Ancient Maya Bloodletting Tools or Common Kitchen Knives? How Archaeologists Tell the Difference
Archaeologists have long assumed that Maya tools like obsidian blades, bone needles and even stingray tails found in ritual contexts were used for bloodletting rituals. The problem is, it’s hard to be sure. Researchers find obsidian blades all over the place, and many of them appear to have been used simply as kitchen knives.
Now, archaeologists are using new techniques to identify these tools—sharpening our understanding of how common bloodletting was and giving insight into the social contexts that drove the practice.
The practice of bloodletting was used to open a dialogue with gods or ancestors that could help the ancient Maya, says James Stemp, an archaeology professor at Keene State College in New Hampshire.
“The Maya kings and queens would often have to conduct blood-letting rituals in order to gain the favor of the gods and their ancestors,“ says Stemp, who is the author of a study recently published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. Read more.