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Standing on Ceremony: Processions, Pathways, and Plazas

An exhibit to accompany the Pre-Columbian Studies 2014 fall symposium, “Processions in the Ancient Americas: Approaches and Perspectives.”

Traces of processions that once wound along roads, filed through cities, and hiked over mountains can be found throughout the Americas. Although these processions have either long ceased or have assumed substantially different forms, the remains of many Pre-Columbian civilizations provide suggestive evidence of their ceremonial importance. Drawing on materials from the Research Library and the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives at Dumbarton Oaks, this exhibit is intended to accompany the Pre-Columbian Studies fall symposium, “Processions in the Ancient Americas: Approaches and Perspectives.”

The first section of the exhibit highlights some of the best available depictions of indigenous processions. These include Pre-Columbian scenes from Moche pottery and Maya murals, as well as manuscript illustrations from colonial Mexico and Peru.

While these depictions provide some of our most direct evidence about processions, there are other sources of information available. Since these rituals had powerful relationships with the locations where they occurred, this exhibit also focuses on their spatial context, especially pathways and plazas. Because some of these spaces have outlasted the processions that once passed through them, their design and archaeological history can help us understand their original use.

 


Reference:

Philip Johnson, “Whence & Whither: The Processional Element in Architecture,” Perspecta 9/10 (1965): 167–78.

 

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