Posted by: Johan Normark | November 1, 2010

Water and the somatic

The lowest level of my five “plateaus” of water as archaeological material focuses on water and the somatic. All organic bodies consist of water. The body is a spatiotemporal station for water during its hydrological cycle where deterritorialized water is reterritorialized. Apart from being a constituent part of our body, water also affects our senses and in the end our impressions and ideas. For example, rain can create an experience where a blind person senses a surrounding landscape at an instant moment like a person with the sight intact. Rain drops fall everywhere and at the same time around the blinded person. They reveal the details of the surfaces where they fall. Rain therefore brings contours to everything and a steady rain creates a continuous acoustic experience (Ingold 2000; Normark 2010).

Rain drops falling on the plazas, temples and range structures of ancient Maya sites created similar acoustic experiences. Even more obvious are the water movements in dark caves where intensities like speed and density of running and dripping water creates sounds with varying frequencies. Bruchez (2007) discusses the soundscapes of Mesoamerican caves and argues that dark reverberant spaces were chosen for rituals since sound intensifies trance Sestates or induce aural experience. The soundscape within caves emerging after rainfalls can be considerable (due to water flows and seepage). This also varies depending on the rise and fall of the water table. Sounds decrease in intensity when cool dry air warms and moisture evaporates. Water related acoustics in caves was a way to bath the cave in sounds, accessing other perceptions not experienced on the surface. Water could also enhance visibility of petroglyphs in caves. Cochrane (2008) shows how liquid solutions poured on geometric designs at Newgrange enhance their details which may have provoked the viewer to react.

Large reservoirs and sinkholes also functioned as reflective surfaces that created imaginative worlds. The reflecting image mirrored a parallel world from where ritual specialists could have conjured spiritual forces (Scarborough 1998), particularly from the Underworld, or the “other side of the sea” (Sachse and Christenson 2005).

In this plateau the focus will be to set water in relation to such corporeal and somatic relationships. Water sources, humidity, dry air, rain, etc. merged with human beings into somatic assemblages in the Maya area and created both real and imaginative worlds on individual and group levels. Protevi’s (2009) work on political affect will be useful to map affects such as fear and panic created by various water related media as in his example of Hurricane Katrina.


  1. Blood Is Our Precious Water As Water Is Our Earth’s Blood.Auga Me Sangre.
    Tomorrow 11/11 Is The Day Of St.Martin,In Santiago Attitlan, The St. Martin Bundle Will be Lowered From The Rafters It’s Content’s Revealed,Sung To and Danced With.
    In The Chayo The Dance Of The Deer Will Be Performed,People Dressed As Deer, Raising The Axis Mundi Tree/Pole To Create The Center.
    St.Martin Was Crushed Beneath The Wheel,The Wheel’s Still In Motion,It Can’t Back-up And It Can’t Stand Still!

  2. Water is also a consituent ingredient in the formation of the corn dough used to create the humans.

  3. Or The Bones Of The Ash-fish People And The Blood of the Gods?


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