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ANCIENT MAYA MOSAIC MIRRORS: FUNCTION, SYMBOLISM, AND MEANING

  • Paul F. Healy (a1) and Marc G. Blainey (a2)
Abstract
Abstract

This paper examines the composite lithic artifacts of the ancient Maya commonly termed “mirrors.” Typically flat, shiny objects with polished iron-ore polygons fitted in a mosaic pattern onto a slate backing, we assess these plaques for the technological, spatiotemporal, and functional contexts of their manufacture. Data from over 500 archaeological specimens, from dozens of Maya sites in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras, were examined as part of this study. We also consider the iconography, epigraphy, and possible symbolism of these curious artifacts. Based on this analysis, we conclude that ancient Maya mosaic mirrors were employed in rituals, often by elite individuals, as both symbols of authority but also, importantly, as possible mystical devices for divinatory “scrying.” They were highly valued, often beautifully made, reflective ceremonial objects whose possible use for prognostication in shamanic rites likely has great antiquity in Mesoamerica.

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E-mail correspondence to: phealy@trentu.ca; castleblayney@hotmail.com
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Timothy K. Earle , and Robert W. Preucel 1987 Archaeology and the Radical Critique. Current Anthropology 28:501538.

David C. Grove 1997 Olmec Archaeology: A Half-Century of Research and Its Accomplishments. Journal of World Prehistory 11:51101.

Stephen D. Houston 2000 Into the Minds of Ancients: Advances in Maya Glyph Studies. Journal of World Prehistory 14:121201.

Takeshi Inomata 2001 The Power and Ideology of Artistic Creation: Elite Craft Specialists in Classic Maya Society. Current Anthropology 42:321333.

Rosemary A. Joyce 2002 The Languages of Archaeology. Blackwell, Malden, MA.

Roger Ivan Lohmann 2003 The Supernatural is Everywhere: Defining Qualities of Religion in Melanesia and Beyond. Anthropological Forum 13:175185.

Mary Ellen Miller 1999 Maya Art and Architecture. Thames and Hudson, London.

David M. Pendergast 1982 Ancient Maya Mercury. Science 217:533535.

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Ancient Mesoamerica
  • ISSN: 0956-5361
  • EISSN: 1469-1787
  • URL: /core/journals/ancient-mesoamerica
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