Jordan Kobylt

Thesis: Social Mosaics and Stone Tapestries: Using Puuc architecture to examine social relationships in the northwestern Yucatán


Between the late 8th and early 10th centuries CE, Maya-speaking people in the Puuc region of Mexico’s northwestern Yucatán Peninsula constructed monumental buildings characterized by elaborate sculptural mosaics in their upper friezes. While a relatively robust literature exists on the Puuc buildings’ high status patrons and users, significantly less emphasis has been placed on the stone carvers, builders, quarriers, and other laborers who would have been involved in building production. Using a theoretical framework in which the physical forms of archaeological materials are understood to have been shaped by the social practices of their makers, this paper focuses on similarities and differences between buildings from five key Puuc sites to examine the dynamic, multilayered, and heterogenous social worlds of the people who made them. This includes discussions of the variety of differently skilled individuals who cooperated to plan and construct the buildings, the complex systems of meaning that were embedded into mosaic designs, and the diverse processes through which communities of stone carvers and other laborers exchanged knowledge and production techniques both within and between sites. Such discussions emphasize the agentive contributions of laborers in production processes, the complexity of the social networks that laborers participated in, and the ways in which those factors affected the unique material forms of architecture and mosaics produced throughout the Puuc region.