Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents

Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents

REX KOONTZ
Copyright Date: 2009
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/718999
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    Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents
    Book Description:

    El Tajín, an ancient Mesoamerican capital in Veracruz, Mexico, has long been admired for its stunning pyramids and ballcourts decorated with extensive sculptural programs. Yet the city's singularity as the only center in the region with such a wealth of sculpture and fine architecture has hindered attempts to place it more firmly in the context of Mesoamerican history. InLightning Gods and Feathered Serpents, Rex Koontz undertakes the first extensive treatment of El Tajín's iconography in over thirty years, allowing us to view its imagery in the broader Mesoamerican context of rising capitals and new elites during a period of fundamental historical transformations.

    Koontz focuses on three major architectural features-the Pyramid of the Niches/Central Plaza ensemble, the South Ballcourt, and the Mound of the Building Columns complex-and investigates the meanings of their sculpture and how these meanings would have been experienced by specific audiences. Koontz finds that the iconography of El Tajín reveals much about how motifs and elite rites growing out of the Classic period were transmitted to later Mesoamerican peoples as the cultures centered on Teotihuacan and the Maya became the myriad city-states of the Early Postclassic period.

    By reexamining the iconography of sculptures long in the record, as well as introducing important new monuments and contexts,Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpentsclearly demonstrates El Tajín's numerous iconographic connections with other areas of Mesoamerica, while also exploring its roots in an indigenous Gulf lowlands culture whose outlines are only now emerging. At the same time, it begins to uncover a largely ignored regional artistic culture of which Tajín is the crowning achievement.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79361-3
    Subjects: Archaeology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 APPROACHING EL TAJÍN
    (pp. 1-14)

    El Tajín was an ancient capital of an extensive lowland Mesoamerican realm in the latter half of the first millennium AD. The site is perhaps best known for its elegant niched architecture, which is found in profusion in the pyramids and other structures that formed the city’s monumental core. First among these other structures were masonry ballcourts for the playing of the Mesoamerican rubber ballgame, and scholars have long examined the rich iconography of these courts for clues to the meaning and function of this ritualized sport.¹ Despite interest in fundamental aspects of the city, El Tajín’s place in Mesoamerican...

  5. CHAPTER 2 THE PYRAMID OF THE NICHES
    (pp. 15-36)

    As the earliest explorers did, we begin our investigation of the public sculpture of Tajín with the Pyramid of the Niches, and for good reason: Tajin’s most important, widely accessible public space may be found in the adjoining Central Plaza, at the foot of the Pyramid of the Niches (Fig. 2.1). Not only is this space at the heart of the monumental core, but it is also one of the largest public spaces found anywhere at the site. Other large public ensembles of architecture and sculpture had important limitations on any potential audience: although sizable, the South Ballcourt’s audience was...

  6. CHAPTER 3 THE DIVINE BALLCOURT
    (pp. 37-68)

    The lower monumental center of El Tajín contains numerous ballcourts for the playing of the rubber ballgame and the performance of its attendant rites. Eleven courts have been identified in the heart of the site (Fig. 1.2; see Raesfeld 1992; Brüggemann 1992a:20), and six more in the immediate surrounding area (Lira López 1997:819). Ballcourts were a fixture of Classic Veracruz centers from the end of the Late Preclassic period (from ca. AD 100; Daneels 1997), but no other Gulf lowlands center yet studied has such a large concentration. Few Mesoamerican cities anywhere had as many ballcourts: to date only Cantona...

  7. CHAPTER 4 THE TAJÍN COURT: THE MOUND OF THE BUILDING COLUMNS
    (pp. 69-104)

    The Mound of the Building Columns is situated at the top of the rise that defines the northern edge of the ceremonial center (Fig. 1.2). The entry to this complex of buildings and plazas contained a colonnade decorated with elaborate narrative scenes. The iconography of those scenes, which is the chief subject of this chapter, forms a narrative program that may be compared with the two major programs already discussed: those of the Central Plaza and the South Ballcourt. Unlike the rather compressed narratives with few characters found in the South Ballcourt and around the Pyramid of the Niches, the...

  8. CHAPTER 5 AUDIENCES AND DEITIES AT EL TAJÍN
    (pp. 105-116)

    On one level, complex narrative imagery like that found at El Tajín is meant to be read. The studies presented in the previous three chapters attempted to read the imagery by exploring connections between motifs, texts, and archaeological data. We identified motifs and their contexts, and then attempted to find explanatory analogs or other comparative data in the absence of any direct links to texts. These iconographical methods are widely accepted in the field and are used to produce meaning from a wide variety of objects and representations in all sorts of historical contexts.¹ We were especially interested in placing...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 117-122)
  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 123-134)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 135-141)