The Computational Geometry of Mayan Pyrite Mirrors

Eric Winges

Among the artifacts found in the ancient Mayan ruins were many pyrite mirrors. The mirrors are composed of several pieces that were intelligently fit together to form a complicated geometrical structure. This structure can be represented as a planar embedding of vertices, edges, and faces that closely resembles a graph structure called a Voronoi diagram. Using several different methods, it can be approximated how close the mirror is to an actual Voronoi diagram, and how far the vertices would have to be moved to match the structure exactly. The concept of a Voronoi diagram gives insight into how the mirrors might have been constructed.

Example of a pyrite mirror from Bonampak, Mexico, AD 600-900
Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya
Mary Miller and Simon Martin
Kathleen Berrin, Curator
Thames and Hudson Press, New York, 2004

Advised by Richard Ladner

CSE 403
January 26, 2005
3:30 - 4:20 pm