Continuity and Change in Mesoamerican Religion

Topics: Mesoamerica, Aztec, Maya civilization Pages: 3 (1070 words) Published: September 10, 2013
All cultures are centered around belief structures that continue over a long period time, but some of the practices and rituals associated with these beliefs can become shuffled and this can drastically set two religions apart. The Mayans and the Aztecs of Mesoamerica are no different in this sense. Both cultures were “obsessed” with the stars and their movement in the heavens and they each built large observatories to watch and record what was happening, buildings that still exist to this day. Next, both cultures were ruled by kings who were considered gods and these rulers commissioned large monuments to be built to honor the gods and assure their place in the afterlife. However, the major dissimilarity occurred in the process and scale of sacrifice, as well as the way of obtaining victims which greatly differed among the two cultures. The continuities and changes of both regions may be attributed to their relative geographic isolationism, with few outside forces affecting the religion of people in Mesoamerica.

The Mayans and the Aztecs continually watched the stars as a way of predicting the future and interpreting religious phenomena. The Mayans built a number of observatories in their various city states, with a notable one in the city of Chechen Itza. Through the careful and detailed observations the Mayans made, they were able to accurately to predict the transit of Venus as well as construct a clock that, by some accounts, was more accurate than today’s atomic clock. The Mayans furthermore used the stars to schedule sacrifices, write the Mayan Codices, and orient buildings. The impact of celestial alignment on culture is not unique to this area; archaeoastronomy focuses on how ancients used astronomy around the world, in places like Stonehenge and the great pyramids in Egypt. The Aztecs likewise used the stars as a means of scheduling religious holidays that required human sacrifice, as well as to predict the future and to orient pyramids,...
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