The Sacred Landscape of Mayapan, A Postclassic Maya Center
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The northern Maya region of the Yucatán Peninsula has been the site of urban development for over 1,000 years. Some of the greatest Precolumbian cities in the New World were built in the area and today the Yucatán peninsula still hosts a vibrant Maya culture. The Yucatán peninsula is therefore a place rich in history, and the exceptional preservation of many of its Precolumbian cities provides excellent opportunity for art historical and archaeological study. Unfortunately, however, study of the region has too often been eclipsed by research dedicated to Maya cities in Chiapas, Mexico, the Petén of Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize. In response to the relative lack of information we have for Postclassic (12th through 16th centuries) urbanism in Yucatán, the present study focuses on the influential city of Mayapán. Located in the interior of the peninsula, Mayapán rose to power in the 13th century and fell roughly seventy years before the Spanish arrived. It was the most powerful Maya city of its day with extensive trading networks reaching as far as Guatemala, the Gulf Coast and central Mexico. Mayapán’s urban identity is marked by such internationalism, especially in the city’s ritual core. There, structures and art reference both Maya and central Mexican worlds. Its major buildings, for example, are close copies of those at earlier Maya centers and many of its murals and sculptures are similar to those from central Mexican cities. However, Mayapán was far more than a reference to other places. It was, instead, a center into which outside elements were anchored and physically bound. As this dissertation explores, it was the landscape upon and through which Mayapán was built that ultimately dictated Mayapán’s urban design and formalized the city’s visual identity.