Kazuo Aoyama reports on the use of darts and spears among the Maya in Aguateca.

Kazuo Aoyama

Kazuo Aoyama, Elite Craft Producers, Artists, and Warriors at Aguateca Lithic Analysis, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2009), 2:126-27

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Kazuo Aoyama
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The royal palace and the residences of the elite scribes/artists of Aguateca each contained some 30 to 40 chert bifacial points (Figure 6.2). Because many weapons were consumed in the last battle, each household must have originally possessed many more pointed tools. While some complete and nearly complete points appear to have been stored in the royal palace, elite residences and other structures, most chert bifacial points were snapped or otherwise broken (Table 6.7). In fact, complete bifacial points are virtually absent in the excavated structures. For example, no complete bifacial points were recovered from Structure M8-13 at all. I was able to rejoin several fragments. All of them were found in and near the same structures except one. The exception is of a particular interest: a proximal fragment of a laurel leaf bifacial point recovered from an are in front of the south room of Structure M7-34 could be refitted to a distal fragment of the same point recovered from an area behind the south room of Structure M8-4. The distal tip of the latter clearly shows projectile impact damage (longitudinal microfracture). Apparently, the point was used somewhere in or around Structure M7-34. Then the broken distal fragment, presumably left in the body of a resident of Aguateca or an attacker, appears to have fallen in the area behind Structure M8-4.

The broken points were scattered more or less evenly across the burned structures, as one would expect if they had been shot in and around the structures, rather than being concentrated in a midden or other contexts. In fact, 6 of the 235 chert bifacial points were recovered from midden contexts at Aguateca. I argue that the residents of Aguateca, including elite scribes/artists, shot most of the chert bifacial points during the final defense of the city. The attackers may have shot some of the points used exclusively as weapons, however. Without exception, every excavated structure in the epicenter of Aguateca burned to the ground at the time of abandonment. Together these data strongly suggest that many broken dart and spear points were deposited in battle.

Based on their spatial distribution, many pointed weapons were most likely used by the male members of the royal family and scribes/artists. An important implication is that the ruler and elite scribes/artists at Aguateca were also warriors. The Aguateca lithic evidence perfectly matched Kevin Johnston’s (2001) iconographic study of captured Classic Maya scribes and finger breaking during warfare. In other words, both the ruler and the elite scribes/artists/warriors of Aguateca who produced texts through which the ruler asserted and displayed power were targeted by the enemy. We know from Classic Maya art that Maya elites were involved in warfare with projectile points, especially spears and, to a smaller degree, atlatl darts (Miller 1996). The large number of bifacial points used as darts or spearheads by elite scribes/artists/warriors strongly indicates that they were not passive victims, of their captors but fiercely engaged in warfare, including hand-to-hand combat, before they finally fled or were taken as captives.

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