Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Anne Woodrick


Extensive work in uncovering and reconstructing Classic Maya temples has been completed while the importance of Maya studies has increased during the past centuries. Little has been done, however, in the interpretation of certain Maya structures within the context of Maya thought. That context includes an understanding of the Maya interpretation of their place within the cosmos, an aspect of Maya culture that dictated every individual's daily actions. Researchers have tended to focus on architectural analyses that describe the dimensions and building materials of temples and other monumental structures. This leads to interpretations that are lacking in cultural significance. While some (e.g. Schele 1990, 1992, 1993, etc.; Friedel 1993, 1994; Reilly 1991) have provided a series oflengthy interpretations of temples at a many of the major Maya sites, certain cultural beliefs have been neglected, and if considered, could deepen their analyses and our understanding of the Maya. One such aspect is the arrangement of structures on the physical earthly plane. Michael D. Coe (2005: 115) has stated, "there is little overt indication of any overall planning in their [various structures'] arrangement" but, through further examination, this interpretation becomes invalid. Although the surrounding laity housing located in what I would call the suburbs of citystates does not appear planned, the central hearts of urban centers like Tikal and Palenque display similar planning strategies. Therefore, the arrangement of monumental structures as well as the height of each further displays the pervasive nature of the Maya adherence to the cosmos.

In order to apply these cultural beliefs to monumental structures, the reader must first gain an understanding of those cultural ideals that were transferred into sacred stone. The Popa/ Vuh, or Maya Book of Council, provides the basis to all Maya thought. The first section of the thesis explores the themes of the Popa/ Vuh and the intricacies of the Maya calendar and the Maya peoples' deeper concept of time, utter dependence on the appeasement of the gods by the Maya becomes clear. This leads to the discovery of complex numbering systems employed in the construction of the main temples at sites such as Palenque and Tikal. In order to present a succinct representation of the temples at Tikal and Palenque, outline reconstructions were used in this analysis and are included in the final section: Tikal's Temple I, Temple II, and Temple V; Palenque's Temple of the Cross, Temple of the Foliated Cross, Temple of the Inscriptions, and Temple of the Sun.

Year of Submission



Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors


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Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (58 pages)