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Abstract

This investigation argues for the establishment of theoretical foundations in the field of archaeoastronomy and its implications in furthering the study and understanding of ritual and place of the ancient Maya. First, I assert that archaeoastronomy may be used as a tool in a cognitive approach to archaeology--that is, through archaeoastronomy and the study of material remains, we can understand how the Maya conceived of and thought about objects and events in their world--because the finding of archaeoastronomically significant features can strengthen previous hypotheses and add additionally evidence about how societies conceived the cosmos. Second, I assert that archaeoastronomy is also an extremely useful, but slighted, tool for the understanding of space and how it may be constructed as a sacred titualized place. More often than not, monuments and ceremonial structures within an ancient Maya city (and some argue the entire city itself) are oriented to some astronomical event connecting land and cosmos, center and periperhy. This thesis attempts to show how one can discover the use, meaning, and sanctity of a place through the sacred association between earthly structures and the heavens. The process isexemplified with a case study that tests the archaeoastronomic relationships among the monuments of the Great Plaza at the site of Copán Honduras.

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