Powerful Buildings: The Evolution of Non-Domestic Architecture and Social Interaction in the Puuc
Yant, Anna Catesby
This dissertation investigates the relationship between non-domestic architecture, political rituals, and social production during the Late to Terminal Classic periods (700 to 1000 AD) in the Puuc region of Yucatan, Mexico. The primary goal of the research is to trace the changes in non-domestic architecture and the associated political rituals through time, from the Preclassic (800 BC) to the Terminal Classic (1000 AD). During these periods, the spatial characteristics of non-domestic architecture change dramatically, indicating that the way in which participants experienced the rituals that occurred within these environments also altered. I believe these spatial changes indicate sociopolitical transformations in Maya society, ultimately reflecting the co-option of ritual ceremonies (and the built environments in which they occurred) by Maya elite in order to legitimize asymmetrical power relationships. In order to explore the connections between the built environment and human behavior, the research uses an integrated approach that combines methodologies from architectural and environment-behavior studies. First, a theoretical approach that emphasizes the role of buildings in controlling movement and influencing social interaction, and therefore social production, is outlined. While all types of social interaction contribute in some way to the reproduction of social structures, the current research focuses on larger social occasions, and political ritual in particular. The unique ability of ritual to both promote social cohesion while at the same time creating social distinctions made it the perfect arena for emerging Maya elite to establish, legitimize and promote their power. The analytical methods employed include a combination of access analysis and the nonverbal communication approach. Access analysis determines which spaces were likely contexts for social interaction based on their integration within a structure and nonverbal communication explores how the built environment encoded meaning and what behaviors these elements engender. A suite of elements used to identify non-domestic architecture and encode sociopolitical meaning was identified and changes in these elements through time are explored. Together, access analysis and nonverbal communication can be used to identify likely contexts for both public and private rituals within the built environment.