December 13, 1997 Address to the Pre-Colunbian Society of
the University of Pennsylvania Museum
given by Dr.James Brady, PhD., George Washington University.

The Pre-Columbian Society was treated by Dr. James
Brady, of The George Washington university Department of
Anthropology, to an enthralling visit to the Cobanarita Cave
group, near Flores, Guatemala, which was discovered in 1995
by Nikolai Grube. Dr. Brady has long been noted for his
important work at Naj Tunich and other Mesoamerican caves,
and he is now searching for evidence to support his belief
that the Maya used caves ceremonially long before the
Postclassic use commonly hypothesized. The largest and most
noteworthy cave of the Cobanarita group is La Cueva de las
Pinturas. Of the five caves currently known to contain
hieroglyphic inscriptions, La Cueva de las Pinturas is the only
one known to contain polychrome glyphs. These glyphs are
currently being photographed in infrared and ultraviolet
light with a digital camera, in order to enhance their
legibility. Dr. Brady has found thousands of Sierra Red
preclassic sherds, as well as a number of protoclassic
sherds throughout the cave. He has also found mammiform
supports, covered with a cream covered slip which he
believes date from 1OOBC. At present, all the ceramic
remains found in the cave appear to be preclassic, although
the inscription appears to be later. There is also evidence
of ongoing modifications within the cave which include three
layers of added clay floors and dry masonry walls built
presumably to limit access to sacred areas within the cave.
Dr. Brady's hypothesis of early cave use is supported
by finds in the other caves in the group, some of which also
contain preclassic ceramics. The Cueva de la Sapo also
contains a rare preclassic ceremonial knife blade as well as
corn cobs which have been fused within silica "globs" by
high temperature burning. Brady hopes that his ongoing
research will develop a an overall picture of the Maya
ceremonial use of caves as it changed over time. The
members of the pre-Columbian Society were particularly
pleased to learn, after Dr. Brady's talk, that he would be
leading a Far Horizons trip to Naj Tunich and La Cueva de las
Pinturas on April 25 through May 2, 1998.


Lynn Matson
Secretary
Pre-Columbian Society
of the University of Pennsylvania Museum

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