Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes

Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes

Edited by Davíd Carrasco
with a Foreword by William L. Fash
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes
    Book Description:

    A result of four years of cooperative research between the University of Colorado and the Templo Mayor Project of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes (formerly available as To Change Place) offers new interpretive models from the fields of archaeoastronomy, history of religion, anthropology, art history, and archaeology. Included are contributions by such noted experts as Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, Davíd Carrasco, Alfredo López Austin, Doris Heyden, Richard F. Townsend, Anthony Aveni, Henry B. Nicholson, Elizabeth Boone, Felipe Solis, and Johanna Broda, with a new introduction by William Fash.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-119-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. About the Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword Changing Times and Changing Places in Aztec and Maya Studies
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    William L. Fash

    It is a rare event when a collection of conference essays presents both a comprehensive treatment of the intricacies and complexities of an important research problem, and a new vision of how those particulars can best be understood from a broad-based theoretical perspective. The present book represents just such an exceptional offering.

    As pointed out by the volume editor Davíd Carrasco, studies of sacred landscapes and urban planning have generally tended to follow either of two perspectives. In the first, everything pivots around a central place that serves as an axis mundi for the integration of all people, domains, and...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Eduardo Matos Moctezuma
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Davíd Carrasco
  7. Introduction: Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes
    (pp. xix-xxxii)
    Davíd Carrasco

    This book, generated by the scholars’ conference “Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes” held at the Museo del Templo Mayor in Mexico City, is both a culminating point and a moment of transition in the study of Mesoamerican religions. It marks the completion of a cycle begun ten years earlier when the first international conference of scholars met at the University of Colorado in Boulder to reflect on the astonishing discoveries of the Coyolxauhqui stone and other ritual objects at the Templo Mayor in Mexico City. This volume also reflects a transition in theoretical discussions about the character of sacred spaces in the...

  8. Part I: New Discoveries at El Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco, and Mt. Tlaloc
    • 1 Notes on the Oldest Sculpture of El Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan
      (pp. 3-8)
      Eduardo Matos Moctezuma

      The oldest stage of the Templo Mayor that we have discovered so far is the one we call Stage II (see Figure 1.1). According to our tentative chronology, this stage corresponds approximately to the year a.d. 1390, the period before the Mexicas liberated themselves from the rule of Azcapotzalco, under whom they were subjugated. In trying to find elements that would permit us more positively to elucidate our chronology — which we still consider subject to revision — it was proposed that we dig a trench in front of each one of the stairways that lead to the upper part...

    • 2 A Study of Skeletal Materials from Tlatelolco
      (pp. 9-19)
      Juan Alberto Román Berrelleza

      Recent excavations carried out at the archaeological site of Tlatelolco, under the auspices of the Proyecto Templo Mayor and the University of Colorado, Boulder, recovered a number of offerings consisting of diverse materials and archaeological objects. Three successive seasons in the field were necessary for complete extraction of this abundant and complex collection of offerings, with the final season concluding in April 1989.

      The study of the newly obtained objects and the respective data presents an invaluable opportunity to deepen our knowledge and comprehension of some religious ideas, ceremonies, and rituals practiced by the Tlatelolcas not long before the Spanish...

    • 3 Discovery of a Painted Mural at Tlatelolco
      (pp. 20-25)
      Salvador Guil’liem Arroyo

      As part of the investigation of the Great Temple Project under the direction of Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, a series of archaeological explorations were initiated in 1987 at the ceremonial site of Tlatelolco in what is called the Plaza de Tres Culturas. This excavation was supported by funds from the University of Colorado, especially the Mesoamerican Archive, under the direction of Davíd Carrasco. The temples in the southern sector were emphasized, such as the temple dedicated to Ehecatl and the Templo Calendárico, also called Temple of the Glyphs. I will concern myself with the latter.

      The Templo Calendárico was discovered during...

    • 4 The Mt. Tlaloc Project
      (pp. 26-30)
      Richard F. Townsend

      The project to survey and map the Aztec temple on Mt. Tlaloc was successfully carried out in April 1989 by the project directors Richard F. Townsend of the Art Institute of Chicago and Felipe Solís of the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico. We were assisted by the archaeologist Alejandro Pastrana and the archaeologist and mapmaker Hernando Gómez Rueda, both from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia de México. Two graduate students from the institute also assisted.

      The archaeological site lies at an altitude of 13,500 feet above sea level, on the barren summit of Mt. Tlaloc, between the...

  9. Part II: Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes
    • 5 The Sacrifice of Tezcatlipoca: To Change Place
      (pp. 31-57)
      Davíd Carrasco

      In a series of sharp, critical essays aimed at shifting the direction of the discipline of the history of religions, Jonathan Z. Smith urges a focus on the category of place rather than sacred space. In his new book, To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual, Smith describes his enterprise as “a matter of theory: the issue of ritual and its relation to place.” Smith begins with his favorite quotation from Claude Lévi-Strauss, “All sacred things must have their place,” and goes on to demand that we choose to concentrate on the refinements of ritual that carry “more of the...

    • 6 Mapping the Ritual Landscape: Debt Payment to Tlaloc During the Month of Atlcahualo
      (pp. 58-73)
      Anthony F. Aveni

      Working with other colleagues in the Mesoamerican Archive at Boulder, Colorado, over the past few years, I have tried to raise questions about the establishment of the great cities of Mesoamerica:

      1. Were the great centers of ancient Mesoamerica preplanned (most particularly, Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco)?

      2. Given the evidence in the ethnohistorical and archaeological record, together with the field study methods of archaeoastronomy, to what degree is it possible to specify that planning took place?

      3. What motivating forces beyond the old dichotomy between economic determinism and religious interests can be posited to explain why Mexican centers were arranged as we find them?...

    • 7 The Sacred Landscape of Aztec Calendar Festivals: Myth, Nature, and Society
      (pp. 74-120)
      Johanna Broda

      The interdisciplinary study of pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, combining ethnohistory, archaeology, archaeoastronomy, art history, and history of religions, has been a particularly fruitful field of research in the Valley of Mexico, historic heartland of the Triple Alliance and seat of numerous important city-states with distinctive ethnic affiliations and ancient cultural roots in the past.

      The peculiarity of this geographical zone is that it was the main (or at least one of the principal) political and cultural centers of Mesoamerica, with a historical continuity extending from Preclassic times. It is to be expected that we should find here an extreme complexity in the...

    • 8 Migration Histories as Ritual Performance
      (pp. 121-151)
      Elizabeth Hill Boone

      In working with the pictorial codices that present the history of the Aztec migration from Aztlan to Tenochtitlan, I am struck by the very humanness of the migration story. It is not that the narrative is particularly personal in itself; in fact, the opposite is the case: Named individuals are only occasionally distinguished. Rather, the migration is a period of impersonal tribal movement and activity guided by the deity Huitzilopochtli. It is the story of a people rather than of persons.

      The Aztec pictorial manuscripts, however, present the migration story in decidedly human terms. In order to record the movement...

    • 9 The Myth of the Half-Man Who Descended from the Sky
      (pp. 152-157)
      Alfredo López Austin

      Mesoamericanists encounter notably persistent historio-graphic problems. One of them, and it is one of the most serious, is the interpretation of historical myth: Narratives in which the actions of gods and men are mixed together in the playing out of the miracle tale are frequent. The basis for Mesoamerican historical tales consists of a creation myth. The peoples had come to life through the intervention of the gods, emerging from the earth’s interior or from the mount of the seven wombs, or falling from the heavens like seeds in a divine projectile. So, it appears that the lack of a...

    • 10 The Octli Cult in Late Pre-Hispanic Central Mexico
      (pp. 158-187)
      Henry B. Nicholson

      The complex religious/ritual system of late pre-Hispanic Central Mexico featured numerous cults involving the propitiation of various deities believed to control different aspects of the natural and human universe. One of the most interesting and colorful of these focused on the maguey or “century plant” (Agave salmiana Otto, Agave otrovirens Kawr, etc.) and its saccharine exudate, aguamiel (Gonçalves de Lima 1956:13–23; Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares 1988). The aguamiel was fermented, with the addition of certain roots to strengthen its effects, to produce the standard alcoholic tipple of western Mesoamerica. It was called octli in Nahuatl — and, since...

    • 11 Dryness Before the Rains: Toxcatl and Tezcatlipoca
      (pp. 188-202)
      Doris Heyden

      The god Tezcatlipoca and his fiesta Toxcatl had religious, political, and economic importance in relation to seasonality: periods of dryness in contrast to times of rain. For the association of human activity with this pattern in nature, I have been inspired by Pedro Carrasco’s (1976) pioneering study in which he associated the months and fiestas of the Aztec year with the seasons and the world directions, by Johanna Broda’s (1970) penetrating analyses of pre-Hispanic fiestas, and by Carmen Aguilera’s (1982) article “Xolpan y Tonalco” in which she distinguishes the wet season (xopan: “wind of rains,” time of greenness) from the...

  10. Part III: Changing Voices
    • 12 Reflections on the Miraculous Waters of Tenochtitlan
      (pp. 205-211)
      Lawrence E. Sullivan

      Yesterday we ascended Tepeyac and were asked to look and to see. Like so many great seers throughout history, we have been taken up onto a high mountaintop by Johanna Broda (see Chapter 7, above). One thinks of the scene that was witnessed by fellow visionary pilgrims: Elijah, Moses, Zarathushtra, the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed. Like them we were shown the glories of the world below. And Davíd Carrasco, with a presiding sweep, said, “Behold.” And Johanna Broda exhorted, “Look over there.” And Tony Aveni pointed south-southwest and asked, “What’s your take on that angle?” And Nick Nicholson responded, “It’s surely...

    • 13 Vamos a Rezar a San Marcos: A Tlapanec Pilgrimage
      (pp. 212-218)
      Peter L. van der Loo

      This brief chapter will describe a short Mesoamerican pilgrimage. In the framework of the conference of 1989 we discussed some of Victor Turner’s illuminating concepts of pilgrimages in Mexico in his Dramas, Fields and Metaphors. It is not my intent to discuss all possible theoretical implications, but several of the general characteristics of pilgrimage, furnished by Turner in Chapter 5 of his book, will be easily discernible in the Tlapanec example: the concept of liminality related to, and intensifying with, the crossing of space, and the idea of nonutilitarian normative communitas; both are appropriate here. Also present are the development...

    • 14 Eating Landscape: Human Sacrifice and Sustenance in Aztec Mexico
      (pp. 219-232)
      Philip P. Arnold

      The Aztec deity Tlaloc, god of rain, earth, and vegetation, literally embodied the Mexican landscape. Material attributes of the Aztec environment were necessities that occasioned ritual interaction between human and divine worlds. Material reality, particularly the material components that constituted the human body, was taken as evidence of a “hidden” reality that undergirded human existence.

      To explore this dimension of Aztec thought, I have recently translated the ceremony Atl Caualo from Nahuatl as recorded by Sahagún. Language used to describe the ceremony gives us some indication of an Aztec understanding of their relationship to their environment. “Eating landscape” translates an...

    • 15 Religious Rationalization and the Conversions of the Nahuas: Social Organization and Colonial Epistemology
      (pp. 233-245)
      J. Jorge Klor de Alva

      In 1987 I began to analyze the links between three related processes: the confessional practices used in sixteenth-century Central Mexico; the colonization of Nahua minds and bodies (as opposed to institutions); and the birth of modern anthropology as a by-product of the first two endeavors. The brief discussion here is necessarily sketched in very broad strokes. In the spirit of a work in progress, I seek to evoke rather than convince or document, knowing very well that these latter ends must await further research and reflection.

      In particular, I want to outline a series of issues relevant to the periodization...

    • 16 Remnants of the Shaman
      (pp. 246-248)
      Jane Stevenson Day

      Tezcatlipoca as revealed in the rituals of the month of Toxcatl is interpreted by Heyden and other scholars as the symbol of the end of the dry season, the time of the coming of the rains, the change from sterility to fertility. Indeed, the activities of the festival indicate that this was the meaning of the elaborate drama played out ritually each year by the ixiptla of the deity. Yet a number of questions come to mind when we consider Tezcatlipoca in this particular role.

      As Heyden mentions, this god had many personalities and aspects, but above all he was...

  11. Index
    (pp. 249-254)