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  Sometimes a “Stove” Is “Just A Stove”: A Context-Based Reconsideration of Three-Prong “Incense Burners” From The Western Belize Valley Minimize

Joseph W. Ball and Jennifer T. Taschek

Abstract


Among the most ubiquitous “functionally identifiable” archaeological artifacts found in the Belize Valley are so-called ceramic “censer horns” or “three-prong incensarios,” sometimes glossed in the literature as “chile mashers” or “pestles.” Since their original identifications in the 1920s, they generally have been regarded as incensarios---or ceremonial objects---and used regularly as indicators of private or public ritual activities. The authors have examined many of these sherds and the restorable vessels represented; adhering residues; the reported depositional contexts; and their functional contextual associations, and submit that the vessels, sherds, and formal types represented had little if anything to do with ceremonial activities, public or private, but were in fact portable domestic braziers or braseros, and are primarily indicative of household or personal domestic activities rather than personal, familial, or corporate ritual observances. In actuality, two distinct classes of three-horned burner stands do exist and can be distinguished by appearance, intactness, and context. We describe and discuss both classes, and reiterate that although previously used to identify household shrines, religious activities, or other ideo-ritual observances, the majority of these vessels had little or nothing to do with anything other than warming beanpots, beans, or hands, or keeping away biting insects.

Resumen


Los cuernos de incensarios o incensarios de tres cuernos, a veces citados como majaderos [de chile], son artefactos arqueológicos comúnmente encontrados e "identificables funcionalmente" en el Valle Belice. Tras su identificación en los 1920s, se los ha considerado incensarios sin cuestionamiento y son usados como indicadores de actividades rituales, privadas o públicas. Hemos examinado un gran número de fragmentos; sus residuos adheridos; sus contextos de depositación y asociaciones contextuales, y sugirimos que los vasos y/o sus restos tenían poco o nada que ver con actividades ceremoniales---públicas o privadas---pero si como calentadores portátiles domésticos o braseros. Estos se relacionan más con actividades domésticas en el nivel de la casa o del individuo que con rituales personales, familiares, o de grupos corporativos. En realidad, hay dos clases de mechero-pedestal de tres cuernos y distinguibles fácilmente por sus apariencias, integridad, y contextos. Discutimos ambas clases, y reiteramos que aunque se los ha empleado para identificar santuarios domésticos o familiares, actividades religiosas, y otros rituales, la gran mayoría tiene poca relación con algo más allá de calentar ollas y frijoles, las manos, o ahuyentar insectos.

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