Excellence Cluster TOPOI

The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations. Involvement in the research group C-5 (Common Sense Geography)


1. Cognitive Perception and the Presentation of Space and Place in Mesoamerica – pre-Columbian mapping Processes in Ancient Mexico up to the early modern era

The project examines documents that resemble maps and which date from pre-colonial Mesoamerican cultures, and highlights the changes that these representations underwent as a result of contact with the Spanish conquistadors. On the basis of the few surviving codices from the pre-Spanish era, this publication project analyses the collision of two cognitive worlds: that of Ancient Mexico and of Europe in the late Middle Ages. Both sets of concepts and forms of representation were combined in the 'mapas' and 'lienzos' purposefully laid out as land maps to create new hybrid forms and a blending of indigenous and European styles.

2. The representation of space and place in Mesoamerica – the Lienzo Seler II in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin.

The Lienzo Seler II (Coixtlahuaca II), an early colonial-era cotton cloth resembling a map, from the Coixtlahuaca Valley, Oaxaca in Mexico, is part of the collection of Berlin’s Ethnologisches Museum. The lienzo is a "transitional document", that is, it conveys information in a predominantly pre-Columbian style, supplemented by European images and glosses. A field expedition is planned to match up all the localities shown in the Lienzo Seler II with the known archaeological remains of settlements and to investigate these sites for evidence of the pyramids, stepped structures, buildings, and striking natural features such as rocks and caves which the lienzo illustrates.

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Viola König, director of the Ethnologisches Museum
Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)
Duration: 2012 to 2020