Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History



First Advisor

Sarah Cantor

Second Advisor

Esperanca Camara

Third Advisor

Jeanette Nicewinter


This thesis explores fertility imagery in the Tepantitla Paradise and Tetitla Goddess murals of ancient Teotihuacan in Mexico. In the beginning of the 1970s, these murals had been utilized as case studies in the assertion for the existence of a central female deity known as the Great Goddess, based on an abundance of fertility imagery within the scenes. Scholarship in the field has since discredited this theory, but the deity in the murals remains unidentified. In addition, the city does not offer surviving written texts to provide context for cosmological beliefs, only Teotihuacan’s vibrant material culture was left behind after the city’s collapse in the eighth century CE. By utilizing cross-cultural examples of mixed gender constructs and cosmology coupled with iconographic parallels, this thesis reconsiders the figures of the Tepantitla and Tetitla murals as a mixed gender deity based on a presence of both male and female fertility symbols. Iconographic parallels consist of Classic Maya fertility rituals, floral paradise, ball games, and ritual sacrifice. In addition, these components assembled in the Tepantitla mural illustrate a significant intention. The murals epitomize propaganda for the collective culture, through the depiction of gender ideals, ritual sacrifice, and a floral paradise. These motifs were included to influence inhabitants to appeal to gender ideals and to live with the possibility of their ritual death for the rewards of the afterlife, as these practices were thought necessary to ensure the longevity of the city and the cycle of the cosmos.