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Sacred Places and Sacred Landscapes


Abstract and Figures

The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology provides a current guide to the recent and on-going archaeology of Mesoamerica. Though the emphasis is on prehispanic societies, this text also includes coverage of important new work by archaeologists on the Colonial and Republican periods. Unique among recent works, the text brings together in a single volume article-length regional syntheses and topical overviews written by active scholars in the field of Mesoamerican archaeology. The first section of the text provides an overview of recent history and trends of Mesoamerica, and articles on national archaeology programs and practice in Central America and Mexico written by archaeologists from these countries. These are followed regional syntheses organized by time period, beginning with early hunter-gatherer societies and the first farmers of Mesoamerica and concluding with a discussion of the Spanish Conquest and frontiers and peripheries of Mesoamerica. Topical and comparative articles comprise the remainder of book. They cover important dimensions of prehispanic societies—from ecology, economy, and environment to social and political relations—and discuss significant methodological contributions, such as geo-chemical source studies, as well as new theories and diverse theoretical perspectives. The book concludes with a section on the archaeology of the Spanish conquest and the Colonial and Republican periods to connect the prehispanic, proto-historic, and historic periods.
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chapter 5 6
 -
R studies of ancient landscapes have matured into well-rounded inquiries
regarding humanity’s engagement with the environment. While many remain
centered on topics such as the distribution of settlements throughout a region, the
modification of the environment for agricultural purposes, and large-scale water-
management projects, they are complemented by an array of newer studies focused
on sacred landscapes, which Knapp and Ashmore () term the “socio-symbolic
aspects of human-environment interaction.” What unites these seemingly dispa-
rate perspectives is the concept that landscapes, especially sacred landscapes, are
the result of collective human activity and, as such, are culturally constructed.
Sacred places and landscapes can be found both in nature and in the built
environment. What distinguishes such spaces is not the degree of human modifi-
cation, but the acts that are performed there. A sacred place is created from a pro-
saic space by means of human action that is particularly of a spiritual or religious
nature, such as rituals or ceremonies. A sacred landscape is a temporal and spatial
fabric spread over a geographic region, unifying all the rituals conducted at the
various sacred places within a narrative framework.
Often the rituals performed in sacred places are commemorated by cultural
materials, such as offerings, monuments, or buildings. However, material symbols
are not necessary to consecrate a place, only actions. Further, the sanctity of a place
endures as long as the actions performed there remain in the social memory of a
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     
Paradigms of Sacred Geography
Perhaps the earliest investigation of sacred places in Mesoamerica was a study of
the role of caves in Maya culture written by J. E. S. Thompson (). However, it
was during the s that interest in the concept of a sacred geography increased,
due principally to two events in : the discovery of a cave under the Pyramid of
the Sun at Teotihuacan and the publication of Pivot of the Four Quarters by Paul
Wheatley. Heydon () recognized that the cave under the Pyramid of the Sun
was a replica of Chicomoztoc, the Aztec cave of origin, linking a sacred place to
the creation narrative. Wheatley () argued that ancient people built cities and
shaped sacred landscapes according to religious ideological tenets, resulting in a
cosmogram, the symbolic manifestation of the cosmic order of the universe (cf.
Coggins ).
Following Wheatley, Townsend () asserted that Tenochtitlan was con-
ceived and built as a representation of the Aztec worldview and in , Freidel
and Schele expanded the concept of the cosmogram by applying the term to ele-
ments of sculpture and artwork found in Maya centers. Directional cosmology
has been used to explain various features in Maya cities, including architectural
arrangements, water reservoirs, and sacbeob (Ashmore , ; Ashmore and
Sabloff ; Demarest et al. ; Fash ; Houk ; Kowalski and Dunning
; Scarborough ; Shaw ; Tourtellot et al. ). Sugiyama (),
Manzanilla (), Cowgill (Carl et al. ), and Headrick () explored cos-
mological notions at Teotihuacan, and Joyce () applied similar concepts to
Monte Albán.
However, recently, the concept of the Mesoamerican city as a cosmogram has
come under fire. This critique is best illustrated in the debate between Smith (,
) and Ashmore and Sabloff (, ). Smith criticizes the validity of the
north-south axis proposed by Ashmore for Classic-period Maya cities and argues
that Mesoamericanists indiscriminately employ the cosmogram model. Ashmore
and Sabloff counter with examples of cosmological principles employed meaning-
fully in many cases. Ivan Špracj () also contests Smith’s arguments, stating
that the Maya used significant astronomical alignments to orient their buildings
and cities.
Indeed, since Blom first suggested that the E-group at Uaxactun was used to
track the movement of the sun, astronomical alignments have been an important
focus of research (Ricketson and Ricketson ). Aveni’s studies of archaeoastron-
omy in Mesoamerica provided the foundation for subsequent investigations in this
area (Aveni , ; Aveni et al. ; Aveni and Hartung , ; Aveni et al.
). Schele (Freidel et al. ) explored Classic Maya astronomy and its relation-
ship to creation narratives, such as the Popol Vuh, determining that several archi-
tectural complexes may replicate constellations and supernatural locales. Most
recently, Špracj (Šprajc et al. ) has identified several astronomical alignments
in buildings from El Mirador.
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 , ,  
Beyond astronomical alignments, sacred landscapes often replicated impor-
tant features in the natural world. While Heydon () stated that the Pyramid
of the Sun was intentionally placed above a natural cave, recently Manzanilla
(Manzanilla et al. ) has argued that the Teotihuacanos excavated the cave,
(re)creating the entrance to the underworld.
Like the artificial cave under the Pyramid of the Sun, natural caves lie under
the El Duende pyramid, the Bat Palace, and a number of residential structures at
Dos Pilas (Brady ), where they also offer a sensory experience of the landscape.
Every year at the onset of the rainy season, water discharges from the Cueva de los
Murciélagos under the Bat Palace, causing a roar that can be heard for more than
a half kilometer (Brady and Ashmore : ). This hierophany transcends the
boundary between the natural and built environments, a distinction that is often
blurred within Mesoamerican sacred places as natural features are incorporated
into built environments and as built environments mimic natural features in the
Often, natural and constructed features separated by large distances are
woven together into a sacred landscape that covers many square kilometers, as was
the case in the Basin of Mexico during the Late Postclassic. The Templo Mayor
of Tenochtitlan embodied state ideology, with both water/fertility and militarism
represented in the twin temples dedicated to the deities Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli,
between which the sun rose on the equinox (Aveni et al. ). Moreover, the
Templo Mayor was oriented so that the mountain dedicated to Tlaloc, located to
the east, appeared behind it on the horizon (Umberger : ). A walled com-
pound with a long passageway, representing the entrance to the underworld from
which the sun rose each day, sat atop Mount Tlaloc; there, Aztec rulers performed
ceremonies dedicated to the Storm God to ensure continued fertility at the begin-
ning of the rainy season (Umberger ).
The sacred hill of Tetzcotzingo is also linked to Mount Tlaloc, as the springs
that fed the aqueducts encircling the hill originate at the foot of the sacred moun-
tain dedicated to the Storm God. Interestingly, the sculptural program located
on the summit of Tetzcotzingo references the same state ideology as the Templo
Mayor (Townsend ). To the east of the summit was a statue of a feathered wolf—
now destroyed—that represented a metaphorical image of King Netzhualcoyotl of
Texcoco, who commissioned the carving to commemorate his military achieve-
ments during the battles that established Texcoco’s independence. Thus, martial
ideology was complemented by the imagery of water and fecundity associated with
Over an area of about  square miles, the Aztec created a cohesive sacred
landscape marked by places encompassing natural as well as human-constructed
features, and which echoed the duality of state religious ideology (Townsend
). Yet the cohesiveness of the landscape is not founded on the similarity in the
sculpture or architecture found in each place, but on the meaning bestowed on
these features by human performances reenacting significant mytho-historical
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     
The Narrative Structure of Sacred
Place and Landscape
Narrative frameworks give meaning to discrete human acts in various locales and
embed a sacred landscape within the social memory of people. People culturally
construct sacred locales by means of mytho-historical accounts that encompass
neither an isolated report of a single event nor a chronological sequence of events.
Instead, the narratives used to constitute sacred landscapes, and the places within
them, selectively recount events and fragments of episodes that are important to a
specific group. Events within narratives, therefore, are related to geographic locales
with little attention paid to temporal flow.
Often it is the very acts associated with the recounting of past events, such
as rituals performed in sacred places, that create the relationship between past
and present, especially when people move into a new region. Migration tales, for
example, give meaning to multiple landscapes to establish the right to inhabit a
particular region (López Austin : ). Thus social groups create a relation-
ship among themselves, the land, and the past through the narrative. They literally
write themselves into the story by imprinting the narrative onto space.
A sacred landscape, then, is commonly infused with temporal significance.
The present constantly crafts the past: Temporal qualities of landscape are bound
Assembly Plaza
Nezahualcoyotl’s Monuments
Path and Aqueduct
Shrine to Maize Goddess
Earth Dragon
Gardens and
Nezahualcoyotl’s Villa
Gardens Functioning
Aqueduct Boundary
Wal l
Wal l
Nezahualcoyotl’s Bath
Petroglyph carving
of Tlaloc mask
Path and Aqueduct
0 510 25 50m
Shrine to
Water Goddess
Figure 56.1 Map and photo of Tetzcotzingo (drawn by Kristin Sullivan and the author
after Townsend 1982, Figure 7).
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 , ,  
to the cultural construction of history through social memory. Specific actions are
etched onto places and landscapes, and when the act is repeated or the locale seen
again by an individual, the past event is recalled (Basso ). Viewing or recalling
a sacred landscape recontextualizes the past in the present, thereby (re)creating a
Guernsey’s () study of the sacred landscape at Izapa illustrates this con-
cept. Group A, located in the southwestern sector of Izapa’s ceremonial zone, con-
sists of a large plaza surrounded by four large platform mounds. The sculptural
program within the plaza commemorates the ritual performances of a ruler’s reen-
actment of passages of the creation narrative. In total, fourteen stelae and altars
ring the plaza, most depicting scenes from the epic creation narrative of eastern
St. 5
St. 6
St. 3 St. 2 St. 1
St. 27
St. 7
St. 4
St. 25 St. 26
Altar 60
Altar 3
Altar 2 Altar 1
Group A
Figure 56.2 Group A, Izapa. (Guernsey 2006: Figure 1.4).
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     
Mesoamerica, later recorded in the Popol Vuh (Guernsey : ). The place cre-
ated through these performances was the supernatural location of the events that
occurred during the creation of the world.
In addition, each stela was carefully placed within the compound in associa-
tion with specific platforms and in precise relationship to one another, so that a
storyline was created as actors moved through the plaza in a ritual circuit. Past and
present were also fused at points: Stelae and and Altar portray scenes from
the narrative with the Izapan ruler inserted as the protagonist (Guernsey :
), performing in the guise of the Principal Bird Deity, one of the main char-
acters in this early version of the creation myth. Accordingly, imagery of the ruler,
the principal actor during ritual performances, punctuated the f low of the mythi-
cal timeline. Myth and history became intertwined within the landscape, and both
were continuously recontextualized with each succeeding ceremony.
Naachtun offers a glimpse of how a narrative can structure ritual space
throughout an entire civic center. Naachtun was a Classic-period city, the political
and economic capital of a thriving polity with a dense urban and rural popula-
tion. Sacred places within Naachtun, as elsewhere, were interspersed among, and
at times coincided with, secular architecture. This, however, did not keep the citi-
zens of Naachtun from creating a vivid and cohesive sacred landscape.
Naachtun grew by accretion from west to east. To the west lay Group C, the
oldest sector of the site that included Structure , a triadic group located atop a
truncated platform that also contained the remains of the earliest known tomb
at its base, and Structure , a funerary acropolis. The E-group, the ballcourt, and
the reservoir were located in Group A, situated at the center of the site to the east
and connected to Group C via a long east-west sacbe. Further to the east and also
linked to Group A by a wide east-west sacbe was Group B, which contained the
radial pyramid (Morton ; Reese-Taylor et al. ).
Walking west to east through the cityscape, an individual moved from
Structure , the First Three Stone Place, location of the three hearthstones of cre-
ation and the resting place of an important early ancestor, to Structure , a North
Eight House Place, which marked the cardinal and inter-cardinal directions of the
cosmos and was the burial location of several early ancestors (Reese-Taylor ).
Events associated with the creation of the world—as recorded in Palenque’s Temple
of the Cross (Stuart : )—occurred at these two locales.
Continuing east along the sacbe, an individual arrived at Naachtun’s ball-
court, the mythic location of the ballgame between the Hero Twins and the Lords
of the Underworld. The ballcourt, symbolizing an entrance to the underworld,
was adjacent to the western entrance of the West Plaza. The reservoir, which also
represented an entrance to the underworld in Maya cosmology, was located at the
opposite, eastern end of the plaza. Moreover buildings and terraces surrounded
the entire plaza, giving it the appearance of a large sunken courtyard. This built
environment clearly identified the West Plaza as a location for public ceremonies
set in the netherworld, perhaps the place where the Hero Twins struggled with the
Lords of the Underworld.
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Figure 56.3 Map of Naachtun (drawing by Shawn Morton).
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     
Just north of the West Plaza, the North Plaza contains the E-Group, which
marked the passage of sun on pivotal days and contained at least three tombs of
Early Classic rulers (Reese-Taylor et al. ). The four buildings surrounding the
plaza were placed in the cardinal directions, and the entirety created a setting for
the inaugural acts of the Maize God: just after the moment when he lifts the sky
from the waters of the underworld, he lays out the four directions of the world and
spins the sky, starting time (Reese ; Reese-Taylor ).
Finally, in the eastern sector of the site, a radial pyramid sits at the end of
a wide sacbe, thereby linking it to the East Plaza: the stelae of Naachtun’s Late
Classic kings and queens line the causeway. The radial pyramid was a physi-
cal expression of Snake Mountain, which rose from the watery underworld and
memorialized events involving the acquisition of military regalia and conquest of
enemies (Reese-Taylor ; Reese-Taylor and Koontz ; Schele and Guernsey
Kappelman ). Therefore, it is no accident that the stelae at the base of Structure
 record an important victory over Calakmul (Mathews et al. ).
The narrative structure of the Naachtun landscape is not a chronological
sequence of events, but rather episodes selectively woven together in a way that
was meaningful to the city’s inhabitants. The narrative grew by accretion, just as
the city did; older episodes of the narrative performed in Group C were augmented
with future events and flashbacks. At the heart of the landscape was the West
Plaza, the realm of the underworld and the setting for primordial events of cre-
ation (Morton ), which was connected to the North Plaza via terraces and to
Group C to the west and Group B to the east through sacbeob.
As at Izapa, the rulers of Naachtun inserted their stories into the narrative
by means of tomb and stelae placement. History and mythology were inextrica-
bly intertwined in the sacred geography of the site, while rituals and common-
place events continuously revised the narrative embodied within the Naachtun
Sacred places and landscapes within Mesoamerica are created and evolve through
human acts. While these places may reflect the cosmological organizing princi-
ples of society, they are not merely cosmograms but dynamic, complex landscapes
created as settings for the reenactments of mytho-historical narratives. Narrative
structure unifies the sacred places within broader landscapes and reinforces the
social memory of the acts performed in them.
Like narratives, these landscapes are temporalized in several fashions. Events
and places from the past are made relevant in the present by stressing aspects of the
story that resonate with living populations or by inserting historical individuals
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 , ,  
and their acts into the narratives. Temporal flow is often suspended; sacred places
are not ordered sequentially but are contingent upon what is meaningful to popu-
lations at different points in history. Therefore, sacred landscapes grow by accre-
tion and can seamlessly integrate flashbacks and flash forwards.
Sacred places and landscapes are also temporally liminal. Just as events in sto-
ries happen in a time before time, and are then reenacted in the present, sacred
places coexist with prosaic places: a sacred place can be a plaza that both serves as
the location of a market within a bustling city at one time and, at another time, is
the location of the watery underworld.
Finally, like creation and migration narratives, sacred landscapes are reli-
gious and philosophical touchstones as well as powerful sociopolitical statements.
Because they embody the metanarratives of Mesoamerican people, sacred places
and sacred landscapes are enduring in the social memory.
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... The meaning and importance of these centers is inevitably linked to their sacred qualities. Sacred landscapes are constructed by human-environment interactions and collective human activities reflecting religious, cultural, and organizing notions of society (Reese-Taylor, 2012). A sacred landscape, then, consists of sacred places and centers within the natural, modified, and built environments. ...
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Cerro Llamocca is a mountain with a summit elevation of 4,487 m asl in the southern Peruvian Andes. This paper presents a first overview of recent archaeological and paleoenvironmental research in its vicinity, and introduces new results from archaeological surveys and strontium isotope analyses. Our survey data show how the wider Cerro Llamocca area comprises an extensive complex of archaeological sites, composed of different sectors with public, domestic, and funerary architecture and rock shelters, occupied throughout the pre-Columbian period from the Early Archaic to the European invasion in 1532. Despite the extreme living conditions of this highelevation environment, Cerro Llamocca includes the oldest archaeological site hitherto recorded in the larger region: a rock shelter (PAP-969) on its south-eastern slope with evidence of human occupation in the Early Archaic period ~ 8000 BCE. Human activity in the Cerro Llamocca area reached its zenith in the Middle Horizon (CE 600 – 1000), at a time of a dry climate and when an expansive Wari state incorporated the worship of mountain deities into an imperial strategy to dominate local people. Our strontium isotope analyses of archaeological human dental enamel from a funerary rock shelter (PAP-942), alongside modern plants as reference data, indicate that the people buried here originated in the adjacent highlands. At a broader level, we study the roles of Cerro Llamocca as a sacred mountain or apu and central place over a long-term perspective, and how these functions integrated and focused religious, ritual, social, political, and economic activities over this highaltitude complex. Its central place function was linked to its sacredness, but also to its topography, provision of shelter, and geographical proximity to a range of critical resources such as water, creating resource dependencies that shaped socio-economic cooperation and exploitation. Although Cerro Llamocca has progressively lost many of these roles since the beginning of the colonial period, local communities continue to revere it as a sacred mountain today.
... Values associated with sacred places could be used as a medium to conserve nature (Hemmat et al., 2012). A sacred space is a temporal and spatial fabric in a geographic region in which human beings perceive religious or spiritual importance (Reese-Taylor, 2012). Social, cultural and political processes continuously evolve, and redefine cultural landscapes (Singh, 2013). ...
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the perspectives of local stakeholders on the role of religious tourism and the development process that alter the sacred space and religious heritage of Varanasi. Specific objectives include study local stakeholders' view on the motivation of visitors, the image of the city they carry home, role of infrastructure development altering sacredness of the city, major issues pertaining to conservation of the city's religious heritage and whether tourism dominates the sacred space of the city. Design/methodology/approach The present study follows the philosophical approach of constructionism and is an inductive study based on the ontological features of realism. The study is conducted using qualitative research design. Participants were purposely selected from different groups to provide representative data. through in-depth interviews with a set of 22 open-ended questions. Findings The study acknowledged the spatial changes happening in an old city over time. The portrayed image of Varanasi remains deeply rooted in the minds of pilgrims, whereas the tourist perspective often goes beyond the texts as an experience. The reflection of local stakeholders in the transformation of sacred space to tourist experiencescape as a consumable experience, which is influenced by market-driven forces is a major finding of the study. Research limitations/implications Difficulties in finalising the respondents and building up the theoretical base, which is one of the main limitations of the study. During the process of data collection, the respondents mainly focussed upon the impacts of tourism on Varanasi, and the researchers made every effort to extract qualitative information on the current research. At times, some respondents hesitated to share their view on political influences in the development process, which restricted the authors to obtain righteous information, that could have contributed a better understanding of the deep-rooted issues of religious heritage conservation. Another limitation is that the perspectives of visitors have not been included in this research. Practical implications The study will contribute to the theoretical areas of tourism development in historic and sacred cities. As an interdisciplinary area, the selected theme of the study delves in to landscape planning, heritage preservation, tourism development in historic cities and more importantly how residents understand the changes happening in a scared environment. The present research opens opportunities for further researches such as social pressures and tourism development, urban morphology and its transformation in ancient cities and so on. Social implications Varanasi is an ancient city in India, which is also the heartland of Hinduism. The study reveals the understanding of respondents on religious traditions, sentiments and the social values attached to a place. At the same time, it also highlights the role of tourism in generating an intercultural dialogue with local cultures, appreciating the sacred value of sites associated with religious sentiments. Originality/value The study addresses the role of tourism in altering the landscape of ancient city of Varanasi. The original view of respondents has been used in the article to maintain originality. There are several researches conducted on Varanasi, but the present study is conducted in a systematic way to gather the real understanding of local people. The study acknowledges the changes happening in the city along the course of time.
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Sacred places and landscapes are created and developed by human actions. Such landscapes are dynamic and complex landscapes where people connect with the past and re-enact narratives. Although studies have shown that sacred landscapes have an effective role in strengthening social memory by combining the place where rituals take place and actions in transferring this memory by combining to generation, it remains incomplete to explain how the perceived structure of the landscape is transformed by human actions. In this study, the sacred areas and landscape around Beşparmak Mountains and Lake Bafa, which have been preserving their sacredness for thousands of years, have been biographically examined. Sacred areas and landscapes created by anonymous actors in the region from the Prehistoric Period to the present have been determined using historical maps and documents belonging to the Prehistoric, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Periods. How the anonymous actors who contributed to the transformation of the landscape in each period perceive the landscape with a landscape biography approach. It has been among the important results of the study that sacred landscapes are the result of common human activity and therefore culturally constructed. The landscape biography approach discussed in this study will constitute an effective example of how the landscape is integrated with natural and cultural elements, that the landscape affects people in the long term while the human transforms the landscape, and how this approach shapes the decisions to be taken in future planning and cultural heritage conservation studies.
The study of sacred images, in general, and of crosses, in particular, of Mexico, has attracted the attention of scholars from various disciplines. Because the placement or the appearance of such images is context-dependent, one way to understand their contemporary celebration is to take a combined historical and anthropological approach. Drawing on historical sources, audio-recorded interviews, and online newspaper articles, this article illustrates how the crosses of Huaquechula share patterns of devotion to Mexican crosses past and present. It suggests that, based on the qualitative equivalence of their earlier and later purposes, the crosses are a living tradition that, across time, conveys a meaningful message of faith, protection, unity, and collective continuity.
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Análisis etnoarqueológico interdisciplinar del paisaje sacro del territorio de Viveiro (Lugo) como aproximación empírica para mejorar la metodología existente para interpretar el “paisaje sacro” y aproximarnos a la mentalidad y al imaginario de la sociedad prerromana, una metodología que abre nuevas vías de investigación. Se analiza las características geográficas y la articulación territorial con el rio Landrove, un hidrónimo celta, como eje. Se ha identificado la desconocida población de *Landobriga, en el Castro da Croa de Landrove, como centro sacro de ese territorio, cuyos habitantes pudieran denominarse *Landi, “Los hombres del llano” y también se señala la posible organización cuatripartita del territorio característica de los celtas. Particular interés ofrece la orientación topo-astronómica de muchos lugares sacros, con leyendas y ritos asociados de origen prerromano. Estos alineamientos topo-astronómicos permitían determinar los equinoccios y solsticios y las festividades celtas de media estación, Imbolc, Beltaine, Lugnasad y Samain, de acuerdo con el calendario ritual y la cosmología celtas, hecho que resalta el significado y la importancia de los análisis topo-astronómicos. Este análisis evidencia una continuidad de “longue durée” hasta la actualidad de los principales lugares sacros y su gran densidad en el territorio. Esta continuidad y densidad del “paisaje sacro” es característica de la religión gallega, pero procede de los numerosos numina loci celtas, como confirman los Dinshenchas, numina en ocasiones relacionados con creencias animistas. Los resultados confirman la importancia del “paisaje sacro”, reflejado en tradiciones, ritos, mitos y leyendas populares del folklore, que confirman las alineaciones topoastronomicas. Esta nueva forma de leer el paisaje es una enriquecedora aportación para conocer el imaginario y la religión popular que permite comprender mejor cómo veía el hombre prehistórico su territorio y los elementos que lo conforman como un paisaje vivo y sobrenatural, de carácter sacro, dentro de tradiciones ancestrales de origen animista.
The aim of this chapter is to investigate changes and continuities of human moral systems from an evolutionary and socio-historical perspective. Specifically, I will argue that these systems can be approached through the lens of non-genetic inheritance systems and niche construction. I will examine morality from a comparative socio-historical perspective. From this, I suggest that these inheritance systems are cognitively scaffolded, and that these scaffolds are part of the nucleus of the historical Mesoamerican cosmovision.
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This dissertation investigates the role of civic-ceremonial plazas in the formation and maintenance of the Preclassic period Maya centers of Cival, Holmul, and Witzna located in the Cival region in northern Guatemala. Ancient Maya public plazas are largely understudied by archaeologists, despite filling a critical role in the understanding of community formation and interaction through the practices associated with the commemorative and ceremonial rituals held in these locations. These public plazas were places of interaction that ranged from public, open places to restricted spaces. The theories of practice, structuration, place, social memory, and communities of practice are utilized here to critically examine the types of interactions and activities experienced in these plazas. This examination of civic-ceremonial plazas in the Cival region draws upon excavations, GIS data, proxemics, estimated plaza capacity, and archaeological evidence of ritual activities to understand practices, which resulted in the emergence and continued occupation of public plazas. Lime plaster samples acquired from plaza floors are used to provide insight into the interaction and exchange of practices between the sites of Cival, Holmul, and Witzna. Thin section petrography, SEM-EDS, and x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (pXRF) are used to analyze the mineralogical and elemental composition of lime plaster, which is subsequently used to determine the quality of the plaster and in the identification of communities of practice. Findings from this study confirm the strong connection between Cival and Holmul during the Late Preclassic period by demonstrating the existence of multiple communities of practice involving the addition of barite to lime plaster production and the semi-standardization of E-Groups in the region. Additionally, it was discovered that the centers of Cival, Holmul, and Witzna each experienced a distinct trajectory regarding the construction and spatial positioning of public and private plazas. Despite these differences, public plazas remained essential focal points of community activity and as locations for commemorative and ceremonial rituals for each of these three sites throughout the Preclassic and Classic periods. Private plazas were also essential locations for ceremonial and ritual events conducted among a more restricted community, such as seen at the Watchtower plaza in East Witzna. The practices associated with the ritual events in these plazas were preserved in the material remains of lime plaster surfaces, caches, and stelae. These physical remains are used to provide insight into the types of rituals conducted in these plazas.
Conference Paper
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Religious signs, rituals, etiological myths, theory's and epithets, as well as human constructions (e.g. architecture) together create a web of ciphers and symbols that make up the sacred landscape of a region. Ujjain a pilgrim centre, located on the eastern bank of river Kshipra in Madhya Pradesh (Central India) is deemed to be an agglomeration of history, traditional beliefs, myths and legends. A visible emblem of sacred heritage and a major link in religious network of Hindu India, exhibits all the tangible and intangible layers of sacred landscape that has shaped or influenced Hindu ritualistic behaviour. But the constant pressure of urban development and increased religious tourism on this sacred landscape has led to illegal encroachment, degradation of flood plains, pollution of watershed, exploitation of natural resources, lack of social awareness and mismanagement by concerned government agencies, etc. A landscape approach has been applied to study and map the sacred landscape in the research. The methodology for the research is a four step process (1) Assessing sacred landscape character of Ujjain by studying its Geomorphology, Hydrology, Climate, Vegetation and Urban infrastructure (Roads, railway, bus stands etc.) with respect to sacred elements by overlay process;(2) Mapping of religious patterns; (3) Analysis, (4)Proposal Of Landscape Conservation Plan. The research lead to identification and mapping of sacred landscape boundaries and prepare a landscape conservation plan to preserve the sense of continuity and resilience of a sacred city-with a Case study of Sapt Sagars, Ujjain.