This lecture discusses the development of large ceremonial complexes in which the buildings play an active role as part of the ceremony. Some parts of these ceremonies involved large numbers of people and took place in outdoor spaces. Others were meant to be experienced individually in introspective ways, in underground, labyrinthine passageways. Scale, sound, and varying degrees of light and darkness contributed to enhance these experiences and punctuate them with culminating moments, turning the buildings into active participants. We will look at two sites of the Americas. The first one is Chavín de Huántar, in what we now know as the Peruvian Andes. This ceremonial complex was established approximately in 900 BCE and populated until about 500 BCE. The second one is Teotihuacán, a large monumental complex laid out around 150 BCE and populated until about 750 CE. Both had large stone pyramids and congregating plazas over an underground network of tunnels and passageways, and drew much of their religious drive from this connection to the telluric world of the underground. It’s important that we understand that to their inhabitants, these buildings were more than just buildings—they were living and breathing sites of sensory experience. Through these sensorial and physical experiences, they were a connection to a realm beyond the physical: a cosmic underground realm of deep religious significance.
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