Sacred Places and Sacred Landscapes

Kathryn Reese-Taylor

in The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195390933
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Sacred Places and Sacred Landscapes


This article discusses sacred places and landscapes within Mesoamerica. Sacred places and landscapes are created and evolve through human acts. While these places may reflect the cosmological organizing principles of society, they are not merely cosmograms but dynamic, complex landscapes created as settings for the reenactments of mytho-historical narratives. Narrative structure unifies the sacred places within broader landscapes and reinforces the social memory of the acts performed in them. Sacred places and landscapes are also spatially liminal. Just as events in stories happen in a time before time, and are then reenacted in the present, sacred places coexist with prosaic places: a sacred place can be a plaza that both serves as the location of a market within a bustling city at one time and, at another time, is the location of the watery underworld. Finally, like creation and migration narratives, sacred landscapes are religious and philosophical touchstones, as well as powerful sociopolitical statements.

Keywords: sacred places; sacred landscapes; Mesoamerica; narratives; social memory

Article.  4123 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology by Region

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