The Maya believed there were multiple worlds in addition to the human world. Portals connected these worlds and allowed active engagement between the Maya and their gods. Without portals and the ability to communicate between the worlds the Maya belief system could not function. Evidence suggests the Maya believed reflective surfaces – mirrors and water surfaces – were portals to spiritual worlds. In this thesis, I examine the portrayal of mirrors as portals in Maya art, focusing on mirrors in scenes painted on ceramics. Combining archaeological, iconographical, and linguistic data I argue that mirrors functioned in service to ritual as an essential gateway between humans and the gods and were two-way portals between earthly and spiritual worlds. I specifically examine fifty-one scenes on painted ceramic vessels involving mirrors to interpret and document their function as portals between worlds, how they were used in courtly life and what they may have meant to the people who used them. This research contributes to a deeper understanding of the relationship between the Maya, their gods, and a particular aspect of material culture – mirrors – and how the elite used mirrors and their relationship with the gods as a source of power. I conclude that the gods are not omnipresent and that mirrors portals are always active and strategically placed for the gods to have the best view of the world of humans.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Rogers, Julie, "Mirrors as Portals: Images of Mirrors on Ancient Maya Ceramics" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6701.