Xibalba, the Maya underground
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Thursday November 29, 2018

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Institute of Archaeology (NICH)
Institute of Archaeology, NICH Administration Building, Culvert Road, Belmopan, Belize C.A. Belmopan, Belize
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Xibalba, the Maya underground

When we hear about Xibalba, we think of the underworld, of caves, a place where the souls of the recently departed go to. But not many people see it as a sort of city-state unto its own. Known as the ‘place of fear’, Xibalba was a place where the gods of death dwelled, and their attendants. It had palaces, rivers, even a ballcourt.

A lot of what we know about this place also comes from the Popol Vuh. The names of the gods who dwelled there changed through the periods and also the regions that the Maya lived. But with names like Flying Scab, Gathered Blood and Pus Demon, we can imagine it was not a welcoming place.

Image 1: Six lords of Xibalba sit crossed legged, meeting with the Jaguar God of the Underworld, sitting on his throne made of jaguar pelt. (Modern interpretation)

Image 2: God A, seen as a deer hunter.

Image 3: Modern interpretation of One Death (Hun-Came), one of the defeated lords of Xibalba.

Images courtesy Institute of Archaeology

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