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Ancient Maya Cities of the Eastern Lowlands$
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Brett A. Houk

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060637

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060637.001.0001

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Deciphering Meaning in Maya Cities

Deciphering Meaning in Maya Cities

(p.265) 11 Deciphering Meaning in Maya Cities
Ancient Maya Cities of the Eastern Lowlands

Brett A. Houk

Marilyn A. Masson

Michael E. Smith

John W. Janusek

University Press of Florida

The focus of this final chapter is understanding the meaning behind the plans of Maya cities in the eastern lowlands. In previous studies meaning is most often equated with Amos Rapoport’s high-level meaning, which communicates information about worldview and cosmology. This chapter takes a more basic and holistic approach to studying site planning by asking why a city looks the way it looks. This is in line with Wendy Ashmore’s and Jeremy Sabloff’s assertion that archaeologists should attempt to identify the mix of influences that affected architectural forms and arrangements. This chapter explores the topic of meaning in the cities of the eastern lowlands by looking at the issues of cosmograms, political emulation, how planning knowledge was acquired and transmitted, and processional architecture. The chapter concludes that the disparity seen in degrees of urban planning reflects more about the nature of Maya kingship than it indicates a lack of common idea about how to build a city. Perhaps, in a culture that stressed the achievements of individual kings and their ancestors, the common idea about urban planning was flexibility: the freedom to combine the building blocks a Maya city in unique ways.

Keywords:   meaning, high-level meaning, worldview, cosmology, cosmograms, political emulation, processional architecture, urban planning

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