Monumentalizing metaphors: diphrasis in the murals of Tulum


  • Caitlin Reddington Davis Yale University



Mesoamerica, murals, metaphor, diphrase, Postclassic, Maya


At Tulum, as well as other Maya sites in the Yucatan Peninsula, mural painting traditions are related to the style and symbol-set associated with Central Mexican manuscript cultures. The murals reflect the widespread Postclassic Mesoamerican manuscript cultures lourishing from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries AD, during which iconic and logosyllabic scripts were used in the construction of regionally distinct manuscript forms. The murals at Tulum relate to manuscript culture not only in their style and symbol set, but also in their use of metaphorical dualisms, in which significant iconic elements are contrasted as an indicator of a more abstract concept. Recognizing metaphorical juxtaposition as an underlying principle of Mesoamerican ritual language, this paper discusses the process by which manuscripts become monuments and considers the sacred metaphors painted on the temples of Tulum as mechanisms for reinforcing political power.


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How to Cite

Davis, C. R. (2022). Monumentalizing metaphors: diphrasis in the murals of Tulum. Manuscript and Text Cultures (MTC), 1, 55–82.