Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Angela and I have isolated three ceramic phases for Calixtlahuaca through our seriation work. We'll post something soon on the new chronology. Here I want to talk about some linguistic research I've been doing. Our earliest period covers the Middle Postclassic period (ca. AD 1100-1300, but don't quote me yet), and the other two correspond to the Late Postclassic period. We have decided to use indigenous terms in the three local Oto-Pamean languages to name these phases. It is almost certain that the original builders and residents of Calixtlahuaca spoke one (or more) of these languages: Otomi, Mazahua, and Matlatzinca (see my previous post on this issue). The use of native terms for our time periods is one way of showing respect for the peoples of these groups. All three languages are still spoken today.

For the earliest phase, we will use the term "Dongu," which is an Otomi term for ancient or old house. This seems appropriate for the earliest occupation period at the site. Dongu is also a placename in the Otomi region in the north-western State of Mexico. The photo above was taken at the tiny hamlet of Dongu, located between the town of Acambay and the archaeological site of Huamango (thanks to Emily Root-Garey for taking the photo during our trip to Huamango a week ago).

René García Castro suggested to me yesterday that Dongu has another sense in Otomi native histories: it may refer to ancestral locations of the Otomi ruling families or ruling "houses" of the Postclassic period. This would make the term even more appropriate for Calixtlahuaca, the Middle- and Late-Postclassic capital of the Toluca Valley.

Speaking of Otomi toponyms, I just read an interesting new article on the topic (Lastra 2008). Two place names jumped out at me:

(1) Calixtlahuaca:  n-dahni,  "viento, pega el aire." This toponym was collected in 2002 from San Andrés Cuexcontitlán (just north of Toluca, and northeast of Calixtlahuaca). Could this be a clue to the ancient name of the city? As I started to get excited about this, it occurred to me that this could be merely a modern reference to the archaeological site, where it is well known that the main temple was dedicated to the wind god, Ehecatl. Interesting, though.....

(2) Huamango: karendó, gran escalera de piedra. This was also collected in 2002, in the town of Acambay (heading south from Huamango, past Dongu). This is another appropriate-sounding toponym. For information on the site of Huamango, see my previous post.

Lastra, Yolanda
    2008    Topónimos otmíes. Estudios de Cultura Otopame 6:381-314.

** PS - I apologize to the linguists out there for not including the proper diacritics for these Otomi words. Not only am I a linguistically-challenged researcher, but my computer cannot handle the necessary symbols and diacritics needed to properly render Otopamean terms.

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