Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Kowalski, Jeff Karl, 1951-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Art and Design


Latin America--Study and teaching; Latin America--History; Art--History


The feline and canine figures of Teotihuacan's mural paintings communicate a surprisingly wide range of concepts and feature a rich array of associations. This variation was generated in part by the complex socio-political, economic and religious systems of this monumental, cosmopolitan city that permeated its central Mexican highland core and formed long-distance ties across Classic period Mesoamerica during its tenure (1-550/650 CE). Teotihuacan feline and canine imagery is best known for its military and sacrificial associations, a group of interpretations often supported by direct historical analogy to the Late-Postclassic Mexica-Aztec Jaguar and Eagle warrior sodalities. Although this line of reasoning captures one important aspect or facet of some of these figures' meanings, the range of variation within this set of images and their diverse contexts invite us to generate multifaceted, context- and content-specific interpretations, ideally based on direct analysis of the images themselves and rigorous consideration of their particular contexts. Thus, this investigation begins with a thorough overview of the Teotihuacan culture and institutions largely responsible for generating this special visual corpus, followed by an orientation to the images and their contexts, and consideration of key evidence that supports its military/sacrificial interpretation. Next, this study sifts through a substantial, widely dispersed body of literature, distilling and reviewing several clusters of alternative or complementary interpretations that have been proposed for this imagery, but which have been largely overshadowed by the mainstream military/sacrificial set of interpretations. Finally, this study proposes a synthetic approach that argues for the multivocal character of Teotihuacan's canine and feline figural art, recognizing that each image likely was intended to communicate multiple meanings simultaneously to a diverse audience, such that multiple, or multivocal, interpretations may be accurate for each member of this complex set of images.


Advisors: Jeff K. Kowalski.||Committee members: Sinclair Bell; Catherine Raymond.||Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations and maps.


xiv, 274 pages




Northern Illinois University

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