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Review Anales de Literatura Hispanoamericana

Ancient Mesoamerica

Review Anuario Brasileño de Estudios Hispánicos

Year: 2013 vol. 24 n. 2

Boone, Elizabeth Hill; Collins, Rochelle. The petroglyphic prayers on the sun stone of Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina. p. 225-241 México
Época prehispánica

Summary

The Sun Stone of Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina is one of the major monuments revealed by excavations in and around the Aztec Templo Mayor since 1978. Featuring the sun disk on its top surface and the Mexica conquest of 11 enemy polities on its cylindrical sides, it is considered a gladiatorial stone, similar in both iconography and function to the later Stone of Tizoc. While Tizoc's stone locates its conquest scenes between earth and sky bands, this sun stone uniquely places its conquests between two bands of repeating motifs. The authors argue that these bands are extraordinary examples of pictographic texts that parallel and likely called forth ritual speech acts. The iconography and patterning of the motifs reveal the bands to be visual exhortations or prayers related to human sacrifice specifically associated with Tezcatlipoca. The complex pattern of the repeating motifs is rhythmic and reflects the discourse structure of Nahuatl high speech.

Jordan, Keith. Serpents, skeletons, and ancestors?: the tula coatepantli revisited. p. 243-274 México
Época prehispánica

Summary

Since Acosta's work in the 1940s, relief carvings of serpents entwined with partially skeletonized personages on the coatepantli at Tula have frequently been identified as images of the Nahua Venus deity, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli. Comparing these Toltec sculptures with this deity's iconography in Late Postclassic to Colonial period manuscripts, however, provides no support for this identification. Based on the northern Mesoamerican cultural connections of the Toltecs, the author suggests parallels between the coatepantli reliefs and the public display of ancestral and sacrificial human remains at Chalchihuites sites. Identification of the coatepantli figures as venerated ancestors from an ancestral cult is also supported by iconographic and archaeological evidence from Tula. Parallels to the coatepantli images in depictions of both living elites and ancestors juxtaposed with serpents from other Mesoamerican art traditions bolster this interpretation. On the basis of the evidence, the author hypothesizes that the skeletonized figures at Tula symbolize deceased kings and honored warriors rather than conquered foes.

Russell, Bradley W. Fortress mayapan: defensive features and secondary functions of a postclassic maya fortification. p. 275-294 Centroamérica
México
Época prehispánica

Summary

One of the most distinctive features of the Postclassic capital of Mayapan is the immense wall that encloses large portions of the site's settlement zone. This 9.1 km-long feature is the largest example of a walled enclosure known in Mesoamerica. Based on ethnohistoric references, it seems that the construction was well known to Postclassic and Colonial period residents of the Northern lowlands. The most common assertion regarding the enclosures is that the wall had primarily defensive functions. Unfortunately, little solid archaeological evidence or cross-cultural comparison has been offered to support this interpretation. In this paper, I correlate the form of the gates with cross-culturally derived and unambiguously defensive features, finding that the design of the gates strongly suggests that they are indeed defensive. Possible secondary functions of the wall are also explored, such as the control of people and goods entering the city, as ritual barrier, the control of internal populations and its symbolism.

Harrison-Buck, Eleanor; McAnany, Patricia A. Terminal classic circular architecture in the sibun valley, belize. p. 295-306 Belice
Época prehispánica

Summary

Terminal Classic circular architecture has been characterized as a “non-Classic” trait stemming from Chontal-Itza groups from the Gulf lowlands who developed a long-distance, circum-peninsular trade route and established their capital city at Chichen Itza in northern Yucatan. Recent investigations of a series of circular shrines proximate to the Caribbean coast in Belize have yielded ceramics and radiocarbon dates that link these buildings to the ninth century, coeval with the early Sotuta phase at Chichen Itza (a.d. 830–900). We present an architectural comparison of circular shrines and map out a network of sites that cluster along the rivers and coast of Belize. We consider two possibilities that may not be mutually exclusive: (1) local elite emulation of northern styles following pilgrimage to Chichen Itza for political accession ceremonies, and, (2) trading diasporas involving small-scale migration of Chontal-Itza merchants along the eastern Caribbean coast.

Callaghan, Michael G. Politics through pottery: a view of the preclassic-classic transition from building b, group II, Holmul, Guatemala. p. 307-341 Guatemala
Época prehispánica

Summary

Building B of Group II at Holmul, Guatemala, is well known in Maya archaeology for its unique series of superimposed tombs, some of which contain rare large deposits of ceramic material dating to the Terminal Preclassic period (a.d. 1–250). However, the building also contains large deposits of early facet Early Classic (a.d. 250–400) material, as well as the remains of a potential title holding elite. This article presents the current ceramic sequence for the Holmul region and a re-evaluation of the ceramic material from all rooms in Building B Group II in light of new discoveries at sites within the Holmul region and the greater Maya lowlands. The result is a new hypothesis about what social processes are manifested through Terminal Preclassic period orange slipped pottery, which suggests that the vessels associated with deposits in Buidling B may represent changes in elite diacritical feasting events during this period. These feasts, and the preparations made for them, may have simultaneously integrated social groups within a polity while also reinforcing differences between them during two turbulent epochs of Maya political history—namely, the late facet of the Terminal Preclassic period (a.d. 150–250) and the early facet of the Early Classic period (a.d. 250–400).

Taladoire, Eric; Dzul, Sara; Nondédéo, Philippe; Forné, Mélanie. Chronology of the Río Bec settlement and architectureIn  Special Section: Noble Farmers and Weak Kings in the Classic Maya Lowlands: The Río Bec Archaeological Project, 2002–2010 p. 353-372 México
Época prehispánica

Summary

Chronology is a crucial issue given the specific settlement patterns of the Río Bec region located on the northern fringe of the Maya central lowlands. Fine-resolution chronology of the local residential occupation in its many spatial and temporal forms is one of the main proxies available to reconstruct social organization and dynamics, in the absence of a nucleated center with the typical Maya political monuments usually investigated. Variability can be traced in residential morphologies and evolution that must be dated. The scope of the paper aims to describe the construction of the Río Bec chronology in its multiple dimensions, based on a diversity of methods from ceramic Type-Variety classification up to seriation of building sequences defining the evolution of the famous Río Bec architectural style. Epigraphic evidence exists, albeit limited and ambiguous. The general sequence of occupation for the targeted micro-region stretches from the Middle Preclassic to the end of the Terminal Classic period.

Nondédéo, Philippe; Arnauld, M. Charlotte; Michelet, Dominique. Río Bec settlement patterns and local sociopolitical organizationIn  Special Section: Noble Farmers and Weak Kings in the Classic Maya Lowlands: The Río Bec Archaeological Project, 2002–2010 p. 373-396 México

Summary

Based on settlement patterns in the Río Bec micro-region, a study zone (100 km2) focused on the eponymous site, there is no evidence that any of the monumental groups underwent true processes of significant, sustainable nucleation on a broad sociopolitical level. This paper analyzes Río Bec settlement patterns in order to better understand why processes of agglomeration did not occur at the site. Our approach to this question consists of analyzing the spatial distribution of settlements in relation to their internal hierarchy, while taking in account evolution through time. The study was carried out at two different scales of analysis, and results are presented for both the “micro-region” and “nuclear zone” (159 ha) scales. The overarching objective of this contribution is to gain greater insight into the social dimensions of the processes that took place at Río Bec during the Classic period.

Lemonnier, Eva; Vannière, Boris. Agrarian features, farmsteads, and homesteads in the Río Bec nuclear zone, MexicoIn  Special Section: Noble Farmers and Weak Kings in the Classic Maya Lowlands: The Río Bec Archaeological Project, 2002–2010 p. 397-413 México
Época prehispánica

Summary

With its overall settlement pattern more dispersed than those of other contemporary Maya sites, and many associated land use features still preserved, the spatial layout of the Río Bec nuclear zone (159 ha) leads us to give priority to the hypothesis of a production economy based on infield agriculture. Through a multidisciplinary and multiscalar research strategy, including several geoarchaeological methods developed on three different spatial scales, it is possible to forward a model of territorial occupation and land use for the Río Bec apogee period (a.d. 700–850). Geographical and archaeological data, along with chronological and spatial analyses, allow us to reconstruct a built field system made up of distinct agricultural production units. From a socioeconomic perspective, the model suggests that agricultural production was managed at the household scale and that each unit or farmstead was distinct and autonomous from its neighbors.

Michelet, Dominique; Nondédéo, Philippe; Patrois, Julie; Gillot, Céline; González Gómez, Emyly. Structure 5N2 (“Group A”): a Río Bec paradigmatic palace?In  Special Section: Noble Farmers and Weak Kings in the Classic Maya Lowlands: The Río Bec Archaeological Project, 2002–2010 p. 415-431 México
Época prehispánica

Summary

Structure 5N2 (initially named “Group A”) at Río Bec is the first ruin in the region to have been recorded and is its most important towered building. While it is reasonable to question the specific role such emblematic monumental structures played in the region's sociopolitical organization, precise data concerning their dating, construction history, and functions has been lacking. The recent study of Structure 5N2 has improved our understanding of this building type and of the structure itself, which combines a private residential sector (that astonishingly includes a central pyramid-temple) and a public space. The structure's construction history also reveals a great deal. Originally it consisted of only a tandem two-room residence constructed at roughly a.d. 700–720. Around a.d. 830–850 the original residence was transformed into a large palace, which remained unfinished until abandonment just after a.d. 950. Analysis of the final building, replaced in the process of transformation to the settlement around Structure 5N2, also enables us to explore the social and economic dimensions of its dramatic but incomplete growth.

Patrois, Julie. Río Bec graffiti: a private form of artIn  Special Section: Noble Farmers and Weak Kings in the Classic Maya Lowlands: The Río Bec Archaeological Project, 2002–2010 p. 433-447 México
Época prehispánica

Summary

This article focuses on graffiti recorded in the micro-region of Río Bec (a 10 × 10 km zone around Group B), an art form well-known but little studied to date. Incised in plastered supports (wall, benches, or doorjambs), graffiti is found on residences of all ranks. A meticulous recording method has enabled us to distinguish two classes: graffiti produced during a building's occupation and those executed post-abandonment. The former were probably made by the residence dwellers themselves, children and adults. Their productions, which can be considered authentic artistic creations, reflected their unequal technical capacities, talents, ages, and inspirations. The subject matter was personal; remarkable individuals or animals, or outstanding collective events as memorialized by individuals. These graffiti emerge as the principal form of individual expression (retrieved by the archaeologist) from Río Bec society. Once the buildings were abandoned and full of rubble, new graffitists (occasional visitors or squatters) decorated the still accessible portions of plastered walls and notably illustrated some specific topics, such as female imagery and fabulous entities perhaps drawn during specific ceremonies. In the region as a whole, where glyphic inscriptions are scarce, graffiti provide a privileged emic source for the understanding of Río Bec society.

Pereira, Grégory. Ash, dirt, and rock: burial practices at Río BecIn  Special Section: Noble Farmers and Weak Kings in the Classic Maya Lowlands: The Río Bec Archaeological Project, 2002–2010 p. 449-468 México
Época prehispánica

Summary

Recent research at Río Bec has revealed that interments in residential structures were limited to a very small portion of the population. Although these burials are relatively modest compared to those found in many other Classic period Maya sites, the funerary procedure suggests that they were important individuals in the household. Grave wealth and the size/elaboration of the burial structure do not correlate with the striking socioeconomic differences expressed in residential architecture. In fact, it seems that Río Bec funerary ritual was a private affair focused within the domestic unit, rather than a public display. A study of the variation found among these residential burials reveals two important patterns of mortuary ritual that seem more reflective of ancestor veneration than of social hierarchy: (1) “transition burials” (stressing centrality, verticality, the link to earth, and the transformations of the dwelling) and (2) “occupation burials” (stressing laterality, horizontality, a link to fire and the domestic hearth, and the permanence of the domestic space).

Arnauld, M. Charlotte; Michelet, Dominique; Nondédéo, Philippe. Living together in Río Bec houses: coresidence, rank, and allianceIn  Special Section: Noble Farmers and Weak Kings in the Classic Maya Lowlands: The Río Bec Archaeological Project, 2002–2010 p. 469-493 México
Época prehispánica

Summary

In an attempt to interpret Classic Maya elite and commoner residential patterns beyond usual assumptions about filiation, family cycle, and household economic adaptation, we explore the specific ways people were “living together,” in the sense of the coresidence concept, in Maya societies conceived of as ranked societies, or “house societies,” as created by Claude Lévi-Strauss. Beyond kinship and economic organization, residential patterns can be understood as part of long-term strategies designed by inhabitants to integrate their social unit into the politico-religious city. The residential system of the Río Bec zone, where a major research project was carried out from 2002 to 2010, offers a series of well-defined architectural solutions, some of them common to most central lowlands cities, while others are innovative as forerunners of the northern lowlands large multiroom palaces. This paper analyzes Late and Terminal Classic period Río Bec domestic architecture in order to outline the material correlates of coresidence, growth, ranking, and alliance within and between Classic Maya social groupings.

Ancient Mesoamerica
Paper | Numerical version with subscription | Semestral | United Kingdom Print ISSN: 0956-5361
Online ISSN: 1469-1787
Year of creation: 1990

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Address: The Edinburgh Building; Shaftesbury Road
Cambridge CB2 8RU United Kingdom

Foro Internacional sobre metodología, teoría, análisis e interpretación de la arqueología, historia del arte y etnohistoria de Mesoamérica. La revista publica artículos principalmente interesados en la arqueología precolombina de la región mesoamericana, pero también incluye artículos de otras disciplinas incluyendo Etnohistoria, arqueología histórica y Etnoarqueología. Los temas incluyen los orígenes de la agricultura, la base económica de las ciudades-Estado e imperios, organización política a través de los períodos desde el formativo hasta el colonial temprano, el desarrollo y función de la escritura y el uso de la iconografía para reconstruir las prácticas y creencias religiosas antiguas.
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