The Pecked Cross Symbol in Ancient Mesoamerica

Science  20 Oct 1978:
Vol. 202, Issue 4365, pp. 267-286
DOI: 10.1126/science.202.4365.267


Attention is directed to a design, possibly of Teotihuacan origin, carved both in rock and in the floors of ceremonial buildings throughout ancient Mesoamerica. Consisting generally of a double circular pattern centered on a set of orthogonal axes, the so-called pecked cross or quartered circle figure is shown to exhibit a remarkable consistency in appearance throughout its 29 reported locations, thus suggesting that it was not perfunctory. The metric properties of the symbols gleaned from field surveys are delineated, and several interpretations of their possible functions are discussed. These symbols may have been intended as astronomical orientational devices, surveyor's bench marks, calendars, or ritual games. Evidence is presented which implies that more than one and perhaps all of these functions were employed simultaneously, a view which is shown to be consistent with the cosmological attitude of the pre-Columbian people.