All-in-All It’s Not Just Another Brick in the Wall: Examining the Diverse Functions of Ancient and Modern Walls
Jaime Awe, PhD
Northern Arizona University
Walls and wall-like features represent ubiquitous forms of architecture across the ancient and modern human landscapes. In most cases, particularly in the central Maya lowlands, Asia, and Europe, these architectural features have traditionally been interpreted as fortifications, defensive barricades, and evidence for increasing militarism through time. In this presentation, I argue that a critical examination of masonry walls in the Maya area and around the world suggests otherwise and that, cross culturally, these architectural features served diverse purposes which, in addition to defense, also included social, political, economic, and ritual purposes. They also serve and served as tangible symbols for demarcating ideological divisions. In this sense, they represent physical and symbolic systems of inclusion and exclusion and serve to separate the inside from the outside. On the inside, they facilitate ties that bind communities together. On the flip side, they represent walls that divide the us from them.
Jaime Awe is a Belizean archaeologist who specializes in the ancient Maya. He is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Northern Arizona University, and the Director of the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project.