Posted by: Johan Normark | August 2, 2010

The funeral mat from Calakmul

In 1998 a1,600 years old mat consisting of 648 snails and 6630 seeds was discovered at Calakmul. Sometimes between AD 375 and 450 the mat was placed on the left side of an important person buried inside Structure III. The tomb also contained rich offerings of ceramics and jade. A reconstruction of this cloth is exhibited in Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico.

Mat (photo from

The burial cloth is just one m long and half a m wide. The reconstructors of the cloth believe that the piece was intended to help the buried person on the journey through the various planes of cosmos. The mat is said to have a horizontal representation of a cosmogram with the three planes of cosmos and the central world axis. Heaven is represented with 13 Oliva snails (the heavens had 13 regions). The Earth is framed in a central rectangle formed by small seeds believed to represent a milpa. The central part of this funeral cloth has Oliva snails that are believed to have been carved to represent faces and skulls. These are framed by shells and may allude to an underground river (or perhaps a cavity).

I am not sure how much of the cloth is seen on this picture (I hope it is the cloth under discussion…). I guess these are the faces/skulls in the centre. I have in several blog posts criticized the cosmological models in Mayanist studies. I would not see this cloth as a “representation” of Maya cosmos but rather as part of a greater machinic assemblage where iconic codes like these are being repeated and differentiated. The discourses relating to this cloth was probably substantially different in the Early Classic than it is among contemporary Mayanists (what we summarize as “cosmology”). The iconic codes have remained since they are directly associated with the material.



  1. Hello, I really like archeology.
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    I wish you peace.


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