Historical records confirm that the Mayans have had interactions with Teotihuacan society since the early Classical period (AD 250-450). However, experts disagree as to the basis for interactions between the two cultures. The externalist perspective claims that the Teotihuacans were an ambitious people who overwhelmed Mayan society with impositions of their own cultural heritage. The internalist perspective claims that both cultures demonstrated open dialogue and exchange of ideas.
However, in the perusal of archaeological artifacts, the internalist perspective seems to struggle for preeminence. Evidence points to the gradual but sure Teotihuacan influence in Mayan architecture. If the externalist perspective was true, it would appear that a Teotihuacan military invasion would hasten rather than occasion a gradual incorporation of Teotihuacan architectural elements into Mayan architecture. A case in point is the building of Mayan pyramid temples which incorporated the Teotihuacan talud-tablero structure. Initial mounds of the pyramid temples included a talud (inclined slope) but not the typical tablero (horizontal rise). However, the finished version of the Mayan pyramid temple did include the tablero on all sides. Yet, when we look at the final version, we see a hybrid style temple with elements of both Teotihuacan and Mayan architecture in harmonious symmetry.
During the Middle Classic period (AD 450-600), Teotihuacan society flourished as a result of its trade relationship with Mayan society. Merchants were able to ply Teotihuacan goods in Mayan markets as well as obtain exotic commodities such as stingray spines, cayman skins, and even jaguar pelts.
Sources: The relationship of the Maya and Teotihuacan: A Mesoamerican Mystery.
Archaeology of the Mexican Gulf Lowlands.
Gender roles in both societies during these different periods.
In Teotihuacan society, gender roles were militantly preserved. In fact, gender roles were incorporated into the very fabric of Teotihuacan creation theology. The female spider, with its prolific womb, was viewed as a diligent weaver; this image became associated with any women who must bear the pangs of childbirth to welcome the next generation to life. Additionally, each woman's sons may become future warriors and so, her labor was a transcending experience denoting her personal battle for the good of society. Her likely skills with embroidery (the image of the weaver) was also associated with her ability to produce the robes that warriors must wear.
On the other hand, masculine vitality and potency was symbolized by the unlikely butterfly. Warriors wore cloaks fastened with butterfly pins; the butterfly motif was inscribed on censers and the talud-tablero architecture of Teotihuacan buildings and temples. Everywhere, men were reminded of their obligation to defend and to protect. Both men and women were promised great rewards in the after-world for fulfilling their gender roles to their utmost ability.
In Mayan society, gender roles were equally illuminated in the iconography on stelae (a slab of stone generally used for funereal or commemorative purposes) and other architectural monuments. While most Mayan iconography portrayed powerful male characters in their prime, a surprising number of stelae portrayed Mayan female rulers, of which Lady Kanal-Ikal and Lady Zac-Kuc count among their number.
Various gender-fluid characters were also portrayed such as deities of mixed gender or those with hermaphrodite qualities; depictions of heterosexual attraction between older women and younger men were also uncovered. Indeed, with the discovery of gendered spaces at certain Mayan sites, where areas were partitioned for the activities of men and women, such depictions of non-traditional gender mores raises interesting questions about the unconventional in both cultures.
As with Teotihuacan society, various archaeological digs at Mayan historical sites have produced evidence of ceramics, figurines, and artifacts imbued with images of fertility goddesses amidst weaving and spinning craft. Both cultures strenuously reinforced the role of the domestic arts in the lives of its women.
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Sources: The Teotihuacan Trinity
Gender roles in Mayan society