Publication Date



The role of children in ancient Maya religion and ritual was predicated upon the qualities of youth and vitalization that children possess. Furthermore, their role was rooted in associations between these possessed qualities, phenomena of agricultural renewal, and broader conceptions of life forces and cycles. These shared qualities created links between religious ideas about young children, agricultural sustenance, and ensoulment processes. Ethnohistoric and ethnographic accounts relating to ritualized child socialization provide details for parallel arguments on the ancient social and religious status of Maya children. Ideological connections can also be directly inferred from ancient Maya art, and can be interpreted from the archaeological remains left by the material traces of ritual practices such as child sacrifice. From this evidence, theories about the possible sacred status of young children in ancient Maya religion can be drawn. Furthermore, an examination of the socio-religious implications for the inclusion of children in Maya ritual as sacrificial victims may reveal that this inclusion was significant for the continuation of more widely encompassing ideological principles; namely for the continuance of annual and agricultural cycles. Through such an examination, this paper argues for the explicit recognition of the sacredness of children in ancient Maya religion, a generally underrepresented demographic in current archaeological studies.