Mythic architecture and drama in ancient Mesoamerica : the manifestation of the mythological landscape in the historical world
MetadataShow full item record
The construction of buildings to replicate specific places within the mythic landscape was a long-standing and widespread tradition in ancient Mesoamerica. This study moves beyond the identification of motifs that marked buildings as mythic, as it examines the messages communicated by these structures and evaluates the meaning and impact of mythic architecture within its historic and cultural contexts. An essential aspect of this study is the investigation of ritual dramas which reenacted episodes from creation narratives. By physically re-creating mythic locations and by re-actualizing mythic events, Mesoamerican communities manifested cosmogonic space and time so that the mythic was made present. Moreover, each building was constructed during a specific moment in time and at a particular location, and therefore it reflected and responded to particular historical realities. Because of this, Mesoamerican mythic architecture had a dual significance: both mythic and historic. Mythic architecture was an active force within the community: it communicated views concerning the origins of the world and the foundations of rulership and culture. It also made these concepts tangible within the historical world. Its very presence confirmed the reality of the mythic realm, thereby reinforcing and validating the culture’s core constructs. Because these structures manifested the mythical landscape, they were particularly potent locations for the reenactment of mythological events. These mythic dramas took place in real time which placed the structure within a specific historical context. When it was the ruler who took on the identity of the creation deities during mythic performances, the blending of myth and history was most significant. In addition, mythic dramas were the means by which the populace could be directly integrated into the mythological narrative. By examining evidence of mythic architecture and mythic drama from different Mesoamerican cultures—with a particular focus upon Classic period Copán and the Postclassic Aztec Templo Mayor—this dissertation demonstrates how they reflected their specific cultural contexts and how different communities interacted with these structures in distinct ways. This study also provides new insight into the significance of these structures at specific places and times and suggests how mythic architecture reflected changing historical circumstances.