Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2012


When Bernal Díaz del Castillo passed by Nojpeten with Hernán Cortés in 1525, he remarked upon the Itza capital’s brilliant whiteness, even from a great distance (Jones 1998:69). However had he stood in the central plaza, he would have discerned that the sun’s reflection eclipsed artifacts and architecture of a variety of colors. The archaeological record is frequently similarly whitewashed by our focus upon form, weight, and distribution. Nevertheless, color helped imbue the Contact period (AD 1525-1697) world of the Maya of the Petén lakes region of Guatemala with significance. This paper investigates the colors of ritual paraphernalia encountered in Contact period ritual contexts in the Kowoj region of Petén, Guatemala with special concern with architecture, ceramics, and beads. These artifacts indicate the significance of particular colors and possibly the avoidance of the color yellow.



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