Astronomy, Architecture, and Landscape in the Olmec Area and Western Maya Lowlands: Implications for Understanding Regional Variability and Evolution of Orientation Patterns in Mesoamerica

Ivan Šprajc, Takeshi Inomata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In the area along the southern Gulf Coast in Mexico, a large number of previously unrecorded archaeological sites have recently been detected with the aid of lidar data, which also allowed us to determine the orientations of hundreds of structures and architectural assemblages, including many standardized complexes dated to the Early-to-Middle Formative transition. As revealed by our analyses, most orientations were based on astronomical and calendrical principles, occasionally combined with certain concepts of sacred geography. While the results of these analyses were presented in a recently published article, here we explore the potential of alignment data for addressing other questions of archaeological relevance. The distribution of particular building types and regional variations in alignment patterns in the study area suggest the existence of two somehow different cultural spheres, loosely corresponding to the areas conventionally called the Gulf Olmec region and the western Maya Lowlands. Examining pertinent evidence, we argue that it was in this area where some of the most prominent orientation groups materialized in later Mesoamerican architecture originated. We also attempt to reconstruct the paths of their diffusion, which are expected to contribute to understanding the dynamics of long-distance cultural interaction in Mesoamerica.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalLatin American Antiquity
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • archaeoastronomy
  • architecture
  • calendar
  • cultural history
  • Maya
  • Mesoamerica
  • Olmec
  • orientations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology

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