Posted by: Johan Normark | August 30, 2010

Rotted towns

Part of the Spanish congregation program was to reduce the number of settlements in order to control and convert their inhabitants. This resulted in the abandonment of earlier settlements. In the Yucatan peninsula an abandoned settlement became known as lab cah, or rotted town. William Hanks (2010:290) writes that the reducción sorted “time into before and after, just as the [land] surveys sort space into inside and outside.” The verb hedzic is of interest here. It means “to fix, to stabilize”, such as in the establishment of rotted towns. The same verb root –hedz was used to describe the establishment of Christianity. Hanks shows that there is a linguistic parallel between missionization and the abandonment of previously existing Maya towns. The rotted town and the congregated town were opposites but both were results of the reducción. One represented the past and the other was the future.

Earlier Prehispanic remains that were scattered around the countryside were, as far as I know, not given such names. These sites were far beyond the decomposing stage and had entered the mythical and ancestral sphere.


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