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The Art of Urbanism: How Mesoamerican Cities Represented Themselves in Architecture and Imagery

October 7–8, 2005 | Pre-Columbian Studies Symposium, William L. Fash and Leonardo López Luján, Symposiarchs

The thorough investigation of the ecological contexts and environmental opportunities of urban centers throughout Mesoamerica now permits us to address the question of how ancient Mesoamerican cities defined themselves and reflected upon their “place,” through their built environment. This year's Dumbarton Oaks symposium, taking place at Museo del Templo Mayor, Mexico City, will explore how each city represented itself in architectural, iconographic, and cosmological terms. The participants will be asked to examine how a particular kingdom's public monuments were fashioned to reflect its geographic space, its patron gods and mythology, and how it sought to “center” the Mesoamerican world through its architectural monuments and fine arts. How did each community “leverage” its environment and build upon its cultural and historical roots? How did its monuments signal its participation in larger Mesoamerican-wide exchanges of people, goods and religious ideas? The answers are reflected in the built environment, the pictorial imagery, and the sumptuary goods that each city's inhabitants used to define their own identity and distinguish it from that of their contemporary competitors and ancient archetypes. We seek to explore this theme across time and space, from the beginnings of complex society to its most complex and powerful expression in the great capital of Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

Participants and Papers

  • Ann Cyphers, “San Lorenzo and the Origins of Urban Art in Mesoamerica”
  • David Grove, “Olmec Mountains, Olmec Myths”
  • Joyce Marcus, “Monte Alban’s Image of Itself”
  • Beatriz de la Fuente, “The Teotihuacan World-view as Expressed in Murals and Portable Art”
  • Gabriela Uruñuela y Patricia Plunkett, “Cholula, Art and Architecture of an Archetypal City”
  • Josefa Iglesias and Andres Ciudad Ruiz, “Variability and Constants in Classic Maya Urbanism”
  • Barbara W. Fash and William Fash, “Watery Places and Water Management in Maya Art and Architecture”
  • Rex Koontz, “Self-Representation of Tajin, Veracruz”
  • Robert Cobean, “Tula Chico and Tula Grande in Art and Architecture”
  • William L. Ringle, “Chichen Itza and the Feathered Serpent Cult”
  • Leonardo López Luján and Alfredo Lopez Austin, “Los tenochcas en Tula y Tula en Tenochtitlan”
  • Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, “The Configuration of the Sacred Center of Mexico Tenochtitlan”
  • Discussant: David Carrasco