Fanning the Sacred Flame

Fanning the Sacred Flame: Mesoamerican Studies in Honor of H. B. Nicholson

MATTHEW A. BOXT
BRIAN DERVIN DILLON
DAVÍD CARRASCO
EDUARDO MATOS MOCTEZUMA
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 592
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cgm5r
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  • Book Info
    Fanning the Sacred Flame
    Book Description:

    Fanning the Sacred Flame: Mesoamerican Studies in Honor of H. B. Nicholson contains twenty-two original papers in tribute to H. B. "Nick" Nicholson, a pioneer of Mesoamerican research. His intellectual legacy is recognized by Mesoamerican archaeologists, art historians, ethnohistorians, and ethnographers--students, colleagues, and friends who derived inspiration and encouragement from him throughout their own careers. Each chapter, which presents original research inspired by Nicholson, pays tribute to the teacher, writer, lecturer, friend, and mentor who became a legend within his own lifetime. Covering all of Mesoamerica across all time periods, contributors include Patricia R. Anawalt, Alfredo López Austin, Anthony Aveni, Robert M. Carmack, David C. Grove, Richard D. Hansen, Leonardo López Luján, Kevin Terraciano, and more. Eloise Quiñones Keber provides a thorough biographical sketch, detailing Nicholson's academic and professional journey. Publication supported, in part, by The Patterson Foundation and several private donors.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-161-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. FOREWORD AND REMINISCENCE
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    Davíd Carrasco and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma

    Fanning the Sacred Flame: Mesoamerican Studies in Honor of H. B. Nicholson, edited by Matthew A. Boxt and Brian Dervin Dillon, is a superb addition to our Mesoamerican Worlds series. Its twenty-one essays shine the light on the expansive ways Henry Nicholson organized his writing, teaching, and thinking during his lifelong involvement in deciphering Mesoamerican societies. Readers will find insightful essays on Olmec, Maya, Mixtec, and Aztec cultures, as well as on ethnography, ethnohistory, and Mexico’s colonial past. As though retracing Nicholson’s scholarly footsteps, this book takes us to such places as La Venta, Yaxchilán, Takalik Abaj, Tenochtitlan, and Cholula...

  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-10)
    Matthew A. Boxt and Brian Dervin Dillon

    Five hundred years ago Europe invaded Mesoamerica, and the Old and New Worlds collided with consequences unimaginable for all involved. The resulting mingling of ideas and technologies was beneficial to the Old World, but the collision was catastrophic for the New, for the Spanish Conquest sparked the most rapid and complete depopulation in human history. This depopulation was followed by an equally tragic loss: the destruction and subsequent disappearance of native civilizations.

    Over the generations and then the centuries after the Conquest, these great civilizations, owing nothing to Old World sources, were gradually forgotten. The ancient cities were covered by...

  5. 1 H. B. NICHOLSON AND THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL BUG
    (pp. 11-30)
    Eloise Quiñones Keber

    In an earlier tribute to the scholarly life and accomplishments of H. B. Nicholson (1925–2007), emeritus professor of anthropology at UCLA, I surveyed his major contributions to the various Mesoamerican subfields of anthropology, archaeology, ethnohistory, art, and iconography (Quiñones Keber 2007). The present chapter offers another appraisal of Nicholson’s scholarship in Mesoamerican, especially Aztec, studies. It highlights the seminal influence of archaeology in propelling his scholarly trajectory, in several cases recalling his own words as expressed in publications and conversations over the years.

    Dr. Nicholson was especially renowned for his comprehensive knowledge of the Aztecs (Mexica, Nahua) of Central...

  6. PART I: THE OLMEC AND THEIR NEIGHBORS
    • 2 THE MIDDLE FORMATIVE PERIOD STELAE OF CHALCATZINGO
      (pp. 33-54)
      David C. Grove

      I spent the summer of 1955 traveling throughout Mexico and returned from that trip enamored with the country, its people, and its prehistory. At that time I was an undergraduate geology major at UCLA. Wanting to learn more about Mexico, I enrolled in an anthropology course on Mesoamerican archaeology being offered by a newly hired assistant professor, H. B. Nicholson. I was captivated by his lectures. A friendship developed between us, we kept in contact, and in 1958 Nick invited me to serve as the cartographer for a project he was conducting in Mexico. That field experience, together with Nick’s...

    • 3 ISLA ALOR: OLMEC TO CONTACT IN THE LA VENTA HINTERLAND
      (pp. 55-92)
      Matthew A. Boxt, L. Mark Raab and Rebecca B. González Lauck

      For the past half-century, the Olmec have taken center stage in Mexican Gulf Coast archaeology, overshadowing other groups and time periods. The great Olmec site of La Venta may have emerged by 1200 BC, focusing archaeological attention on both the Gulf Coast and the birth of Mesoamerican civilization (figure 3.1). Significantly, however, the Gulf Coast, including the region around La Venta, also hosted large, culturally complex native societies at the other end of the pre-European time scale. By all historical accounts, these Postclassic populations were linked by trade, tribute, and political alliances to most other Mesoamerican regions. While Olmec research...

    • 4 AQUÍ NACIÓ EL MUNDO: TAKALIK ABAJ AND EARLY MESOAMERICAN CIVILIZATION
      (pp. 93-136)
      Brian Dervin Dillon

      Dón Beto Sinto (figure 4.1) was an honored elder, a Chimán, or native priest, and curandero. He was older than the twentieth century when we first met in February 1976. Dón Beto kept the old ways and was the only person at Takalik Abaj who could tell you what day it was in the ancient Maya calendar. All the local Indians knew and revered him as a very wise man. He spoke four languages: his native Mam Maya, some Spanish, and, because two of his wives were from other Highland Maya groups, two additional Maya tongues. Too old to work...

  7. PART II: THE MAYA AND THEIR NEIGHBORS
    • 5 KINGSHIP IN THE CRADLE OF MAYA CIVILIZATION: THE MIRADOR BASIN
      (pp. 139-172)
      Richard D. Hansen

      More than two decades of research in the Mirador Basin have led me (Hansen 1982, 1984, 2005; Hansen, Howell, and Guenter 2008) and others (Matheny 1986, 1987a, 1987b), based on specific criteria presented in this chapter and elsewhere (Stutz-Landeen 1986; Howell and Copeland 1989; Hansen 1990, 1991, 1992a, 1992b, 1998, 2000, 2001, n.d.a), to suggest that a true state-level society came to an apogee there during the Late Preclassic Period between 300 BC and AD 150. Earlier excavations at Maya Lowland sites such as Cerros, Cuello, and Colha (Freidel 1981, 1985, 1986; Matheny 1986, 1987a, 1987b; Freidel and Schele 1988a,...

    • 6 YAXCHILÁN STRUCTURE 23: THE HOUSE OF IX K’AB’AL XOK
      (pp. 173-210)
      Sandra L. Orellana

      Little is known about the rulers of Yaxchilán¹ until the reign of Itzamnah B’ahläm (“Shield Jaguar”),² who ruled from AD 681 to 742 (figure 6.1). Yaxchilán was a small city prior to this time, but monuments of early rulers do record warfare with nearby cities such as Piedras Negras and Bonampak. Aj Wäktun Yaxun B’ahläm (“Six-Stone Bird Jaguar”), the father of Itzamnah B’ahläm, became ruler of Yaxchilán in AD 629 and reigned until around AD 669. Most of what is known about him comes from later monuments carved long after his death by his son and grandson, who hoped to...

    • 7 SANTA ROSA, CHIAPAS: HUMAN SACRIFICE AND THE MESOAMERICAN BALLGAME
      (pp. 211-230)
      Alejandro Martínez Muriel and Emilie Carreón Blaine

      Two of the most controversial research topics addressed by Americanist scholars are human sacrifice and the Precolumbian ballgame. Despite much academic inquiry, analysts have attained only a rudimentary grasp of the intricacies of both (cf. Blom 1932; Stern 1966; Van Bussel, Van Dongen, and Leyenaar 1991; Scarborough and Wilcox 1991). Since excavation data connecting the two have been hitherto nonexistent, scholarship has so far relied entirely on ethnographic, ethnohistoric, and iconographic sources for one of ancient Mesoamerica’s most distinctive culture traits (Kelly 1943; Kirchhoff 1943). Few scholars have tackled this topic strictly thorough archaeological excavation; most have stressed the distribution...

    • 8 PIPIL ARCHAEOLOGY OF PACIFIC GUATEMALA
      (pp. 231-268)
      Frederick J. Bove, José Vicente Genovez and Carlos A. Batres

      Migrations of Nahua-speaking groups from Central Mexico and the Gulf Coast to the Soconusco region, the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, and lower Central America constituted one of the most important examples of large-scale population movements in New World culture history (Fowler 1989a, 1989b). They had a profound impact on much of Postclassic Mesoamerica and in particular the Pacific Coast of Guatemala (figure 8.1). While their dating is still debatable, most experts would probably agree that the historic, linguistic, and archaeological evidence indicates that the Nahua migrations to Central America were a complex series of population movements occurring from about AD...

    • 9 UNDER GROUND IN ANCIENT MESOAMERICA
      (pp. 269-290)
      James E. Brady

      Since my graduate student days at UCLA, I have been involved in the development of the subdiscipline of Maya cave archaeology. In a recent book on the subject (Brady and Prufer 2005: 6), I noted that one of the hallmarks of this emerging discipline is its pan-Mesoamerican approach. Here the influence of H. B. Nicholson is clear and direct. The pan-Mesoamerican focus Nick encouraged me to take was critical to the development of one of the central theories of cave archaeology: that caves were essential to the validation of Precolumbian settlement. This grew out of the recognition of a number...

  8. PART III: CENTRAL MEXICO
    • 10 THE MIXTECA-PUEBLA TRADITION AND H. B. NICHOLSON
      (pp. 293-308)
      Pablo Escalante Gonzalbo

      In 1956 H. B. Nicholson presented his paper “The Mixteca-Puebla Concept in Mesoamerican Archaeology: A Re-examination” to a rapt audience at the Fifth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This was the first public dissemination of a theme that would interest him throughout his entire professional career (Nicholson 1960, 1961, 1977, 1982). Nicholson’s fascination with the Mixteca-Puebla tradition reached its apogee with the publication of the landmark volume Mixteca-Puebla: Discoveries and Research in Mesoamerican Art and Archaeology (Nicholson and Quiñones Keber 1994). H. B. Nicholson precisely determined the scope of the Mixteca-Puebla Concept by limiting it...

    • 11 OBSIDIAN BUTTERFLY AND FLOWERY TREE: AN EFFIGY VESSEL FROM COXCATLÁN
      (pp. 309-326)
      Edward B. Sisson

      I knew H. B. Nicholson long before I met Nick. As a graduate student in the late 1960s, I read with great interest Nicholson’s article “Religion in Pre-Hispanic Central Mexico” for the Handbook of Middle American Indians. It was circulated and became a classic before its actual publication in 1971. Forty years later, as I sit here at my desk, I can see the handbook on a nearby shelf. Most of the original volumes still have their paper wrappers, which are in near-pristine condition. A notable exception is volume 10, of which I have two copies for some reason. Neither...

    • 12 NICK AT NIGHT: COSMIC ASPECTS OF TOPILTZIN-QUETZALCOATL
      (pp. 327-332)
      Anthony F. Aveni

      The most detailed account of an astronomically observable manifestation of the myth of Quetzalcoatl is surely the one that appears in a passage in the Anales de Cuauhtitlan (Bierhorst 1992: 36):

      The old people said that he was changed into the star that appears at dawn. Therefore they say that it came forth when Quetzalcoatl died, and they called him Lord of the Dawn. What they say is that when he died he disappeared for four days. They said he went to the dead land then. And he spent four more days making darts for himself. So it was after...

    • 13 THE XIPE TÓTEC CULT AND MEXICA MILITARY PROMOTION
      (pp. 333-352)
      Carlos Javier González González

      Of all the Mesoamerican gods, Xipe Tótec has probably stimulated the most interest and controversy among contemporary culture historians. Just the name, composed of two Nahuatl words, exemplifies this controversy. Originally translated by Eduard Seler (1990–1998: 2: 245) as “Our Lord the Flayed One,” meaning someone stripped of his skin, Alfredo López Austin (1998: 119) more recently translated it as “[Our Lord] the Owner of Skin,” exactly the opposite meaning. We are now coming to see Xipe as somebody who has gained or obtained a new dermic wrapping, not lost one. Skinning sacrificial victims in this god’s honor was...

  9. PART IV: ETHNOHISTORY
    • 14 PREHISPANIC K’ICHE-MAYA HISTORIOGRAPHY
      (pp. 355-388)
      Robert M. Carmack

      This chapter was inspired by an unpublished essay written by H. B. Nicholson in 1969 entitled “Pre-Hispanic Central Mexican Historiography” (see also Nicholson 1967, 1975). I will attempt to discuss the same historiographic issues for the K’iche Maya that Nicholson had investigated for the Central Mexicans. I never published the original essay, and this festschrift in honor of Nicholson seemed to provide a fortuitous opportunity to finally bring it to light. I do so with the utmost esteem and respect for my mentor in Mesoamerican ethnohistory. Except for stylistic changes, I have left the essay as it was written over...

    • 15 CONNECTING NAHUA AND MIXTEC HISTORIES
      (pp. 389-416)
      Kevin Terraciano

      One of H. B. Nicholson’s many contributions to the study of Mesoamerica was his work on the Mixteca-Puebla Style. In a brief but influential essay entitled “The Mixteca-Puebla Concept in Mesoamerican Archaeology: A Re-examination” (1960), Nicholson revisited three studies published by George Vaillant (1938, 1940, 1941) that outlined what he called a “culture” or “culture coplex” in the region of Puebla (Cholula, really) and the Mixteca of northeastern Oaxaca after the decline of Teotihuacan. Vaillant (1941: 83) considered the “civilization” that developed in this part of Highland Mesoamerica “the source and inspiration of Aztec civilization,” filling a void created by...

  10. PART V: THE COLONIAL PERIOD
    • 16 THE FINAL TRIBUTE OF TENOCHTITLAN
      (pp. 419-424)
      Lawrence H. Feldman

      When the Spaniards first arrived in Tenochtitlan in November 1519, they examined everything they saw. They dismounted from their horses, remounted, but then dismounted again and again so as not to miss anything of interest. When the Spaniards entered the Royal House, they placed Motecuhzoma under guard and kept him under their vigilance. After the Spaniards were installed in the palace, they asked Motecuhzoma about the city’s resources and reserves and about the warriors’ ensigns and shields. They questioned him closely and then demanded gold. Motecuhzoma guided them to it. They formed a circle around him and crowded close with...

    • 17 FEATHERED SERPENTS, PULQUERÍAS, AND INDIAN SEDITION IN COLONIAL CHOLULA
      (pp. 425-438)
      Geoffrey G. McCafferty

      More than 100 years ago, Carl Lumholtz (1909) published a short study on an incised black on red vessel in American Anthropologist (figure 17.1). The globular jar (olla) featured six handles around its shoulder and was decorated with Mixteca-Puebla Style iconography typical of the Postclassic Period (AD 900–1520). Feathered serpents are the dominant theme in the main design panel, alternating between full-bodied examples and just the heads. A narrow neck panel features stylized butterflies (symbolic of death and resurrection) interspersed between a rectangular motif with a circle in the center. Another panel around the lower portion of the shoulder...

    • 18 THE POSTHUMOUS HISTORY OF THE TIZOC STONE
      (pp. 439-460)
      Alfredo López Austin and Leonardo López Luján

      Ancient stone monuments, preserved thanks to the tenacity of material almost immune to the passing of time, are testimonies to the thoughts and actions of vanished generations. They offer the illusion of clearly transmitted messages through the hardness of form, the perfection of contour, and the harmony of composition. Because we can see them, we also believe we can hear through them the distant voices of their creators. But we forget, at least momentarily, that the ancient message is not automatically crystallized within its stone medium and that the carved forms are simply triggers waiting to fire the imaginations of...

    • 19 THE REAL EXPEDICIÓN ANTICUARIA COLLECTION
      (pp. 461-486)
      Marie-France Fauvet-Berthelot, Leonardo López Luján and Susana Guimarâes

      Born in New Orleans in 1799 to a family of French émigrés, young Latour Allard traveled to Mexico in 1824, where he acquired a collection of Precolumbian artifacts, a Prehispanic manuscript, and various contemporary manuscripts and drawings. His collection is preserved today in the Museum of Non-Western Arts of the Quai Branly in Paris. Allard could hardly have imagined that this purchase would place him—almost two centuries later—at the heart of an astonishing story. This chapter details the investigation its authors carried out in French, Mexican, and US archives to understand how artifacts collected for the king of...

  11. PART VI: ETHNOGRAPHY
    • 20 YUCATEC MAYA AGRICULTURAL RITUAL SURVIVALS
      (pp. 489-518)
      Ruth Gubler

      Modern religious practices among Yucatec Maya peoples are deeply rooted in the Prehistoric past. Agricultural ceremonies comprise a textured blend of Catholic liturgy grafted onto Precolumbian tradition. The supernatural beings the modern Yucatec Maya propitiate, express their gratitude to, and pray to for adequate rainfall and a bountiful harvest exist far beyond the walls of the Spanish churches, monasteries, and nunneries found in the towns and villages of the Yucatán Peninsula.

      The Dresden Codex provides the earliest textual evidence about the nature of agricultural ceremonies among the ancient Maya; here, chacs are depicted as providers of rain. Moreover, there are...

    • 21 MESOAMERICAN INDIAN CLOTHING: SURVIVALS, ACCULTURATION, AND BEYOND
      (pp. 519-538)
      Patricia R. Anawalt

      H. B. Nicholson’s passing from our midst gives occasion for pause and not a little introspection. Nick was justly famous for his detailed knowledge of the Pre-and Postconquest Aztec world as well as all matters Mesoamerican. He effortlessly navigated back and forth between archaeological and historical evidence, voyages that seemed daunting at best to most others. Looking back over the many years I have spent doing research with Mexican codices and Mesoamerican Indian clothing, I am struck by how important to me was Nick’s constant encouragement and enthusiasm.

      Style and technology, while linked, evolve independently of each other according to...

  12. List of Contributors
    (pp. 539-540)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 541-557)