Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Maya Sacbe (Sakbeh), A Road by Any Other Name and “heaps of stone” (Mexico)

"In Maya archaeology, the term sakbeh has become virtually synonymous with the raised stone roads of the ancient Maya, but this may not always have been the case..."
    (Labna is located in the southwestern part of the state of Yucatan, 28 km from Uxmal and 5 km northeast of Xlapak. Along with Xlapak, Sayil, Kabah and Uxmal, Labna creates a so-called Puuc style. -
Landscapes of Movement Symposium, 2006 
A.H. Keller—A Road by Any Other Name  
Colonial Dictionary Meanings:
  Yucatec Mayan dictionaries compiled in the Colonial period contain all of the modern uses of beh, as well as a number of terms and expressions which have either dropped out of use, or occur less frequently in modern parlance (Table 1). This wealth of beh-terms forms the basis for my reconstruction of the term as it was used by Mayan speakers at Conquest. I have organized the more than one hundred collected terms into four core meaning senses: (1) Road: including the concepts of path, transit, canal, astral course, or spirit path (2) Day: meaning either a calendar day or the length of a journey in days (3) Work: such as one’s occupation, good works, or government office (4) Life: incorporating the concepts of well-being, prosperity, life course, and destiny Despite their analytic separation here, all four senses blend together in practice. When a Mayan speaker uses an expression which entails the ‘day,’ ‘work,’ or ‘life’ meanings of beh, the ‘road’ sense necessarily also comes to mind and, of course, the reverse is also true. Still, the metaphoric senses of beh are more numerous, and are foregrounded even when an actual road is referenced. Used prosaically to mean a physical road, beh can take many modifiers. There were ‘straight roads’ (t'ubul beh), ‘crossing roads’ (xay beh), ‘narrow roads’ (ch’ux beh), ‘great roads’ (noh beh), ‘side roads’ (xax beh), ‘overgrown roads’ (lob beh), and the ‘constructed, white roads’ (sakbeh) well known from the archaeological literature. Sakbeh literally means ‘white road,’and was one of the primary terms recorded in Colonial period dictionaries as a translation of the Spanish term calzada (‘main road, highway’), suggesting a wellconstructed, major road. Amplifying this interpretation of a sakbeh as a well-built road is the synonymous term betun (‘stone road’), which was also listed as a translation of calzada. Both sakbeh and betun refer to raised roads that are constructed of stone (tun) and usually covered with a white (sak) surface. Another analogous term is but’bil beh (lit. ‘filled road’), which refers to raised, rubble-filled roads like those constructed by the ancient Maya. Further, the Milky Way is, among other names, also referred to as a sakbeh, both presently and in Colonial period sources. This ‘white road’ of the heavens is conceived as a celestial highway that spans the length of the night sky and runs down from the heavens to the earth as a sort of spiritual conduit through which the initiated may converse with supernatural and ancestral beings (Tozzer 1941:174). Together these facts may explain why sakbeh has become such a significant term for modern Maya speakers and archaeologists alike when discussing the ancient Maya causeways. The term sakbeh references the color and construction of the ancient roads, as well as their reputed cosmic meaning and ceremonial function (page 5).
Change Places (page 11)
    Another interesting set of features identified in this study are the ‘rest’ or ‘change’ places, routinely associated with the crossroads in the Colonial period texts. These places are directly tied to the ‘changing’ or rotation of temporal cycles in the Chilam Balam texts, and they may have had direct archaeological corollaries at numerous Classic period sites: small, seemingly out-of-place structures at the ends of causeways. If we accept Edmonson’s (1982:76–77) interpretation of the ‘rest’ or ‘change’ places as actual structures, then those structures may have performed important duties as the repositories of images and items associated with the rotation of calendrical cycles. These rest stop platforms are reminiscent of what Diego de Landa, Bishop of Yucatan in the sixteenth century, described as “heaps of stone” erected at the four cardinal entrances to traditional Maya towns. Upon these piles of rock, Landa observed that the Maya placed “a statue of a god” representing the new year (called year-bearers) during their Year Ending (Wayeb) ceremonies (Tozzer 1941:139–141; see also Coe 1965; Sharer 1994:547–551). Anthropologists working with Lowland and Highland Maya groups have documented analogous shrines at the cardinal entrances to modern towns. These roadside shrines are frequently involved in the celebration and rotation of calendrical cycles (Farriss 1987:577; Fox 1994:160; Konrad 1991; Redfield and Villa Rojas 1934; Tedlock 1992; Vogt 1970, 1976)...
(Note this one: "be-kab," road-earth/world, a path cleared as a fire break, for milpa fires specifically.)

"...the trail crossed what was then a swamp over a causeway of loose stones and earth, the nearest approach to a roadway ever made by the aborigines." see:

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