Circles of creation: The invention of Maya cartography in early colonial Yucatán

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Abstract

With the colonization of the American continents in the early sixteenth century, cartography emerged as a visual medium through which diverse colonial actors asserted corporate identities. Given the novelty of this pictorial genre, the Maya of the Yucatán Peninsula effectively invented a cartographic tradition, using a seemingly benign compositional form, the circle. This was no arbitrary choice; native artist-scribes derived this composition from literary tropes found in pre-Columbian cosmogonic narratives. As such, colonial Maya maps inhabited the conflictual domain of colonial interaction, overtly satisfying Spanish dictates while allowing Maya communities to maintain their identity amid the violence of colonization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-168
Number of pages15
JournalArt Bulletin
Volume92
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History

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