Sunday, February 8, 2009

Before Calixtlahuaca: the site of Huamango

According to our excavations, the city of Calixtlahuaca was founded at the beginning of the Middle Postclassic period (ca. A.D. 1100) and flourished until the Spanish conquest (1519-1521). García Payón’s excavations in the 1930s evidently turned up remains from earlier periods, including a group of Epiclassic vessels from Oaxaca (described in (Smith and Lind, Ancient Mesoamerica, 2005). With the exception of a few eroded Classic-period sherds at the bottom of a barranca, we failed to find ceramics earlier than Middle Postclassic in our excavations or surface collections. Thus the question of an earlier occupation at the site remains clouded. Perhaps García Payón’s materials came from another nearby site (I think this is the most likely explanation), or perhaps we simply failed to find earlier occupations.

Nevertheless, there was a major Early Postclassic site an hours drive north of Calixtlahuaca at Huamango. Huamango was excavated by Román Piña Chán and William Folan in the 1970s (see references below). It consists of a small ceremonial zone with some temples, located on a ridge overlooking the Valle de los Espejos, just north of the city of Acambay. The dating of Huamango is not as certain as one would like; there are no radiocarbon dates and the regional ceramic chronology is not well developed. Various lines of evidence, however, point to an Early Postclassic (Toltec period) date for the site.

The polychrome ceramics look post-Teotihuacan in date (see photo). The lack of Coyotlatelco ceramics is a good sign that the site does NOT date to the Epiclassic period (AD 700-900), and the presence of some types similar to Tollan-phase Tula supports the Early Postclassic dating. Finally, the LACK of Matlatzinca ceramics (the Middle to Late Postclassic ceramics of Calixtlahuaca and Teotenango) at Huamango suggests that the occupation did not extend into that period. Not the strongest evidence, to be sure, but it’s the best we have to go on right now.

Huamango was likely a major political capital in the area immediately north of the Toluca Valley during Early Postclassic times, perhaps subsidiary in some way to the Toltec polity to the northeast. It is hard to say yet whether its zone of control included the region around Calixtlahuaca in the Northern Toluca Valley. The origin of the distinctive Matlatzinca polychrome and bichrome ceramic style is not known, but perhaps it developed out of the geometric Huamango style (see photo).

To read up on Huamango, see:

Folan, William (1979) San Miguel de Huamango: un centro tolteca-otomí. Boletín de la Escuela de Ciencias Antropológicas de la Universidad de Yucatán 6(32):36-40.

Folan, William J. (1989) More on a Functional Interpretation of the Scraper Plane. Journal of Field Archaeology 16:486-489.

Folan, William J. (1990) Huamango, estado de México: un eslabón en la relación norte-sur de la gran Mesoamérica. In Mesoamérica y norte de México, siglos IX-XII, edited by Federica Sodi Miranda, pp. 337-362. vol. 1. 2 vols. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

Folan, William J., Lynda Florey Folan and Antonio Ruiz Pérez (1987) La iconografía de Huamango, municipio de Acabay, Estado de México: Un centro regional otomí de los siglos IX al XIII. In Homenaje a Román Piña Chán, edited by Barbro Dahlgren, Carlos Navarrete, Lorenzo Ochoa, Mari Carmen Serra Puche and Yoko Sugiura Yamamoto, pp. 411-453. Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City.

Granados Reyes, Paz and Miguel Guevara (1999) El complejo Huamango y su área de interacción. Paper presented at the III Coloquio Internacional Otopames, Toluca.

Lagunas Rodríguez, Zaid (1997) Costumbres funerarias y características bioculturales de la población prehispánica de Huamango. Expresión Antropológica (Instituto Mexiquense de Cultura) 6:7-28.

Piña Chán, Román (1981) Investigaciones sobre Huamango y región vecina (Memoria del Proyecto). 2 vols. Dirección de Turiso del Gobierno del Estado de México, Toluca.

The site is maintained by the Instituto Mexiquense de Cultura, a branch of the State of Mexico. It is easy to reach by car, about an hour's drive north of Toluca, and a few km north of Acambay.

Here are some web resources (en español):

Article in México Desconocido

Information from the State of Mexico