian Church,” at least since the 1860s,13 Lamanai is located in northern Belize, on the western shore of the New River Lagoon (maps 2.3, 5.8). It sits just at the point where the lagoon's north end narrows to form the headwaters of the New River, which wends its way slowly from the lagoon northward to Chetumal Bay. “Lamanay ó Lamayná” appears in Lopez de Cogolludo's history of Yucatan,14 and “Lamanay” is the spelling used in most seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century maps (maps 5.5, 5.6, 5.9).15 In most cases, Lamanay is shown as an island. The exceptions of which I am aware are the Blaeu map (map 5.6),16 in which Lamanay is on the mainland, and the map by van DeCust in Loots's Sea-Mirrour, in which Lamanay is both an island and a place on the mainland directly across from the island.17
Thompson18 proposed “Laman/ai,” based on his reading of the word as “drowned insect,” and this is the spelling now enshrined in the literature. “Lamanai” does appear, however, in Dudley's “Carta Prima Generale” of 1646–47 (map 5.4). More recently, the various renditions of the site name have been suggested to reflect a corruption of what the Spaniards first heard as the Maya name for the site—Lama'an/ayin—which has been proposed as meaning “submerged crocodile.”19
Excavations at Lamanai were initiated by David Pendergast in 1974 and continued until 1986, with the result that Maya occupation was demonstrated to have extended from as early as 1500 B.C. to the Spanish and British colonial periods.20 In 1998, I initiated a second phase of investigation, which continues to build upon earlier work.21 Like Tipu, Lamanai boasts a substantial colonial component; in fact, two Spanish colonial-period churches were excavated at Lamanai, designated YDL (Yglesia de Lamanai) I and YDL II (figs. 8.2, 7.2). The substantial size of YDL II suggests that Lamanai was of considerable importance as a center for Christianized Maya in Belize in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.22
Tipu and Lamanai
Both Tipu and Lamanai periodically served as congregation or reduction centers—congregación or reducción in Spanish administrative parlance.23 These centers were designated towns or villages into which the Maya from surrounding communities, each with its extended and scattered landholdings,24 were brought, to facilitate both their monitoring as new Christians and their integration into the tribute system. It is probably owing to the fact that Tipu and Lamanai were reduction centers that we know anything about them at all, (p.193)
Archaeology at Tipu and Lamanai has contributed information on colonial conditions, particularly with regard to architecture, community layout, and material culture.25 Pottery vessels, figurines, censers, stelae, caches,26 burial accompaniments, and buildings all reflect a process by which community members were attempting to maintain control over their natural and spiritual lives at the same time that they were adjusting to rapidly changing conditions. In this light, the contexts of archaeological discoveries and the artifacts associated with the churches are particularly revealing. Because pictures were used by the friars to facilitate conversion, pre-Columbian imagery and its post-Columbian contexts are as important in understanding the conversion process as is Spanish catechizing.
The Spanish colonial encounter cannot always and everywhere be enriched by archaeology, however, and there are currents of change that affected the (p.194) environment of conquest and conversion which are known only through the documents.27 Because the colonial experience in Belize as seen through the documents has been detailed elsewhere by Jones,28 I try in this context to bring together information that is relevant to Tipu and Lamanai in particular, with an eye to emphasizing events, people, and processes that illuminate the encounter with Christianity.
The Belize Missions
Jones has observed that the archaeological and historical records are so different that each requires its own reflections before complete integration can be achieved.29 I would go so far as to say that integration will always be problematic and incomplete because, although we use the term “record” for both ethnohistory and archaeology, what constitutes the ethnohistorical record is not directly comparable to, or necessarily compatible with, what constitutes the archaeological record. What people say happened could turn out to be only one version of events, or may not have happened at all, and what we know from archaeological remains is based on inference.30 Nonetheless, attempting to make sense of what we think we know from archaeology and ethnohistory is a critical exercise because it stimulates us to ask better questions, even if we do not always get answers. It can throw inconsistencies into high relief, suggest alternative explanations, and point to the direction in which research should be headed.
With regard to ethnohistory, Jones's work has entailed study of documents written in Spanish by Spanish colonial authorities, and to this extent he follows in the footsteps of scholars who have studied Spanish documents in an attempt to understand Maya-Spanish interaction in Yucatan, such as Scholes, Menéndez, Mañé, Adams, Chamberlain, J. Eric S. Thompson, Roys, García Bernal, Hunt, Clendinnen, and Farriss.31 Restall32 makes the point that another perspective is to be found in indigenous-language sources. He draws attention to a recently strengthening current of scholarship, traced back to Roys,33 that takes into account Maya native-language documentation and the idea that there exist intellectual ties between the language of pre- and post-conquest texts (e.g., the work of Bricker, Burns, Christenson, Edmonson, Hanks, Okoshi, Philip Thompson, and Restall himself).34 To date, no Maya-language documentation from the Belize missions has been discovered, although the requirement of yearly visits to Mérida to confirm administrative posts, and the fact that the Maya were clearly familiar and comfortable with a system in which written documentation figured importantly in sociopolitical affairs, both suggest strongly that such documentation was indeed generated.
Research such as Restall's,35 although focused on northern Yucatan, has (p.195) been instrumental in widening our perception of the possible range of activities in which the Belize Maya engaged, and in encouraging us to recognize the potential of the Maya in Belize for meeting the Spanish legal and administrative system head-on and using it to their advantage. Admittedly, flight-as-resistance, rather than use of the legal system as resistance, is the first thing that comes to mind when Belize villages and towns under Spanish rule are considered, simply because towns with any significant number of Spanish settlers did not exist in Belize,36 and forested terrain provided safe haven. However, aspects of Jones's descriptions of villages and towns that were contacted more than once and then reduced with little outward resistance, at least in the decades before 1638 and after about 1650, suggest that the Maya, even in remote Belize, had a good understanding of Spanish administrative behavior, and used this knowledge to work with rather than always against Spanish dicta. How much of this hypothesized engagement made its way to Mérida as petitions to authority is not completely known, but Jones's analysis paints a picture of a highly dynamic, proactive region, and Restall emphasizes that population numbers in Yucatan were in the Mayas' favor.37
One extension of this dynamic is that we should be careful not to see the modern Belize national boundary as having been a boundary to the Maya in the past. Families and individuals in Yucatan used centuries-old paths, which crisscrossed the peninsula, to flee from tribute burdens in towns, and many of these paths led to Belize. Much of my interpretation of events rests on the assumption, detailed in chapter 5, that effective and even intensive communication along indigenous networks that connected Belize and Yucatan provided the Maya with information that became a good basis for action.
Belize then and Now
The Spanish colonial history of the Belize missions, including Tipu and Lamanai, can be said to extend from about 1543–44 to 1707, although mission towns were established, and apparently soon abandoned, in southern Belize as late as 1724.38 The villa of Bacalar, little more than a hamlet, was the last outpost of Spanish settlers one would encounter en route from Mérida to Maya settlements such as Lamanai and Tipu in Belize. Bacalar's life as a thriving settlement during this period was short,39 but it nonetheless remained in the Spanish sphere, whereas the lands to the south of it did not.
The northern part of the peninsula, north of Belize, grades to subtropical conditions and is drier than the humid lowlands of Belize or the Guatemalan Peten. Therefore, Yucatan (the modern Mexican states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, and Campeche [see map 1.1]) attracted Spanish settlers, whereas Belize did not. No skeletons of Spanish individuals have been found in the excavated (p.196) colonial cemeteries at Tipu and Lamanai (585 individuals at Tipu,40 and about 243 at Lamanai); and Spanish artifacts, although important, form a very small percentage of the totals recovered.
Owing to the presence of Spanish settlers, Yucatan was administered more intensively than Belize. On the other hand, compared to highland regions, Mayas greatly outnumbered Spaniards in Yucatan (even without including Belize and the frontier) until as late as the late eighteenth century.41 Maya-Spanish relations therefore took a distinctive turn in Yucatan that surely influenced the course of Maya-Spanish relations in Belize. Spanish settlers in Yucatan wanted a system that worked; their interest was profit, but at the same time, they recognized that they were outnumbered and were completely dependent on the people who outnumbered them as regards human resources. Hence, as long as the system functioned and they received tribute and taxes, they were not interested in interfering with Maya politics or with how the Maya ran their lives.42
Overall, we can probably say that such a situation allowed the Maya a degree of autonomy in Yucatan and Belize that did not exist in areas of denser Spanish populations and intensive Spanish economic interest. This autonomy, or semi-autonomy, probably contributed to the fact that the Maya in Belize were able to develop and to capitalize on new kinds of long-distance trade between the zones with minimal to no Spanish resident population (such as Belize, the Peten lakes, and southern Campeche, which nevertheless produced items in demand by the Spaniards) and the more populated towns of northern Yucatan.43 Such trade in Belize centered on riverine towns which, like Lamanai and Tipu,44 offered not only refuge from excessive tribute and taxation but also new economic opportunities.45
The Southern Maya Frontier
Jones includes Belize in a zone he calls the southern Maya frontier. By this he means land and people that lie beyond direct interaction with the dominant society,46 and in this case, the dominant society was the colonial administration based in Yucatan. The quality of remoteness possessed by the frontier—or at least what was “remote” to the Spanish world—will be seen to have served the Maya well. Spanish authorities did not find it easy or pleasant to penetrate the southern forests. Only the Franciscans seem to have taken such hardships in their stride, but they simply lacked the numbers to maintain a significant presence in Belize. How many of the Maya fleeing Yucatan actually made their way to Belize is not known, but accounts suggest that economic oppression was the stimulus to flight.47
Paying tribute was not new to the Maya, nor were they unfamiliar with a (p.197) world in which people worshiped in different ways. Providing tribute to Spanish overlords whose attention focused on a deity that was new to the Maya world replaced supplying tribute to the overlords of the past, who could have been either local or foreign.48 Although attempts to obtain tribute-exempt or tax-exempt status perpetuated economic differences among elites,49 one difference from the past was that the uppermost strata could no longer jockey for positions and power at the top by intermarriage or negotiation or warfare. The Maya were now excluded from the ruling stratum simply because they were non-Spaniards. The other difference—which in fact may not have been all that different—was that it often became difficult to meet Spanish tribute or other tax demands. In some cases, the Maya found that they could not feed themselves or their families,50 and it was in these cases that individuals often chose simply to pick up and move to a place where it would be difficult for the authorities to find them.
Despite the increasing remoteness of communities in Belize, the Spaniards made efforts to maintain contact, even in the difficult years after a series of rebellions took place in 1638–41.51 Belize communities had been subject to encomenderos since as early as 1544,52 and even though the sizes and make-up of encomiendas changed, tribute had nonetheless to be collected. In addition, as part of the colonization effort, the Belize Christians had to be visited and ministered to. The archaeological remains—ordered communities, churches, buildings that incorporated non-Maya layouts, established cemeteries, practices consonant with Christian ritual, however superficial—suggest strongly that either Spanish priests and encomenderos (or their agents) visited Lamanai and Tipu regularly, or if they visited less than regularly, then the initial efforts expended in obtaining tribute commitments by encomenderos (or their agents, backed by soldiers?) and in proselytizing, almost certainly by Franciscans, must have been considerable.
For the Maya, paying tribute did not constitute a change from pre-Columbian practice; change instead took the form of paying different people different things in different amounts, and according to new rules. Cotton was high on tribute lists in both pre- and post-Columbian times, as were honey, salt, beeswax, maize and cacao.53 Jade, shell, salted or dried fish, ground stone, chert, obsidian, slate-backed mirrors, pre-Columbian religious icons, and other items not valued by Europeans were not part of tribute payments, although some of these items continued to be exchanged among Maya communities.54 Because the concept of regular tribute was not new, Maya communities adjusted by accepting a shift in overlords as part of a process rooted in their pre-Columbian experience. Christianity, however, is normally seen to be foreign to pre-Columbian experience, which makes the persistence of Christianity in the face of irregular visits by the religious harder to explain.
(p.198) As I commented in early chapters, some have argued that Christianity was simply a veneer, but when preaching and participation are aimed at children, a practice to which the Franciscans directed their principal efforts,55 the world changes for the children and there is no such thing as veneer, except to an outside analyst. Proselytization was highly successful because (1) the Maya were open to new ideas about the spiritual world because there was precedent for openness in their pre-Columbian past; and (2) the incorporation of pre-Christian practices did not make them less Christian, because this is what Christianity has always been about. If one looks closely at the history of Christianity elsewhere, syncretism is Christianity. Put another way, the new Christians saw nuances in Christianity because they were faced with choices; the old Christians could not look at what they believed as other than a complete, take-it-or-leave-it package.
Rethinking Christianity and syncretism is a topic taken up in other chapters; at this juncture, it is important simply to emphasize that Belize at this time was a region of contradiction. The greater or denser expanses of “bush,” or forest,56 than existed in Yucatan permitted the Maya relative freedom of movement. Yet given frontier conditions and the difficulties Europeans had (and still have) in adjusting to the heat, humidity, vegetation, and insects of the tropical lowlands, the Spaniards were surprisingly effective in maintaining any sorts of networks in these areas at all. Jones's account of various entradas presents a picture of people readily setting off from Bacalar to Tipu, a journey that even today would be arduous. Thus, the story of the frontier that became Belize remains an enigma. The archaeological data presented here do not simplify the story, but the phenomenon of growing complexity probably brings us closer to truth.
Tipu and Lamanai were part of a region referred to by Jones as “Dzuluinicob.”57 Dzuluinicob was the pre-Columbian name for the New River (map 2.3), and translates as “foreign people.”58 Basing his interpretation on a reference in a document written between 1570 and 1571, Jones sees Dzuluinicob as a pre-Columbian provincial entity, and he includes in Dzuluinicob the territory from the Sittee River north to the lower New River (map 2.1d), at the head of which Lamanai is situated. Thus, he sees both Lamanai and Tipu as part of this pre-Columbian province, with Tipu serving as its political center in Spanish colonial times.
Based on the archaeological evidence alone, it is difficult to envisage Tipu and Lamanai as belonging to the same geopolitical pre-Conquest unit, particularly one that was territorially defined. Following the arrival of Europeans in (p.199) the New World in 1492, however, it is possible that the disruption caused by the Spaniards and other Europeans in Central America and central Mexico, and the flight from the coasts generated by the raids of buccaneers and other seafarers in the Caribbean Basin, may have combined to create conditions in which Tipu and Lamanai, and indeed many Belize communities, were drawn together and became more intimately connected than they had been in the past. Hence, the two communities may have become part of an effectively integrated region following the Uaymil-Chetumal-Belize conquest in 1544. In any case, I retain “Dzuluinicob” to refer to a region that subsumes Tipu and Lamanai in the colonial period, with the caveat that the existence of well-developed, supra-community, pre-Conquest units based on delimited territory is open to question.59
The year 1544 marked the first encomiendas, or tribute-paying regions, as inferred from Spanish records.60 About twenty-five towns in Belize are named in colonial documents,61 but the locations of only five are supported to varying degrees by archaeological evidence: Chanlacan,62 Chetumal, Colmotz, Lamanai, and Tipu63 (map 2.3).
Archaeologists at the site of Santa Rita Corozal uncovered remains that date to as late as a.d. 1532, and they have proposed Santa Rita as the site of ancient Chetumal.64 Colmotz is described in the documents as being at the south end of the New River Lagoon. The east bank location suggested by Scholes and Thompson65 is extremely unlikely because the land on the entire eastern side of the lagoon is characterized by poorly drained soils of the savanna, or, as savanna is known in Belize, “pine ridge.” However the west bank, known as Hill Bank, once served as the headquarters for the Belize Estate and Produce Company. Construction operations in the late 1970s by the manager, Martin Meadows, yielded a sherd of Spanish pottery and several pieces of distinctive stonework which strongly suggested Spanish colonial origin.66 I have therefore located Colmotz at Hill Bank on the map (map 2.3). This leaves us with Lamanai and Tipu as the only sites that have revealed the presence of mission churches and their associated communities.
The Towns of Tipu and Lamanai
The town of Tipu (fig. 1.1) was the last of a string of visita missions extending south-southwest from the villa of Bacalar.67 Lamanai, at the north end of the New River Lagoon (map 2.3), is relatively close to Bacalar and was the first of the Belize missions to be identified archaeologically, owing to the presence of a stone capilla, or chapel (see chap. 6) that at one time formed part of a sub stantial church (fig. 7.2).68 Lamanai's position at the headwaters of the New River probably made it a logical port for canoe traffic, and the documents (p.200) confirm that Spanish authorities, both secular and religious, would often stop at Lamanai on the way southward to communities, such as Tipu, that lay along the upper Belize River. In getting to Tipu from Bacalar, a Franciscan friar would have to have covered about 200 kilometers, using river and overland routes.69 Tipu, perhaps owing to the difficulties of such a journey, is distinguished by Jones70 as never having been visited by anyone of importance in the Spanish colonial government.
Archaeologically, colonial Tipu seems smaller and less impressive than Lamanai—less impressive owing to the absence of a church with a stone chapel (fig. 8.1); smaller because historic-period ceramics occur in a number of scattered locales throughout the Lamanai settlement (maps 8.1, 8.2), whereas at Tipu, based on evidence to date, the historic ceramics are restricted to the
Tipu's size apparently belies its former importance, because it is well documented in the ethnohistorical sources, whereas Lamanai is seldom mentioned.73 However, the attention given to Tipu in the documents could simply reflect the vagaries of preservation. Or, as Jones argues, Tipu's position between the non-Christianized Maya communities of the Peten lakes and the successfully Christianized towns of Belize made it a strategic focus for Spanish authorities who were intent on extending Spanish rule and religion to Peten. As such, Tipu was as important strategically to the Itzas at Nohpeten (p.203) (map 2.4) as it was to the Spaniards, and Tipuans adjusted their allegiances as the situation demanded.
Tipu's position also served to enhance its economic growth, owing in part to the freedom with which the Maya could control their own affairs, and in part to the success of what Jones has called its planter-traders.74 Tipu was highly successful as a producer of fine-quality cacao, which was a major item of tribute in the colonial era, and its traders used well-established contacts with northern Yucatecan sources to acquire manufactured tools, such as machetes and knives, which were then sold to the Maya communities around the Peten lakes.75 Lamanai's activities in colonial times are unclear from the documents, although the archaeological evidence suggests (as discussed below) that Lamanai interacted more intensively with the colonial realm than did Tipu, at least in the earlier years of contact and evangelization. The results of archaeological excavations, combined with the information described in chapter 6, also suggest that the main investment in evangelizing and ministering to communities in Belize took place at the early end of the colonial encounter, and probably primarily in the sixteenth century.
The Framework of Events
Coming to Terms with the Spanish Presence
From 1544 until about 1553,76 the Villa of Salamanca de Bacalar was home to Melchor and Alonso Pacheco, both of whom were listed as alcaldes. The records point to the existence of five encomiendas. By far the largest was held by Melchor Pacheco; four much smaller encomiendas seem to have been held by Alonso Pacheco and three regidores of the villa.77 Of the encomiendas established in Belize at this time, only Chanlacan was identified by Jones with certainty, although Tipu and Lamanai are believed to have been among these early encomiendas, based on references in later documents. What is important is that the encomienda Maya towns of this early period were difficult to control. Those that were farther away from Bacalar, such as Tipu, could not be monitored, and those that were closer, such as Lamanai, were composed not only of local populations but also of those forcibly brought in as part of congregation efforts.78
Both flight and population loss characterized the years after 1544 in the Bacalar province, although the trend began as early as 1531, if not before. Most observations concerning population estimates before 1544 refer not to Belize (Dzuluinicob) specifically but more generally to Cochua, Uaymil, and Chetumal (map 5.1), which were described by Dávila (and his companion Alonso Luján in 1531 [see chapter 5]) as having many towns close to one another.79 Bienvenida claimed that there had been towns of 500 to 1,000 houses, but that (p.204) by 1548, a town of 100 houses would have been large. Jones estimates, based on information from the documents, that by 1582 the province of Salamanca de Bacalar had only about 856 Mayas, which seems incredibly low.80 Although both Dávila and Bienvenida had traveled through Belize—Dávila southward along the coast and Bienvenida northward on his way from highland Guatemala to Bacalar—it is unclear whether their comments on dense populations included Belize towns, although there is no reason to think otherwise. It may also be true that the population was higher in 1582 than Jones's estimate, but that, given conditions in Belize, many Maya were living outside the tribute system.
What exactly was happening at Tipu in the years just after 1544 is unknown. Lamanai, being close to Bacalar and accessible via the New River from Chetumal Bay, may well have been accessed by encomenderos or their agents in Bacalar more frequently than Tipu; however, we simply do not know the details of Spanish-Maya interaction at Lamanai and Tipu at this time, other than that the two communities had probably become part of encomiendas and were supposed to be paying tribute to a Spaniard based in Bacalar. It is worth commenting that Jones's picture of Bacalar and its tributaries is so bleak81 that it is hard to imagine as much went on at Lamanai and Tipu as is indicated by the archaeology.
The earlier church at Lamanai, YDL I (figs. 8.2, 8.3), which was identified originally as a pre-Columbian structure (see below),82 may well have been built during or shortly after the 1544 Pacheco entrada.83 The possibility exists that Bienvenida was responsible for its construction, as he is said to have evangelized on his journey from Guatemala through Belize to Mérida. This inference of an early construction date is based on two types of archaeological evidence: that the construction of YDL I reflects a learning process—trial and error between someone (a Franciscan?) overseeing the construction and the Maya doing the constructing;84 and the fact that no sherds of Spanish pottery or any other European artifacts were recovered from the core of the church platform or its walls.85
Whether YDL I was built following the Pachecos' entrada or later, what we know from the documents is that rebellion broke out almost immediately in the eastern provinces of Yucatan in 1546, and in northern Belize in 1547 at Chanlacan (map 2.3), which had become a new gathering place for local Maya forces.86 Despite the fact that the inhabitants of Chanlacan had killed their encomendero, the rebellion was said by Juan de Aguilar87 in his probanza to have been peacefully quelled, with the help of people from Lamanai, in 1547.88 Participation by the people of Lamanai leaves little doubt that the community had been among the earliest to be contacted, and was probably among the original encomiendas.
In 1568 Juan de Garzón led entradas into Cehach territory just north of Lake Peten Itza, through Belize to Tipu and its environs, and farther south into Manche Chol territory (map 5.1), after which the party returned to Bacalar via Lamanai.89 In Cehach territory, a Maya priest was encountered who is described by Garzón as having led his people in returning to pre-Columbian religious practices; this same individual spoke Spanish and had been raised with friars90 (probably in Mani91). From this we can infer that conversion efforts between 1544 and 1568, even in these remote regions, had been intensive, and that some boys had been taken either to Campeche or to Yucatan to be raised and taught by the Franciscans. At Tipu, Don Francisco Cumux, a principal, sent his sons to the schools run by the friars,92 probably in Yucatan.93
Garzón apparently found many “idols” at Tipu. The reference to Tipu confirms that it was an established colonial town with existing cabildos, and it is the nature of this reference that led Jones to the conclusion that Tipu had been made part of an encomienda in 1544. In 1568, Mayas were congregated (reduced) by Garzón and his men at Tipu. The fact that Garzón chose Tipu as the reduction center suggests that the community was a place that had indeed been visited periodically by Spanish authorities and could therefore be monitored, despite its remoteness, more easily than other towns.
Franciscan friars accompanied Garzón's entradas,94 and it may have been
One of the major tasks that occupied the Franciscans at Tipu and other Belize Maya towns in 1568 was the burning of books.97 Chuchiak explains that this intolerance was a driving force in the proselytization of the Maya, whereas earlier, in central Mexico, preservation of aspects of native culture had been considered useful in understanding native thought.98 The climate of the times, then, helps to explain the zeal with which the Franciscans working in Belize approached the extirpation of “idolatry.”
Good Christians: From 1568 Until the Early Seventeenth Century
Jones describes the period between 1568 and 1618 as a time when the Spaniards from Bacalar struggled to hold on to their encomienda villages and towns, which numbered only about twenty.99 Because it took two months for a single priest to visit the communities in Belize, everyday religious care was placed in the hands of local Maya, who could be maestros cantores (choirmasters) or maestros de capilla (chapel masters) or simply maestros,100 although the documents on Yucatan also mention the position of sacristan mayor. The maestros were individuals who taught catechism, acted as scribes, and couldcarry out rituals required for baptism and burial.101 The sacristans looked after the vestments and ritual objects of the church. A maestro de capilla is mentioned at Tipu in 1618,102 but it is likely that there were designated individuals who looked after the church and its contents as well.
Reductions centered on Tipu took place in 1608 and in 1615, with the result that encomienda restructuring had taken place by 1622.103 No archaeological evidence can yet be tied to influxes of Spaniards in particular years, but the excavated evidence at Tipu argues for periodic construction of new houses as well as additions and alterations to previous ones, so that despite the intermittent Spanish attention, the community seems to have grown and to have maintained a colonial face. It is interesting that Jones104 describes the period of the early seventeenth century as one in which Bacalar's control over its hinterland was nearing a state of collapse; by 1608, flight from the encomienda towns of the southern Bacalar province had increased, although this probably contributed to rather than detracted from Tipu's strength.
The Indian Church—YDL II
Although we now know that YDL II (Str. N12–13) was the later church to have been built at Lamanai, it was the first to be discovered and excavated. The remains of YDL II and selected structures in or near the historic town center, most notably YDL I and the probable residence, Str. N11–18 (map 8.1, fig. 8.5), were excavated under Pendergast's direction at various times during the years from 1974 to 1986.105 The ruins of the stone chapel of YDL II were well known throughout Belize and gave the site its name of “Indian Church.”106 It was this crumbling structure (fig. 7.2) that originally drew attention to the site, and on which excavations focused from 1974 to 1976.107
In 1985 a cemetery was discovered at Lamanai just east of YDL II.108 (This was the second historic-period cemetery to be discovered, the first associated with YDL I, to be discussed below.) Only 13 burials were excavated, but the apparent limits of the cemetery suggest a large area—Pendergast estimates that there may be as many as 400 or more individuals (fig. 8.6).109 The graves were dug into a platform that was situated in the gradually descending terrain between YDL II and the lagoon (see map 8.1).
Pendergast thinks that the graves may have been marked, because disturbance of earlier burials, in contrast with what we shall see was the case with the first church, was infrequent. When an earlier grave was disturbed, the bones were gathered together and set atop the newly interred body. Pendergast feels that a good case can be made for this second cemetery being contemporaneous with the use of YDL II.110
Beginning in 1998, I directed excavations in the hope of clarifying features of YDL II's plan and its relationship to the structure to its immediate north, Str. N12–12, which is believed to have served as the “rectory,” or residence, for friars or secular clergy when they came to Lamanai to minister to the population (map 8.1, fig. 8.7). The results of the 1998 excavations suggested that a connection or passageway between YDL II and the rectory, which would have served the resident priest, lay just west of the northwest corner of the chapel (map 8.1, figs. 7.2, 8.8, 8.9). In 2007, clearing and excavation as part of the Belize Institute of Archaeology's program of consolidation of the churches at Lamanai resulted in clarification of further critical features of YDL II;111 Claude Belanger and Jorge Kan discovered three postholes that defined the size of the nave (figs. 8.4, 8.8, 8.10).112
The nave of YDL II was almost certainly wood with a thatched roof; no nails were found to indicate European construction, so it is likely that the native Maya method of framing, with lianas, or vines, rather than nails, was used. As a result of the work carried out in 2007, we now know that the nave (p.209)
Fragments of a pre-Columbian-style censer were found associated with the centerline posthole, about 20 centimeters below the surface (fig. 8.11). We cannot be certain, but the depth and scatter suggested that the censer had been deposited after the church had fallen into disuse. There was a larger platform-like feature, ca. 2 meters on a side, about 22 meters west of the stone chapel of YDL II and 16 meters west of the centerline posthole. This feature, however, pre-dated the construction of the church and is likely to have been associated with the pre-Columbian structures that immediately antedate the church period.
The 2007 excavations provided enough evidence for a reconstruction of YDL II (fig. 8.4). Like all reconstructions, it is one of a number of possibilities. With regard to the chapel, the reconstruction of its dimensions, the nature of the stonework, the existence of three rooms with one major entranceway between the sanctuary and the nave, and the lack of access to the rectory through the north room of the chapel are all based on solid archaeological evidence. The roof and upper-zone ornamentation are conjectural, based on churches with chapels (capillas) in Yucatan and Mexico. The arch over the entranceway between the nave and the sanctuary is conjectural, although such a feature is consistent with other Yucatecan chapels, as are the steps leading up to the chapel. It is interesting that Thomas Gann,115 who visited (p.211) Indian Church in 1919 or slightly earlier,116 reports the presence of arches, although it is not clear where these stood. His exact words are: “By far the most interesting structure in this ancient settlement was the little building which had given it the name Indian Church. The walls and part of the roof were still in an excellent state of preservation, and the entries were surmounted by true arches.”117
The doorway shown leading from the nave to the rectory (Str. N12–12) in figure 8.4 is based partly on archaeological excavations, but the evidence is far from certain. The rectory was built on a pre-Columbian platform (fig. 8.9 shows the south face of this platform), part of which was dismantled during the construction of the chapel. fig. 8.9 shows the line of the north wall of the chapel actually extending beyond (north of) the former face line of the N12–12 platform. The N12–12 facing stones here had been removed and the platform cut back during chapel construction. It is likely that the cut-back platform was refaced in the past, but none of the facing stones remains. The rectory, Str. N12–12, was in fact in a considerable state of collapse and almost denuded of facing stones, which suggests that it was extensively mined for building material in the past. Nonetheless, based on the nature of the relationship between the chapel and the N12–12 platform, on the remaining stones
Pendergast118 makes the important point that the form of the union between the chapel and the nave would have required a joint between masonry and thatch that would have posed significant engineering problems, not least of which would have been the difficulties evident when it rained. For this reason, in the reconstruction drawing (fig. 8.4) a stone drain is depicted at this juncture, mortised into the chapel wall.
Unfortunately, the British entrepreneurs who were engaged in sugar production at Indian Church in the nineteenth century used the church's chapel as a smithy119 and destroyed any stratigraphy that might have been preserved from Spanish times. The colonial documents report that visiting friars found the church burned in 1641, apparently as a consequence of the rebellion that from 1638 had spread throughout the southern Maya frontier.120 There were no archaeological remains that could be connected to a burning event, but pre-Columbian-style ritual activities, for which there is evidence, clearly post-dated the church's Christian phase, although by how many years is not known.
Two stelae were erected at an unknown point in time subsequent to the burning of the church.121 One plain stela still stands in situ in the nave, near the chapel entry (fig. 8.9). The other stela, observed by Thomas Gann around 1919, was described in reports to him as a “big tombstone in the bush by the side of the church, all covered with curious devices, painted in different colours.”122 When Gann arrived at the site, he found that the stone was no longer covered with curious figures. “It was a solid slab of stone, standing some 5 ft. out of the ground, rather well sculptured to represent a gigantic snake's head.” Gann proceeded to dig up the stone, and was surprised to find that “the lower foot or so of it, which had been buried in the ground, and so better preserved than the upper part, had been covered originally with three layers of white stucco, superimposed the one over the other, and that upon each of these layers were distinct traces of painted devices in various colours!”123
The decorated stela, like the first, stood in what was once the church nave.124 It must then have been removed by Gann, because a description of it appears in the records of the National Museum of the American Indian.125 The card in the museum's catalogue states: “Stela with serpent's head at one end and covered in places with two layers of stucco formerly painted. This was standing in situ near an ancient building in the vicinity of Indian Church, British Honduras.”126
The plain stela excavated by Pendergast revealed a small fragmented ceramic figure of a crocodilian creature (LA 423/4, fig. 8.12) buried at the base, along with a reworked jade pendant (not pictured). At the same time or later, a larger, two-headed ceramic figure, a composite of creatures but at least part-crocodilian (Cache N12–13/5, LA 767/1, fig. 8.13), was buried in the northern area of the nave just outside the chapel wall.127 Just south of the chapel entry (p.214)
Gann got his hands on a cache from Indian Church at some point in his career (fig. 8.16). We do not know for certain where on site the cache came from because it does not seem to be reported in the literature; its existence is known because the cache and its contents are part of the National Museum of the American Indian collections. It is likely, however, that the cache came from the area of the churches because we know Gann observed the stelae and excavated in the church zone.128 The main component is a ceramic effigy of a shark-like creature, which, like the cache associated with the plain (p.215)
In addition to the caches and stelae associated with YDL II and its environs, Pendergast reported the occurrence of a small altar built in the ruins of the nave;131 the altar stood just west of what I have suggested served as the doorway between the nave and the rectory (fig. 8.4 shows the doorway). The stones were cleared in 1976 and do not appear in the photo (fig. 8.9) taken in 1998, but they are reported to have formed a small platform, not dissimilar to what was found in the Tipu church (see below).
A “burial mound” 7–8 meters south of YDL II, which contained approximately 230 interments, was excavated in 1976 (map 8.1, figs. 8.2,8.17).132 A Late Postclassic building on a low platform, similar to those known from the site of Tulum in Quintana Roo,133 and commonly termed a temple, had been razed and the area within and around the razed structure subsequently used as a burying-ground during the church period.134 The mound was originally thought to have served solely as the cemetery for YDL II,135 but in 1983 further investigation revealed it to be the remains of an earlier church, YDL I, (p.219)
Two caches were associated with YDL I; one was deposited during the church's construction, and the other probably postdates construction. In 1983, two apparent plinths (for statuary?) were cleared that flanked the north-side stair of the razed pre-Columbian structure (figs. 8.2, 8.17). A small animal-effigy (Cache N12–11/2, fig. 8.15; the plinth is visible in fig. 8.2), apparently feline, was found in a small unsealed pit cut into the western plinth; the pit and plinth had been overlain by core of the church platform. In 2007, another animal-effigy vessel was found buried just north of the north stair of YDL I (ca. 1 meter, 10 centimeters north and 60 centimeters west of what remains of the eastern balustrade) (fig. 8.17, 8.18). In this case, the animal appears to be a combination of a centipede and a lobster (Cache N12–11/3, fig. 8.19.a).137 Like the effigies associated with YDL II, it is hollow and stoppered. The fired clay is reddish in color and has traces of grey-blue stucco paint. The vessel contained two small chert points with rounded bases, a stingray spine in two fragments, and three shark's teeth (fig. 8.19.b).
Perhaps the most significant feature of YDL I was discovered in 2007.138 Clearing of the area south of the church revealed a series of low, broad, (p.220)
A number of years earlier, in 1984, Claude Belanger and I had been involved in the planning and recording of Str. N11–18, a probable residence that was part of a zone of historic-period structures located about 200 meters north of YDL II (map 8.2, fig. 8.5). This zone had only just been discovered early in the 1984 season amidst thatched houses newly built by recent immigrants from Guatemala and El Salvador. Recording Str.142 N11–18 afforded us the opportunity to become acquainted with the distinctive features of historic, non-ceremonial Maya buildings. This experience at Lamanai helped to prepare me for the work that lay ahead at Tipu later on in that year. Belanger, however, had been assisting Kautz at Tipu from 1980 to 1982, and it was his familiarity with the church at Tipu—a ramada church with modest sanctuary—that enabled Pendergast at Lamanai to reassess what he thought had been a cemetery or burial mound for YDL II as the remains of an earlier church.
In 1998 we focused broadly on late occupation at the site. This included the time of the Maya collapse, the years following the collapse, and the transition from the Late Postclassic period to Spanish colonial times. In addition to Scott Simmons's work on metallurgy in Postclassic and historic times,143 we focused on Str. N12–12 (fig. 8.7, 8.8). Excavations of portions of the structure by Pendergast in 1976 yielded a ceramic animal effigy (Cache N12–12/1, LA 757/1, fig. 8.22) as well as the remains of Spanish olive jars in refuse. The phenomenon of Str. N12–12 will be seen below to be mirrored at Tipu by Str. H12–18, which abutted the north side of the church at its east end. In accordance with church-building practices of the time, these structures served as residences (p.222)
From 1998 to 2002, expanded excavations of Str. N12–12, which we have dubbed “the rectory,” revealed a complex history. The structure began its historic life cycle by incorporating an earlier (probably Late Postclassic) platform, to which additions were made unevenly through time that belie any strict adherence to traditional Maya building techniques or planning, although the (p.223) Maya practice of using stone to face platforms is in evidence. However, techniques seem to have been shoddy, quality of stone poor, and planning minimal. Some additions almost certainly post-date the Spanish period, and British colonial activity is indicated by the presence of an Irish soda bottle in the core of the Postclassic platform at its southwest corner.
A large part of the structure continues under the surface of the modern road constructed to facilitate tourist access, so we were not able to sort out its sequence or dating satisfactorily. We did, however, learn a good deal more about the nature of colonial-period construction and its oddities. In fact, one cannot help but see Str. N12–12, particularly in its later stages, as a reflection of the intermittent and ineffectual attention afforded Lamanai by the secular priest from Bacalar, Gregorio de Aguilar, who was in charge of all Bacalar-administered missions on his own from 1632 to 1641.144
In addition to various analyses, ongoing work at Lamanai includes Simmons's expanded excavations of buildings in the historic residential center, particularly Str. N11–18, where he is examining evidence for metallurgy in both the Postclassic and the historic period; and Darcy Wiewall has recently completed a study of colonial period households.145 Wiewall's research, together with excavations sponsored by the Belize government's Tourism Development Project (2001–3) have revealed intensive Late Postclassic and colonial-period occupation in a band paralleling the lagoon. This adds support to Pendergast's earlier contention146 that the strip form of settlement characteristic of Lamanai in Spanish colonial times, in which dwellings were scattered along the lagoon shore for at least 700 meters north and 1,000 meters south of the
The Lamanai Town
At Lamanai, the fact that the colonial town underlay the modern residences and shops of the local village of Indian Church, at least in the village's first incarnation,147 made excavation problematic. Therefore we know less about Lamanai's non-church-related structures than we know about those at Tipu. The largest structure excavated, Str. N11–18 (map 8.1, fig. 8.5), yielded copper artifacts, European glass beads, and Spanish majolica sherds.148 Like Str. H12–8 at Tipu (see below) (map 8.3), it may also have served as a casa real. Its layout and its features are similar to those of Str. H12–8, and Spanish artifacts were found in refuse. Pendergast has suggested that it served as the residence of the town's cacique, or principal leader.
The difference is that in the case of Str. N11–18 at Lamanai, the refuse was primary. By this I mean that refuse had not been reused in platform construction, as was the case at Tipu, but instead represented tip off of the sides of the platform(s). The absence of Spanish artifacts reused in construction suggests also that Str. N11–18 almost certainly dates to an early period of contact in the sixteenth century, whereas Str. H12–8 could well have served the Tipu community until the end of the seventeenth century, at the time of the Itza conquest.
Tipu and Its Church (es)
As noted above, the nature of the records from the late 1560s indicates that Tipu was already part of an encomienda in 1543–44, and the focus of a major reduction effort in the 1560s.149 I originally proposed that the church at Tipu was probably built during reduction efforts in the late 1560s.150 My conclusion was based on our recovery of Spanish majolica pottery151 from the core of the church's masonry walls. The sherds were not part of a cache, or offering, but had been swept up as part of construction. My thought was that imported ceramics were not likely to have been lying around in 1544, and that a later date was more probable.
Given the unfettered enthusiasm for conversion among the Mendicants that characterized the period prior to the 1560s (see chap. 4), it is possible that the first church at Tipu was built earlier than 1560, and perhaps as early as initial evangelization, sometime between 1543 and 1550. Unlike Lamanai, where the first church was a rather slapdash effort, with non-parallel walls (p.225)
The excavations under Kautz's direction revealed that the church at Tipu was constructed in at least two phases. The first phase comprised the nave and a simple sanctuary; a later phase or phases involved elaborating the sanctuary by raising it, and providing access via three steps (figs. 8.1, 8.23). At one point, the rear room, which probably served as a sacristy, was also added to the original building152
The form of the church as excavated included a masonry bench, 2 meters north-south by 1 meter east-west, set against the rear (east) wall of the sanctuary (figs. 8.23, 8.24). The bench, which at one time stood somewhere between 50 and 70 centimeters high, almost certainly served to support a portable wooden altar base, which the friars or clerics would have carried with them on visitas. On the altar base would have been set the portable altar, or ara, a “small, hard, rectangular stone slab, about 12 by 14 inches … which symbolically represented Christ, and was the holiest part of the altar.”153 Church rules in effect from the eighth century required that if a priest was on a journey or in a place where there was no permanent church, he had to use a stone table or slab consecrated by a bishop; this practice became embedded in what was emerging as Canon Law in the twelfth century.154
The stipes would have supported a wooden altar base. The ara would have been placed on this base, and the chalice and other liturgical paraphernalia on the ara. All these items, including the ara, would have been stored in a lockable wooden chest that could be carried by the visita priest or the assistants who accompanied him.158 The Franciscan friars Fuensalida and Estrada brought boxes (small chests?), one of which contained a portable altar, on their attempt to reach Tipu in 1641 during a period of rebellion. The boxes were destroyed en route by Maya rebels, but the altar and other objects (chalice, missal, chrismatory) were returned to the friars.159 Iron locks from small chests have been found at both Tipu and Lamanai—at Tipu in association (p.227) with the church and with a residence (fig. 8.25), and at Lamanai in association with a residence, Str. N11–18.
The sanctuary of the Tipu church was further subdivided by slight changes in floor level, apparently to differentiate ritual space. Each change of level—or change in ritual space—was marked by a step. An individual mounting the two steps from the nave (fig. 8.24) would reach the first level, or landing, between the second and third step. The landing extends the full width of the church, and a person standing or kneeling on it would be about 25 to 30 centimeters above the nave floor.
The next higher level is the area around the stipes, which rose a minimum of 10 to 15 centimeters above the landing (ca. 35 to 40 centimeters above the level of the nave floor). The small area south of the stipes (see fig. 8.23) is separated from the area directly in front of the stipes by a line of stones, but no clear change in level was in evidence in excavation. This is why, in the reconstruction drawing (fig. 8.24), the space in front of the stipes and the area just bordering it on the south (which leads through a doorway to the probable sacristy) are shown as contiguous and at 10 to 15 centimeters above the landing. This makes sense, because the priest or servers would then have easy access (to administer sacraments or to receive the offerings during Mass) to communicants standing or kneeling on the landing; any difference greater than 15 centimeters would have made such access awkward.
There is a step up of about 10 to 15 centimeters, however, from the space in front of the stipes to the area north of it (see fig. 8.24), which is shown as contiguous with the surface of the stipes, whereas in real life the surface of the stipes could have been higher. In any case, the area north of the stipes stood 25 to 30 centimeters above the landing (ca. 55 to 60 centimeters above the level of the nave floor), which is a good-sized step up. Given the size restrictions on the reconstruction drawing for publication, it is difficult to show these subtle variances in level. The presence of a line of three stones forming a step from the landing to the area north of the stipes (see the plan, fig. 8.23) suggests that access from the nave was indeed intended, perhaps for a choir. Access to the altar (on the stipes) for the individuals saying or serving Mass was clearly from the south, because the doorway that leads from the sanctuary to the rear room is on the south side of the altar. The rear room almost certainly served as a sacristy; the floor was very well preserved and the room well built. The chest with liturgical paraphernalia is very likely to have been kept here, at least during the times when a priest was in residence. The little (p.228) room may also have been used by the priest and servers for the donning of ritual clothing for Mass. A feature expected but not present is access via a doorway to the rectory, or residence, to the north; but there was no evidence for a doorway in the sacristy other than the one that led to the sanctuary.
One other feature of the Tipu church deserves to be noted. I mentioned above that Pendergast had reported the occurrence of a pre-Columbian-style altar or small platform in the nave of YDL II, which would have abutted the north wall of the nave just west of the access door to the rectory, Str. N12–12. A platform was also found at Tipu which abutted the north wall of the church about 2 meters west of the north door (figs. 8.23, 8.26).160 In the Tipu case, however, although I had thought at first that the platform represented a return to pre-Columbian ritual within the church, it became clear that it marked an interior church feature of some kind. A pedestal for a font or for statuary is suggested by four stone slabs set on their sides forming a square support base (fig. 8.26). The presence of a perishable element of wood, possibly an altar or shrine, is also suggested by the dimensions of the platform and the gap between it and the church wall.
Although I have described the Tipu church as representing two phases of construction, it is almost certain that there were more, and that the church was modified and repaired through time in ways that destroyed evidence of earlier features. Compared to YDL I at Lamanai, more attention, care, and expertise are in evidence at Tipu, and the church was well maintained through time.
The Tipu Plaza
The reduction of the late 1560s must have been reasonably successful, if the ordered plan of buildings around the plaza is any indication (see fig. 1.1, map 8.3). The largest building, Str. H12–8, may have served as a casa real: a large, thatched building which housed important visitors. The reconstruction drawing of the buildings around the plaza shown in figure 1.1 reflects a late, probably seventeenth-century, manifestation of the building.
Because the reconstruction drawing (fig. 1.1) was made before the excavations were completed, there are some features that require correction. What look like broad steps on the plaza-facing side of Str. H12–8 probably extended the entire length of the structure, which is about 36 meters. They were not steps, but served as low terraces or platform extensions (see map 8.3).
In addition, Str. H12–18, just north of the church (in the lower-left corner of fig. 1.1), comprised two thatched buildings, the smaller of which stood just north of the one shown, and therefore outside the frame of the picture; stone paving connected their doorways (see Str. H12–18, map 8.3). Finally, (p.229) excavations directed by Rhanju Song in 2006 revealed that another building, Str. H12–19, stood between Str. H12–7 and Str. H12–14.161
The variety in form and layout of Str. H12–8 (refer to both fig. 1.1 and map 8.3) suggests that although it started out as a pre-Columbian structure, it was altered, expanded, and added to repeatedly through time. Spanish pottery and other artifacts were found in refuse that had been reused in the construction of the main platform and the low terrace extensions. Given the layout of the building, it seems to have had a largely residential function, but the variety in pavements, extensions, patios, and what seems to have been roofed and unwalled space suggests that it served a multiplicity of purposes.
Residences around the main plaza varied in size. The two houses on either side of the church are relatively large; on the north side, Str. H12–18 served as the residence for the visiting priest. This could have been the padre beneficiado, which is Lopez de Cogolludo's term for a secular priest who, in the caseof Tipu, served the town from his base in Bacalar. The friars Fuensalida and Orbita also resided in Str. H12–18 on their mission to Tipu in 1618.162
The house on the south side, Str. H12–14, and Str. H12–12 probably belonged
Comparing Tipu and Lamanai
The Ramada Churches
YDL I at Lamanai and the church at Tipu share many features. Both have been described as ramada chapels,164 which reflects the fact that they were simple structures with thatched roofs, but I have already argued in chapter 7 that both structures at Tipu and Lamanai were, in fact, churches, because they were constructed to serve the entire Christian community at each site.
YDL I at Lamanai and the church at Tipu are both long and narrow with apsidal east ends and side entrances, and their naves were part masonry and part wood. Both churches have two steps leading up from the nave to a landing, which in the Lamanai case is broader than the one at Tipu (cf. fig. 8.3 with fig. 8.24). In both churches, the spot where the portable altar, or ara, was to be placed is delineated by a low masonry bench. Preservation is much poorer in the Lamanai case, so the details of the area around the altar are unknown; for example, we do not know if the sanctuary space was functionally subdivided. However, the doorway from the sanctuary to the sacristy is on the south side of the altar, as at Tipu.
Lamanai has a feature which Tipu lacks, which is a low, raised bench along the west wall of the sacristy (fig. 8.17). Paraphernalia used in the Mass probably rested or was stored in a chest here, and the dimensions of the Tipu sacristy suggest that there was room for an equivalent feature in perishable material, perhaps a wooden table. Thus, one could argue that the plans of the ramada churches at Lamanai and Tipu are almost identical.
As described by McAndrew: “The principal instrument for [the conversion of the American natives] was to be not the secular but the regular clergy: Mendicants sent across the sea expressly for this mission …. As a corollary, one finds that since the friars came first, they built first and fastest, and soon established the local church types.”165 McAndrew was speaking largely with central Mexico in mind, but it is interesting that he saw the local church types that developed as being distinctively Mexican products in design and execution, partly owing to the influence of local indigenous building traditions,166 a theme richly developed in more recent years by Edgerton.167
(p.231) There is no reason to believe that we are not seeing the same phenomenon in Belize. The Tipu and Lamanai ramada churches could be considered a distinctive type developed by Franciscans and Mayas for frontier missions in Yucatan and Belize. Arguments have been put forward that the simple construction of the first churches reflects the Mendicants' emphasis on apostolic poverty and simplicity,168 but it may be more accurate to attribute the styles of the churches to a combination of Franciscan ideals, local circumstances, and local architectural traditions.169
Although Lamanai's YDL I (fig. 8.3) had roughly the same layout and construction as Tipu's (fig. 8.24), one difference is that the Tipu church was built on a very low platform (15–20 centimeters), whereas the Lamanai church had a more substantial platform that varied in height from approximately 50 centimeters to about a meter. The dimensions suggest that in both towns, builders were aiming at the same form, but YDL I at Lamanai comes across as an earlier effort. For one thing, the presence of a substantial platform is a pre-Columbian convention, one which was not maintained as the colonial period wore on. For another, the builders were clearly having problems keeping walls in alignment, possibly because they were responding to directions for a layout with which they were unfamiliar (note the north wall in fig. 8.17). According to Belanger, the evidence suggests that different construction teams were working on different parts of the church; those working on the south side maintained the desired east-west alignment, but those working on the north side constructed platform sections that were not in alignment. Eventually the problem with the north platform face was resolved by connecting the existing construction units. (Figure. 8.17 shows the platform out of alignment, just west of the north stair, and how the walls were then brought into alignment.) The end result at Lamanai is that the church, or at least its platform, is slightly narrower at the west end (ca. 6.5 meters), whereas the 22-meter-long building measures approximately 7.5 meters in width at the sanctuary.
Another difference between the two churches is that the Lamanai church building—the superstructure that stood on the platform—was probably part-masonry, part-wood in its entirety, whereas the Tipu church had full-height masonry walls at the east end (inferred from the collapse debris). Excavations revealed that although the bulk of YDL I had been constructed over limestone bedrock, the east end, from the sanctuary onward, was constructed over unstable bajo (swamp) mud, which caused considerable slumping. There was simply not enough support for full-height masonry walls.170 If there was a blind sanctuary at this end, as I suggest (if only to shield the congregation (p.232) from the strong winds off the lagoon), then the full-height walls were constructed of wood, as shown in the reconstruction drawing (fig. 8.3; note that the wall at the east end, south side, has been “cut away” by the illustrator to reveal the church interior, but the full-height wall is visible on the north side).
The core material of the platform of YDL I at Lamanai is interesting because it yielded largely Preclassic pottery, which dates to about 100 B.C. This in itself is not surprising, because the Maya perpetually reused material in construction,171 but it may partly explain why the church escaped detection initially as a piece of sixteenth-century construction. The absence of Spanish pottery or other colonial material in the platform core provides further evidence to suggest that construction took place in 1544 or shortly thereafter.
The Tipu church was slightly larger than YDL I at ca. 23 meters in length (east-west) and a little over 8 meters in width (north-south). Although both churches had apsidal (polygonal, not semicircular) east ends, each church's expression had a distinctive local flavor. At Lamanai, there is evidence that both the church building (the superstructure) and the platform on the east end conformed to a polygonal shape, but the shapes of the west ends of the platform and the building are unclear.172 The evidence is unequivocal, however, that walls of the Tipu church were polygonal on the west end (fig. 8.1). The preference for a polygonal/apsidal east end reflects conformation with the Franciscan ideal of the primitive, single-nave church (see chapter 7) and argues strongly for Franciscan influence in the case of both communities.
Over 585 burials were recovered from the church cemetery at Tipu, which comprised the area under the floor of the church nave as well as a zone surrounding the church on its north, west, and south sides, but not on the east. Of the individuals interred, there were 176 males, 119 females, 249 juveniles, and 41 adults whose sex could not be determined.173
As observed by Cohen, O'Connor and colleagues,174 it is difficult to know what portion of the community is represented by the population buried in the church cemetery. If, as I have proposed, the site of the church remained constant, with only its structural features modified or changed, then the church was conceivably in use from first contact until at least the 1638–41 rebellion. Both the history of contact in the post-rebellion period, which will be described in the next chapter, and the stratigraphic evidence (that some individuals on the north side were interred after the church collapsed) suggest that the cemetery was used by at least some Tipuans throughout the seventeenth century, and possibly until the community was moved in the first decade of the eighteenth century.
(p.233) Approximately 230 individuals were buried beneath the floor of the nave of YDL I at Lamanai,175 in what Pendergast has characterized as “a jumble that defies description.”176 Below-floor burials in the nave were obviously not marked, because earlier interments were repeatedly disturbed and the bones reburied. Bedrock at Lamanai is so close to the surface that it was not possible to bury people in the zone surrounding the church walls. Burial within the nave was made feasible by the fact that pre-Columbian and colonial-period platform-construction efforts had involved a considerable build-up of earth and stones that served as a matrix for interments. Individuals at Lamanai were buried, as they were at Tipu, with head to the west “facing” east, a common Christian pattern.177
Burial accompaniments at Tipu comprised needles, found usually in the area of the chest and believed to have fastened shrouds (figs. 1.10, 8.27); rings; lacetags;178 pendants;179 silver earrings180 (fig. 1.9); glass bead necklaces and bracelets181 (figs. 1.6 1.8); a thurible182(figs.6.2,8.28) which was locally made but European in form; some objects of jet (figs. 1.7,1.9. a) and amber;183 and local jewelry made from Spondylus shells or dog's teeth.184 A few individuals were buried in coffins, as evidenced by the placement of iron nails. A chest buried with another individual is represented by a lock plate (similar to fig. 8.25).185 European manufactured goods were clearly reaching Tipu, and influencing design there.
Burials at Lamanai yielded fewer, although no less interesting, artifacts: an iron lock; a ring; what was probably a needle fragment; and bone beads that are believed to be from a rosary not dissimilar to one found on the Mary Rose (fig. 8.29). All came from mixed and disturbed burial contexts and hencenone could be tied to an individual.186 No bracelets or necklaces or earrings adorned individuals in death; in fact, at Lamanai approximately 90 percent of the 46 glass beads recovered were encountered within and around the residential Str. N11–18,187 and the rest came from two other colonial-period structures at the site.188 At Tipu, only 7 beads, one of them amber, came from various redeposited middens associated with buildings. The remaining 816 beads came from only eighteen burials, and most of the beads accompanied children.189
Diet and Health
Although Lamanai and Tipu are often viewed as two communities in the same region, diet and health of the populations differed during the early colonial period. Lamanai's population shows mixing that reflects either Spanish-Maya intermarriage or relationships between individuals of different native Maya groups, perhaps between local Maya and those from northern Yucatan, (p.234)
Dietary practices during the colonial period in both communities show (p.235) continuity with pre-Columbian times. The indications are that none of the basic patterns of existence at Lamanai or Tipu was significantly affected by Spanish presence.194 However, trends in patterns of animal use over time indicate that diversity of utilized faunal species at Tipu remained high over time, whereas diversity at Lamanai dropped significantly, although the decrease in diversity began at Lamanai before the conquest, in Late Postclassic times. In colonial times at Lamanai, riverine resources were overwhelmingly abundant, whereas animal use at Tipu reflects a pre-Columbian pattern of generalized resource use in which a wide range of ecosystems was represented.
Skeletons at Lamanai show high lesion frequencies attributable to heavy physiological stress, which seems to be attributable to changing epidemiologic conditions.195 This suggests that individuals from Lamanai interacted with Spaniards and with northern Maya more frequently than did individuals from Tipu, and that Lamanai was visited more frequently by Spaniards and perhaps other Europeans.
Comparatively speaking, Tipuans engaged in strategies that, despite periodic reductions and visits by Spanish authorities, allowed them a degree of stability that was denied to individuals at Lamanai. The paths followed by
Lamanai and Tipu as Christian Communities
Lamanai must have been established as a Christian community with tribute obligations about 1544, judging by the role of Lamanai inhabitants in the 1547 Chanlacan uprising (map 2.3).196 Archaeologically, the investment in two churches, as well as the size of the second church, gives Lamanai an importance that is simply not reflected in the documents. A possible parallel situation is known in the case of the Awatovi mission in the U.S. Southwest, where the size and design of the mission buildings imply the existence of a substantial population, yet no such buildings are mentioned in the documents.197 The impression from archaeology is that the population of Lamanai must have been quite large, although it is also possible that the second church simply reflects the grandiose vision of a particular friar or cleric concerning the community's potential,198 which in Spanish colonial terms it never reached. The second church is like the one described by Jones199 as having been built at Bacalar, with a stone chapel and a nave roofed with thatch. I think Pendergast is correct in his observation about YDL II, which is that “the building should be seen as part of the construction pattern established in more settled areas to the north, rather than as a frontier response to the need for an imposing religious edifice.”200
The presence of two cemeteries and a church with a stone chapel reflects a community of significant size, and one which the Spanish authorities, both civil and religious, seem to have seen as having the potential to grow and possibly, ultimately, to have attracted Spanish settlers. Yet it is Lamanai's church that was found desecrated in 1641, with its population no longer in residence (see chap. 9). It is possible that flight was short-term and generated by word of an imminent visit by the friars, but it seems unlikely that a community of large size could have been so rapidly abandoned, unless flight had already become a pattern. Whereas Tipu seems to have been attracting Maya, Lamanai had perhaps become too close to Bacalar for comfort. Jones's research has led him to conclude that Lamanai was abandoned under pressure from the Peten Itza.201
At Tipu, Spanish pottery and glass beads from the cores of various house platforms suggest also that other structures were either added to or built anew in the 1567–68 period. One house platform, Str. H12–7 (map 8.3), contained a pre-Columbian-style offering of a bivalve shell and a maskette (fig. 8.30),202 but we do not know on the basis of the artifacts if the residence was built in 1567–68 or possibly as late as 1618.
An important question is whether YDL II was constructed under the aegis of Franciscans or secular clergy. If Franciscans built it in 1568, as I have suggested, the construction of a stone chapel opens up the possibility that the friars built YDL II as part of never-to-be-realized plans for a monastery complex, which might explain why the colonial-period site center turned out to be farther from YDL II than anticipated, some 200 meters north of the church zone (map 8.1).203 If YDL II was built by seculars, the implication (p.238) would be that tribute from Lamanai was reaching the community's encomendero, and that the settlement seemed securely Christian enough to allow it to be turned over to secular administration from Bacalar. It is difficult to say, without knowing who built the church at Bacalar,204 but given Spanish Christian practices in New Spain and Yucatan, it is more likely that seculars assumed responsibility for ministering to communities but did not supervise construction associated with evangelization or community reorganization in newly Christianized or frontier zones.
The relationship between what we have called the rectory and YDL II reflects an effort less well planned than the monumental chapel, and could be the result of the seculars' stamp on Lamanai, no matter who supervised the construction of YDL II. We know that Lamanai was under secular authority prior to the seventeenth century, and a church official, however infrequently present, required appropriate quarters in the requisite spot north of the church. Spanish settlers in Bacalar could extend their monitoring of tribute-payers in Belize through the secular cleric and his visita rounds, and Lamanai was well positioned to exploit canoe traffic, which brought cacao, cotton, honey, and wax. The dearth of Spanish artifacts that followed Lamaneros to their graves suggests, however, community dynamics different from those of Tipu. It is hard to say whether the dynamics are attributable to restricted access to Spanish goods at Lamanai; to disinterest on the part of the Lamanai community in Spanish goods; to a different sort of religious education and administration; or simply to different conditions under which conversion was effected, for example, the personalities of individual friars and what they carried with them.
(1.) The time it takes to wash clothes is almost halved at Negroman as compared to Lamanai.
(2.) “Tipu” is rendered as “Tipuj” in the orthography for the writing of Mayan languages (p.360) approved by the Academy of Mayan Languages of Guatemala (AMLG) (G. D. Jones 1998, xiii). However, the name first appeared in the literature as “Tipu,” and because so much of what I write about is concerned with sixteenth-century thought and events, I have adhered to the orthography developed in the sixteenth century.
(11.) Aimers 2004 , 2008; Cecil 2001, 2004 ; Foor 1994 ; Lambert et al. 1994 ; Simmons 1991 , 1995; Simmons, Pendergast, and Graham 2009 ; M. T. Smith, Graham, and Pendergast 1994 ; E. W. Wilson 1991 .
(21.) In 2004, Scott Simmons of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington became co-Principal Investigator at Lamanai.
(26.) “Cache” is a term used in archaeology to refer to a special deposit of some kind, usually hidden from view; see the glossary for details.
(36.) Spaniards resident in Belize occasionally turn up in the documentation. E.g., a (p.361) Spanish “servant” and a “mulatto” appear to have been living at Soite (on what is now called the Sittee River) in 1630 (G. D. Jones 1989 , 202).
(48.) Our term “Maya” for the native people of Yucatan was not an identity they recognized. Individuals identified with their community and with family or kinship groups that cross-cut communities (Restall 1997, 2, 13–50). Therefore, in pre-Columbian times, two Maya groups who spoke the same language could conceivably have seen each other as foreign. Nahuatl speakers or Maya groups from outside the lowlands might also have been seen as foreigners by communities in the Belize region, depending on the nature and time-depth of interregional ties and kin relationships.
(56.) The term “bush” is used today to refer to forested landscapes outside towns and villages; the Spanish term is monte.
(60.) Tipu does not appear on a tribute list for 1544, but it is recorded as an already established encomienda town in 1568, which indicates that it had functioned as part of an encomienda for some time. This, plus what is now known about the extent of the Pacheco conquest, suggests strongly that Tipu was brought into the encomienda system not long after the Pacheco conquest (G. D. Jones 1989 , 17, 44, and esp. 51).
(66.) Pendergast, personal communication, 1980.
(71.) In 2006 Rhan-ju Song discovered the remains of another building, Str. H12–19, that lies on the west side of the plaza, more or less opposite Str. H12–12.
(85.) Pendergast, personal communication, 2008.
(91.) G. D. Jones, personal communication, 2006.
(93.) G. D. Jones, personal communication, 2006.
(105.) YDL II was excavated in 1974–76; YDL I in 1976, 1983, 1985; the “rectory,” Str. N122–12, in 1975–76, 1983; the historic residential community in 1984; the second cemetery in 1985.
(106.) As Archaeological Commissioner for the Government of Belize in 1977, I attempted to convince Pendergast to keep “Indian Church” as the name of the site, because that is what everyone called it. At that time, if one referred to “Lamanai,” people thought the reference was to “Limonal,” another place entirely.
(111.) Funding was provided by a grant from the U.S. State Department's Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation to the National Institute for Culture and History in Belize, through the Belize Institute of Archaeology and under the direction of Jaime Awe and John Morris as part of the Lamanai Historic Monuments Conservation Project (LHMCP), and by a grant from FAMSI (Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.) to Elizabeth Graham (see Awe 2007; Graham 2008a).
(115.) Thomas Gann was a medical doctor-turned-archaeologist who worked in Belize in the early part of the twentieth century and spent his leisure hours excavating Maya ruins. He published a number of books on his excavations. Hamilton Anderson, Belize's first Archaeological Commissioner, knew Gann and recounted to David Pendergast that Gann had the habit of leaving his assistant in charge of excavating, for sometimes as much as month, and would return only periodically to examine the finds (Pendergast, personal communication, 2009). This may well explain the vague contextual information for the artifacts recovered through Gann's activity.
(116.) This date is based on the catalogue entry for the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., which states that a stela from Indian Church was presented by Gann to the museum when it was in New York City.
(125.) The stela Gann reported seems to have been removed by him and ultimately found its way to the Museum of the American Indian—the Heye Foundation, when the museum was still in New York City. When the MAI collections were transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., however, between 1999 and 2004, the stela was found to be missing (Patricia Nietfield, personal communication, 2008).
(126.) The card also says: “Collected by Thomas Gann. Presented by James B. Ford” (National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, Santa Rita and Lamanai, Belize Collections, Cat. No. 9/1818, barcode: 091818.000, object ID: Stela Representing Serpent Head; the date of acquisition is 1 January 1919).
(130.) The catalogue card from the National Museum of the American Indian reads: “Pottery Jar Representing Fish with Mouth Open and human head inside. Traces of red and blue painted decoration. In this jar were found specimens 9/1595–9/1602. Indian (p.364) Church, British Honduras. Collected by Thomas Gann, Presented by James B. Ford.” The square-shaped shell artifact, Cat. No. 9/1594, may have been reworked after it was excavated.
(147.) The village has since moved to a new location outside the reserve.
(152.) My description of the excavation of the sanctuary is based on the field notes of Kevin Baxter, 1980. Baxter suggests in his notes that the area in front of the altar was probably raised above the area south of the altar, but he also states that the line of stones dividing the two areas was no higher than the third step of the landing. This, as well as the fact that the area north of the altar was accessed from the landing, led me to err on the side of caution and suggest that the area in front of the altar was at the same floor level as the area to the south. There isn't all that much room in front of the altar, and given that the priest needed to interact with those who served Mass, both giving and receiving various objects, it is likely that the servers, probably boys from the community, stood in the area to the south of the altar, and if so, a change in floor level here would have been awkward. On the other hand, the evidence does not totally rule out such a change in level, and if excavations of other churches provide such evidence, it is unlikely that Tipu is the exception.
(154.) Paine 2008, 6; Welsh 1951. The oldest portable altar known was found on the chest of St. Cuthbert when his coffin was opened in 1827 in Durham Cathedral. In that case, the portable altar was a seventh-century oak tablet, but by the Middle Ages the portable altar was normally stone (Paine 2008 , 4, 6).
(p.365) (160.) The feature is not shown in the reconstruction drawing, owing to the difficulties of depicting it at the small scale required for publication.
(161.) These excavations were directed by Rhanju Song.
(172.) The YDL I platform appeared to have rounded corners, and there are too few stones left from the wall to indicate the original form the wall took at the west end. The reconstruction as apsidal is speculation.
(184.) With regard to the metal artifacts from Tipu, which have been recovered from both burials and middens, Michael Wayman from the University of Alberta performed an initial study in the 1980s. Analysis has since been resumed by Bryan Cockrell (2009) and is ongoing at the time of writing. Preliminary results as reported by Cockrell, Martiñn-Torres, and Graham (2010) indicate that, despite technological consistencies, the objects exhibit variety. Of the objects so far analyzed, e.g., some needles (4 out of 9) and all bells (13) reflect indigenous practices, whereas other needles (5 out of 9) as well as the lacetags reflect European technology. What have been termed “rings” for the purposes of analysis subsume different kinds of ornaments, including earrings, but so far suggest a largely European origin, although one ring form has indigenous American parallels.
(185.) The figure shows a lock plate from Str. H12–7, but it is very similar to the lock plate found in the grave context; see also examples in Pendergast 1993 (131, fig. 8), and Burr 1964 (figs. 129, 185).