From Ritual in the Landscape to Capture in the Urban Center: The Recreation of Ritual Environments in Mesoamerica

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Journal of Ritual Studies


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Winter 1-1-1992

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The development of Mesoamerican religious architecture is closely tied to perceptions and uses of the natural landscape, specifically the widespread and ancient custom of observing rituals at topographic locations, such as caves and mountain tops. This use of topography arises out of a model of space in which wilderness is perceived as the seat of supernatural authority. Mesoamerican urban architecture reconstructed wilderness space through constructions such as pyramids or "captured" it in other creative ways. Through this process, ritual space and ritual itself was brought under the hegemony of the elite. Mesoamerican art also drew visual parallels between ceremonial architecture and topographic forms, thereby reinforcing their conceptual equivalence.

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