Architecture as animate landscape: circular shrines in the ancient Maya lowlands.

Academic Article


  • In this study, I develop a theory of landscape archaeology that incorporates the concept of “animism” as a cognitive approach. Current trends in anthropology are placing greater emphasis on indigenous perspectives, and in recent decades animism has seen a resurgence in anthropological theory. As a means of relating in (not to) one's world, animism is a mode of thought that has direct bearing on landscape archaeology. Yet, Americanist archaeologists have been slow to incorporate this concept as a component of landscape theory. I consider animism and Nurit Bird-David's (1999) theory of “relatedness” and how such perspectives might be expressed archaeologically in Mesoamerica. I examine the distribution of marine shells and cave formations that appear incorporated as architectural elements on ancient Maya circular shrine architecture. More than just “symbols” of sacred geography, I suggest these materials represent living entities that animate shrines through their ongoing relationships with human and other-than-human agents in the world.
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • 2012
  • Published In


  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Archaeology
  • Architecture
  • Environment
  • History, Ancient
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Indians, Central American
  • Indians, North American
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 22662354
  • Start Page

  • 64
  • End Page

  • 80
  • Volume

  • 114
  • Issue

  • 1