The crossed bands motif is an iconographic symbol that appears among many Mesoamerican cultures' art including Olmec, Izapan and Maya spanning from the Early Pre-Classic to the Classic periods in Mesoamerica. Pierce explains in his theory on signs that icons, symbols and indices all contain meaning. This meaning was given to the signs by the one who commissioned the medium on which the sign is placed; therefore it is important to understand the meaning of these signs to learn more about the person or people who built them. The crossed bands motif has previously been studied based on individual pieces but never looked at as a symbol throughout geographical space and temporal existence. In this paper, I catalogue pieces of art in Olmec, Izapan and Maya sites that show the crossed bands motif. I delineated them based on what they represented, where the icon was present on the piece of art and when it was made. I found that in the Early Preclassic sites, the icon represented the existence of a deity and the sacred essence that the deity depicted on the stone monuments held. It transitioned in the Middle to Late Preclassic sites to signify the a connection between the deity and the human as a sort of transference of divinity. In the Classic Period, among Maya iconography, the meaning shifted again to represent the legitimacy of a ruler. The results of this research allow us to better understand the importance and relevance that these cultures placed on their deities not only in ritual life but in the legitimacy of their rulers and their right to rule. It allows us to understand that it was necessary for the rulership at these sites to publically state and show the ritual acts or the proof that their rule was sacred and had been legitimized by a deity.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Luther, Brittany, "The Crossed Bands Motif: What does it mean?" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 4862.