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The Once and Future King: A New Approach to Ancient Maya Mortuary Monuments from Palenque, Tikal, and Copan

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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/10896

The Once and Future King: A New Approach to Ancient Maya Mortuary Monuments from Palenque, Tikal, and Copan

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Title: The Once and Future King: A New Approach to Ancient Maya Mortuary Monuments from Palenque, Tikal, and Copan
Author: Olton, Elizabeth
Advisor(s): Flora S. Clancy, Holly Barnet-Sanchez
Committee Member(s): Christopher C. Mead, Clemency C. Coggins
Virginia E. Miller, Michael D. Carrasco
Department: University of New Mexico. Dept. of Art and Art History
Subject: Ancient Maya Art History
Copan
Palenque
Tikal
Mortuary Architecuture
Afterlife
Burial Rituals
Death Studies
LC Subject(s): Maya architecture--Mexico--Palenque Site
Maya architecture--Guatemala--Tikal Site
Maya architecture--Honduras--Copan Site
Mayas--Kings and rulers--Death and burial
Degree Level: Doctoral
Abstract: This dissertation examines the Temple of the Inscriptions, Temple I, and Temple 26 and explores what could have motivated the Maya to construct these large monuments and how they might have been meaningful. Traditional art historical methods of comparative and formal analyses are employed as tools for discussing patterns of meaning among these temples. The structural and decorative programs shared by all three temples signal that they are part of a separate genre of architecture that is specifically mortuary and interactive. Furthermore, these features are also a mode of communication. Messages depicted in the offerings, sculpture, and spaces of the royal interment resonated throughout the entire monument thus creating parallel environments. Architecture and imagery thereby become the agents for experience and meaning: these structures were active places that engaged the viewer, set up a series of experiences, and elicited a particular set of responses. These three monuments symbolized a continuum and depicted in their forms, spaces, and imagery was the cyclical progression of life and rebirth. In the years between 683 to 734 C.E., the ancient Maya cities of Palenque, Tikal, and Copan experienced great change caused by the death and burial of powerful kings and the accession of new kings. As demonstrated in evidence from the mortuary rituals and interments of K’inich Janaab Pakal, Jasaw Chan K’awiil, and K’ahk Uti’ Wiz’ K’awiil and in their respective mortuary monuments, the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque, Temple I at Tikal, and Temple 26 at Copan, these funerary events initiated new forms of art and architecture that changed the ceremonial cores of their respective cities. Memorializing a dead king was not the function of these temples. Instead, they were statements of continuity that were articulated in themes of renewal, transformation, and intergenerational convergence. Evidence suggests that the ancient Maya understood these monuments in their entirety; they were thus comprehended as funerary temples that were designed to be experienced in a manner that went beyond cognitive understanding. This dissertation examines the Temple of the Inscriptions, Temple I, and Temple 26 and explores what could have motivated the Maya to construct these large monuments and how they might have been meaningful. Traditional art historical methods of comparative and formal analyses are employed as tools for discussing patterns of meaning among these temples. The structural and decorative programs shared by all three temples signal that they are part of a separate genre of architecture that is specifically mortuary and interactive. Furthermore, these features are also a mode of communication. Messages depicted in the offerings, sculpture, and spaces of the royal interment resonated throughout the entire monument thus creating parallel environments. Architecture and imagery thereby become the agents for experience and meaning: these structures were active places that engaged the viewer, set up a series of experiences, and elicited a particular set of responses. These three monuments symbolized a continuum and depicted in their forms, spaces, and imagery was the cyclical progression of life and rebirth.
Graduation Date: May 2010
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/10896


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