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Communicating with the Ancestors in the Spiritual Landscape at Yaxchilán, Chiapas, Mexico
For the Classic period Maya rulers, creating links with the past and the ancestors was important for various political and religious reasons. Maya rulers used different strategies to make visible connections to their ancestors, ranging from textual statements to iconographic representations. Very often they installed specialized buildings to create the complex web of different relationships existing between the city's patronal gods who controlled time and space, meteorological events and celestial bodies, and recent ancestors and current rulers. In a sense, ancestors 'configured' Maya cityscapes to mirror mythic narratives and the movements of celestial bodies in the night sky.
To recreate the dynamic relationship between materialized mythical places associated with the spiritual landscape, this paper explores astronomical alignments, visual connections and relative elevations between the ancient otoot (dwellings) structures at Yaxchilán, Chiapas, Mexico. As these structures served as loci for communication with the past, the present paper seeks to determine some of the organizational spatio-temporal principles determined by these royal otoot, such as astronomical alignments, designated times and calendar intervals that determined the cityscape at Yaxchilán. As some of the deified ancestors were transformed into heavenly bodies, these buildings became testimonials of royal ancestors reborn as celestial entities. In other words, the space defined by such buildings was a visible reminder of the presence of heavenly bodies perceived in night and day skies.