Maya Portals: Mirrors, Divination, and The Underworld in Maya Visual and Material Culture



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Mirrors were employed for various purposes throughout the ancient world, from serving as functional objects assisting rulers in dressing or examining their reflections to being integral components of esoteric and divinatory religious practices. Mirrors are often discovered in burial settings, such as tombs and caches. The Classic Maya were no different and are frequently depicted

in underworld or palace scenes on cylinder drinking vessels and various art works, Their purposes

extended beyond cosmetic use and served as a medium for esoteric and divinatory religious practices in order to communicate between dimensions and worlds. In Maya art, numerous scenes depict mirrors as tools utilized by rulers for practical tasks, but they also feature prominently in mystical and

ritualistic contexts, such as divination rituals and ambiguous deity worship practices. Originally conceptualized as a replacement for the missing catalog for the Blanton's Forces of Nature exhibition in my Issues in Exhibitions and Collections of Visual Arts: Architecture and Sculpture in the Maya World course, this research serves as an exploration of the perception of self and religion in the Maya world . Using pieces from the exhibit and employing iconographic analysis of ceramic vessels alongside analyzing archazological evidence and in conversatiens with the exhibitions curator and Mayanists in the field, I will delve into their symbolic connections with the elite, their associations with the gods, and their role in shaping the Maya understanding of the underworld. Through this examination, we gain insight into the multifaceted significance of mirrors in ancient Maya culture.



LCSH Subject Headings