The consumption of psychoactive substances played a decisive part in the cultural history of Meso and South America. This so-called mushroom stone from the late pre-classical period is an impressive example of how select members of society gained access to the world of the gods by means of psychoactive substances.
The figure probably illustrates the formal fusion of the divine mushroom and the chosen person. It was made using the pecking technique, whereby a chisel made of harder stone was placed against the stone and driven by a hammering apparatus.
The figure was certainly at the centre of cult activities during which mushrooms were eaten in order to come into contact with the world of the gods.
Xunantunich is an Ancient Mayaarchaeological site in western Belize, about 80 miles (130 km) west of Belize City, in the Cayo District. Xunantunich is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, well within sight of the Guatemala border – which is a mere 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) to the west. It served as a Maya civic ceremonial center in the Late and Terminal Classic periods to the Belize Valley region. At this time, when the region was at its peak, nearly 200,000 people lived in Belize.
There is evidence of Xunantunich being settled as early as the ceramic phase of the Preclassic period. The findings have been insubstantial to prove that Xunantunich was a site of importance. It was not until the Samal phase in AD 600-670 that Xunantunich began to grow significantly in size. Architectural constructions boomed in Hats’ Chaak phase (AD 670-750) when Xunantunich’s connection with the polity Naranjo solidified. Left in a state of abandonment at approximately AD 750 due to an unknown violent event (see Euan MacKie’s work in 1959-60, above, which may be relevant here), Xunantunich did not re-establish itself as a strong presence in the region until Tsak’ phase in AD 780-890.
Zoomorph P: a masterpiece of ancient art. Located at the Maya site of Quiriguá, Guatemala.
Dedicated in AD 795, this extraordinarily carved boulder stands as a testament to the skill and beauty of Maya bas-relief sculpture during the late Classic Period.
A “zoomorph” is a term often used in art history, which essentially refers to something that has the form or attributes of an animal. In this example, the work is shaped as a mythical animal: the Cosmic Monster, a waterbeast which inhabited the Underworld’s primordial sea. This work is also thought to represent third stone of Creation -as indicated by the various symbols of aquatic imagery employed. Small images of the rain god Chaac are visible around the mouth of the waterbeast, and water is poured over the throne by numerous mythological animals. This monument was created during the reign of Sky Xul, commemorating the end of an era in the Maya calendar. Dressed in ceremonial attire, Sky Xul sits in the mouth of the Cosmic Monster.