Journal of Archaeological Research

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 197–251 | Cite as

Astronomy, Architecture, and Landscape in Prehispanic Mesoamerica

Article

Abstract

This article synthesizes recent advances in the study of astronomy and worldview in architectural and urban planning in Mesoamerica. Throughout most of this cultural area, the practice of orienting civic and ceremonial buildings followed similar principles, although regional and time-dependent variations are present. Analysis of alignment data has revealed the existence of distinct and widespread orientation groups; most refer to sunrises and sunsets on particular dates, although two groups can be related to lunar and Venus extremes. Astronomically relevant directions frequently dominate considerable parts of urban layouts. The orientation and the location of important buildings often were conditioned by astronomical criteria and beliefs about specific landscape features; particularly notable are structures that were aligned to prominent mountaintops on the local horizon. Based on a variety of contextual data, I interpret the uses and significance of orientations in terms of agricultural concerns, cosmological concepts, and political ideology. I outline the evolution of orientation practices, drawing attention to pan-Mesoamerican trends, regional patterns, and diffusion processes.

Keywords

Mesoamerica Archaeology Archaeoastronomy Architecture Urbanism Orientations 

Notes

Acknowledgments

A considerable part of this article derives from the research accomplished by the author in collaboration with Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava and Dieter Richter. I wish to give my thanks to both collaborators, as well as to innumerable colleagues who have provided invaluable help and information. The Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), Mexico, and the Instituto de Antropología e Historia (IDAEH), Guatemala, authorized the research in their respective countries. Financial support was provided by INAH, the FBC Datec company, Mexico, and the Slovenian Research Agency. I am indebted to Ronald Faulseit, Anthony Aveni, Juan Antonio Belmonte, Antonio Benavides, and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on a previous draft of this article.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Anthropological and Spatial StudiesResearch Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU)LjubljanaSlovenia

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