Invited_talk abstract details

Astronomical and cosmological aspects of Maya architecture and urbanism
Ivan Šprajc


Archaeoastronomical studies carried out so far in the Maya area have shown that civic and ceremonial buildings were oriented, like elsewhere in Mesoamerica, largely on astronomical grounds, mostly to sunrises and sunsets on particular dates. However, while the significance of the most frequently recorded dates can be interpreted in terms of agricultural concerns, the astronomical alignments, which allowed the use of observational calendars that facilitated a proper scheduling of agricultural activities, cannot be understood in purely utilitarian terms. Since the repeatedly occurring directions are most consistently incorporated in monumental architecture of civic and ceremonial urban cores, they must have had an important place in the worldview and even in the cosmologically substantiated political ideology. Likewise, the well-known clockwise skew of architectural orientations with regard to cardinal directions, prevalent throughout Mesoamerica, cannot be compellingly accounted for by astronomical and/or practical motives but rather by the beliefs concerning world directions or parts of the universe. And finally, architectural and other elements associated with some important buildings also reveal that the ancient Maya architectural and urban planning was dictated by a complex set of rules, in which astronomical considerations related to practical needs were embedded in a broader framework of cosmological concepts.