Tikal 2 - Architecture with Purpose: A View of Ancient Cities

In numerous parts of the world, the development of state-level societies brought with it the rise of urbanisation and the beginnings of city life. As we shall see in this exercise there are striking similarities and differences between ancient cities throughout the world. In particular, the increased power, prestige and wealth of the elite segments of these societies expressed their wealth and position through architecture. One of the principal issues we will explore in this exercise is the use of monumental architecture to reinforce the social stature and power of the elites over the commoners, and the manipulation of space to both physically and socially segregate the elites from the lower social strata. We will use as our examples materials from Tikal, the famous Maya capitol in Guatemala.

Tikal is perhaps the most widely known Maya site in the world. The standard photograph of Temple I that appears on the following pages is probably the single most widely recognized symbol of the Maya anywhere in the world. We are going on a brief tour of Tikal to familiarize you with the ways in which the Classic Period Maya structured their physical world to reflect their social and mythological worlds. As you go through this exercise, think about the ways in which Tikal is similar and different from the ways in which we build our cities. In particluar, look at the similarities and differences between the use of monumental public architecture, and the location and style of elite residence as compared to the residences of common people.

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