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Symbolic Sweatbaths of the Maya: Architectural Meaning in the Cross Group at Palenque, Mexico

  • Stephen D. Houston (a1)

The function of elite Maya architecture should not always be interpreted literally, for it may also reflect metaphorical and semantic extensions best studied through iconography, hieroglyphic texts, ethnohistory, and ethnography. This holistic approach is employed to help resolve puzzling features of the Cross Group sanctuaries at Palenque, Mexico. The Cross Group likely served as the setting for symbolic sweatbaths, probably involving effigies of supernaturals under the care of Kan Balam, the Palenque ruler who commissioned these structures. This and other arguments situate such information within an understanding of metaphor in Maya architecture.

A pesar de interpretaciones literales con respecto a la función y significado de la arquitectura maya en contextos de élite, este ensayo sugiere un enfoque distinto, dando énfasis a los datos iconográficos, epigráficos, etnohistóricos, y etnográficos para elucidar patrones de metáforas arquitectónicas. En particular, se refiere a unos rasgos enigmáticos del "Grupo de la Cruz" en la ciudad maya de Palenque, Chiapas, México. Tales rasgos demuestran una explicación puramente simbólica de este conjunto, el cual funcionaba como el centro de los "baños de vapor" utilizados por imágenes de los dioses dinásticos del sitio, a buen recaudo del gobernante Kan Balam, su guardian titular. Al fin, este ensayo subraya la importancia de simbolismo y las metáforas en la interpretación de arquitectura Maya.

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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.

H. Berlin 1963 The Palenque Triad. Journal de la Société des Américanistes 52:9199.

A. Ichon 1977 A Late Postclassic Sweathouse in the Highlands of Guatemala. American Antiquity 42:203209.

M. H. Logan 1977 Anthropological Research on the Hot-Cold Theory of Disease: Some Methodological Suggestions. Medical Anthropology 1(4):87112.

F. G. Lounsbury 1991 Distinguished Lecture: Recent Work in the Decipherment of Palenque’s Hieroglyphic Inscriptions. American Anthropologist 93:809825.

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Latin American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 1045-6635
  • EISSN: 2325-5080
  • URL: /core/journals/latin-american-antiquity
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