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Cords of Time: An Iconographic Analysis of the Flat Two Dimensional Knot in the Context of Classic Period Maya Representation

Robinson, TPE; (2014) Cords of Time: An Iconographic Analysis of the Flat Two Dimensional Knot in the Context of Classic Period Maya Representation. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

In his book A Study In Maya Art And History: The Mat Symbol, Robicsek draws our attention to what he considers to be a well-defined group of motifs represented on Maya artifacts, and which he diagnoses as mat symbols (Robicsek 1975: 17). Robicsek identifies forty three varieties of mat-symbols which he organizes into four sets based on their design (Robicsek 1975: 186). The first design ‘consists of two bands of equal lengths twisted around each other’ (Robicsek 1975: 187), whilst the second conforms to the first design except that the twists are ‘enclosed within a medallion-like frame’ (Robicsek 1975: 187). The third design is an ‘interwoven design, which shows not only simple twists, but also a more intricate “in-and-out” pattern’ (Robicsek 1975: 187). The fourth he terms a ‘decorated design’ resembling the first with the exception that ‘circular motifs’ (Robicsek 1975: 187) are shown as attached to the twists. The third set, the motifs with an interwoven design are the items which interest me and which form the subject of this research. I have identified these motifs as representations of knots and propose that they should be categorized―based on their shared characteristics which I describe in Chapter Four―as members of a particular type of knot. The focus of this research is therefore not Maya knots per se but rather a particular knot type characterized by an interwoven design. Knots are constructed from perishable material, which does not survive in the archaeological record; therefore my dataset comprises representations of knots pictured on different media such as ceramics, sculpture, monuments and architecture. Because knot representation is richest in the Classic Period, this is the time period on which my research focuses. I propose that how or where this particular knot type was displayed was not arbitrary, but rather reveals intentionality; the implication is that knot motifs were vehicles for the communication of certain ideas or concepts and as such were infused with meaning. This position is supported by the research set out in Chapter Three which looks at the use of knots by different cultures over time and through space. Recovering meaning involves an analysis of the relationship between the knot representations and the items or personages, such asthrones or deities, which display the knots. Also entailed is a consideration of when (the date of the representation) and where (which sites), the knots were displayed. By means of these analyses an understanding is gained of the knot, based on its relationship with people and things over time and through space. The identification of one group of Robicsek’s purported ‘mat motifs’ as knots serves to open the door to more rigorous analysis. As a first step in unraveling and deconstructing Robicsek’s ‘mat symbol’ hypothesis, it is hoped that this work will inspire further research on the remaining motifs which are still erroneously interpreted as ‘mats’.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Cords of Time: An Iconographic Analysis of the Flat Two Dimensional Knot in the Context of Classic Period Maya Representation
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1427442
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