Mesoamerican Warfare, Protecting Divinities, and Fortified Sanctuaries

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1 Scopus citations


Fortified sites, sanctuaries, deities, and community were interconnected in Mesoamerican warfare practices and theology. This article examines the archaeological patterning and Indigenous religious beliefs regarding fortifications, sanctuaries, and deity communication. Ethnohistoric and ethnographic information points to the importance of deities and ancestors for community well-being and success in war. Mesoamerican combatants protected deities, including their images and sanctuary homes, for they were often captured or destroyed during sieges. Site fortification was based not only on pragmatic military purposes, but on culturally practical decisions related to protecting deities and divine intercession that influenced human behavior and community practices. As in other areas, Mesoamerican people maintained covenants with spiritual forces in close proximity at sacred “communicating places” in wartime, such as temples in set-tlements and sanctuaries at hills and caves. Hence, fortifications protected people, their shrines, and their gods, as well as militarily strategic places. This study calls attention to additional religious behaviors in Mesoamerican war besides sacrifice to war gods and for cosmic renewal, which went hand-in-hand with political, military, and community concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-101
Number of pages51
JournalJournal of Anthropological Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • community
  • deity protection
  • fortifications
  • Mesoamerica
  • ritual land-scapes
  • sanctuaries
  • warfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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