Much has been written about Mayan beliefs but little with the historical depth and ethnographic detail that Allen J. Christenson brings to The Burden of the Ancients. He ambitiously traces Maya world renewal ceremonies from the Pre-Columbian past to the present-day town of Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala.

Using clear, utilitarian prose, Christenson has essentially written a two-part book. The first part reviews the Pre-Columbian evidence, including materials culled from archeological studies and Spanish and Maya documents produced before and during the colonial period. Here, Christenson synthesizes the materials about Mayas’ world renewal, providing a comprehensive explanation of their meanings in the Yucatán and the Guatemalan highlands. He illustrates the resiliency of Maya beliefs and the ways in which the Maya interpreted Christianity to fit into their existing cosmology.

The second part focuses on ethnographic descriptions of Holy Monday through Good Friday. Monday is for ritual cleaning. Tuesday revolves around the...

You do not currently have access to this content.