During the Mayan Classic period (250-900 A.D) the commoners would regularly destroy their homes every 40-50 years, and rebuild them on top of the remains. They would use markers to identify the locations of important areas and provide ballast for a new plaster floor.
Maya royals recorded their history in writing and in imagery carved on monuments, Lucero said. “But the commoners had their own way of recording their own history, not only their history as a family but also their place in the cosmos,” she said.
“These things are buried, not to be seen, but it doesn’t mean people forgot about them,” she said.
“They are burying people in the exact same spot and removing bones from earlier ancestors to place them somewhere else, or removing pieces of them and keeping the pieces as mementos.”
This “de-animation” and reanimation of the home marked the passage of time and the cyclical nature of life, Lucero said.
Anthropologists have known for decades about such rituals, but Lucero chose to look more closely at how the arrangement, color and condition of the buried artifacts lent them their symbolic meaning.
She and her crew found about a dozen human remains in the two homes they excavated in a small Maya center called Saturday Creek, in central Belize. These homes were occupied from about A.D. 450 to 1150.