Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lab Reorganization

By Angela Huster

Having finally worked out both context and chronology for most of our excavated lots, we’re now in the process of separating the material that we want to keep from that which will be discarded once we have permission from INAH. Ceramics currently fall into one of four categories – Already classified, to keep; Already classified, to discard; To classify, then discard; and To briefly skim, then discard. We are keeping classified material from the domestic context sample and a handful of other contexts, while most of the lots that are being skimmed and tossed are from plowzone, slopewash, modern terrace fill, or other mixed contexts. Like all archaeological collection storage, deciding what to keep is a fine balance between the available storage space (and cost), the research potential of the material, and the odds that anyone will actually get around to looking at it in the future.

This process has resulted in two simultaneous sets of activities. Judith, Delfina, and Janeth are consolidating the lots in each of the first three categories. They’re moving the lots that we’re keeping to the shelves against the back wall of the lab at the same time that they’re moving the lots to be discarded toward the front of the lab so that the boxes will be easier to haul out of the lab.

At the same time, Julia, Shelia, and I are skimming the lots from very marginal contexts for miscellaneous items (figurines, spindle whorls, pipes, molds, etc), and good examples of decorated types to add to the type reference collection. This has been unexpectedly productive, considering that the lots were skimmed once when they were originally washed. We have found three spindle whorls, at least four figurines, a ceramic lip plug, and a reconstructible (if highly eroded) tripod bowl, among other things.

At this point, the entire process has been going incredibly smoothly, and we owe the fact that we are ahead of schedule to the lab ladies.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The 1563 Calendrical Relief

In talking about the 1563 calendrical relief shown in my previous post, Angela suggested that it could be a foundation monument. In 1561 the town of San Francisco Calixtlahuaca was founded following Spanish law (a decree from the Viceroy). If there were Nahuatl speakers among the new residents who retained a notion of ancient altepetl ceremonies and procedures, perhaps they had the relief carved to give the new town a measure of traditional legitimacy.

I was in the village Saturday, delivering copies of our reports to various people, and I realized that I wasn't sure where my photos were of the cemetery church and the relief. So I went over and took some new photos. The light was very good on the relief. Why is it incorporated into the church wall? When was it put there? What does it tell us? Wish I knew.

I'm not sure what year this church dates to. Its probably discussed in one of the books on Franciscan church architecture in the State of Mexico, but my copies are back home in Arizona. Here are some images of the front of the church. If you can date the church stylistically, let us know! My guess is 17th or 18th century.

And finally, here is a view of the site from in front of the cemetery:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What happened to the people of Calixtlahuaca after the Spanish conquest?

Most Aztec-period cities and towns continued on as Spanish-colonial cities after the Spanish conquest of 1521. From Mexico City to Cuernavaca to Xochimilco to Texcoco, and many others, these towns were settled by Spaniards (sometimes only a few, sometimes many).. Christian churches were built and the towns flourished in the Colonial economy and on into modern times, where they still exist today.

But not Calixtlahuaca. This Matlatzinca city went from a populated urban center and political capital to an abandoned ruin within a few decades after the Spanish conquest. The city of Toluca, on the other hand, was either nothing or a small village in pre-Spanish times -- no credible archaeological site has been found for pre-Spanish Tollocan. But by the mid-1500s Toluca had a large Franciscan church and convent, and the city went on to become capital of the state of Mexico, and the country's fourth major industrial center today.

We know that the occupation of at least some of the houses at Calixtlahuaca continued for a couple of decades after 1521, because we find ceramic figurines with Spaniards in Spanish dress and poses (see photo). These are in the final occupation layers  of the site. But we don't think the occupation continued much beyond a few decades, because we did not find colonial middens with cow and horse bones, glazed ceramics, iron nails, etc. This lack of 16th century colonial debris is not a definitive indication of abandonment, however. In the Teotihuacan Valley, Tom Charlton reported years ago that rural Aztec villages continued functioning for up to a century after 1521 without obvious colonial material remains like these. But Calixtlahuaca was not a rural village - it was the most powerful capital between Tenochtitlan and the Tarascan Empire. So if it HAD continued to be occupied, we would expect to find things like: (1) a sixteenth century church; (2) these kinds of Spanish colonial artifacts.

So, what happened? Most likely, the residents of the city were forcibly moved into Toluca. The Spanish authorities instituted a practiced called "congregación" in which they moved native peoples into towns and cities (the better to control them, to con vert them, and to tax them). Many of the congregaciones left evidence in Spanish official archives, but any documents describing a congregación to Toluca have unfortunately not survived (Jarquin 1994).

But the abandonment of Calixtlahuaca is likely, given that in 1561, the Spanish crown granted land to found the village of San Francisco Calixtlahuaca, which was the origin of the modern town of the same name. I looked at the official decree today in the Archivo General Agrario in Mexico City. The text is accompanied by a crude map, showing the lands granted to the new town. Not being a paleographer, I had trouble reading the sixteenth century handwriting. There is a brief description in a catalog of the archive, however (Olmedo 1998:84).  If the residents of Calixtlahuaca had kept living at the site, or if they had moved down off the hill to the site of the historical town, one would not think that the crown would issue a decree founding the town.

This area was part of the "Marquesado del Valle" estate of the conqueror Hernando Cortés. Soon after 1521 he started raising cattle and pigs in the vicinity of Calixtlahuaca, and the new town in 1561 was probably populated by his employees or subjects.

The main church in San Francisco Calixtlahuaca today dates to the nineteenth century. But the small church at the cemetery, just outside of town, is much older. Perhaps this was the main church from the sixteenth century, or perhaps an older church was torn down to build the modern one. The cemetery church has a fascinating carved stone relief embedded in its wall. This drawing is by Hanns Prem from 1970 (see Prem 1980).. The relief shows the Christian date at top "1563 año", and the date for that year in the Aztec calendar at the bottom (6 Reed). We have no idea whether this relief is from the village or from another place entirely. It would be fascinating if 2years after the founding of the new colonial town, someone put up a carving in both the Spanish and Aztec calendars. By the 1700s, there were at least some Nahuatl speakers in San Francisco Calixtlahuaca, as evidenced by a will published by Caterina Pizzigoni (2007).

This model is still somewhat speculative. We would love to have more data on what happened to all those people in the early to mid sixteenth century. According to published catalog, the Archivo General Agrario supposedly has another map and document from San Francisco Calixtlahuaca, from 1575 (Esparza et al. 2000:160-161), but they could not find it at the archive today (even when I showed them the published catalog entry). Maybe we will find additional sixteenth century documentation. But for now, the outline sketched above makes sense out of both the archaeological and the historical data.

Two years ago, the newspaper Milenio published a nice article on Calixtlahuaca and our project. It was called "Calixtlahuaca: La nostalgia del poder," referring to the fact that the positions of Calixtlahuaca and Toluca were reversed during the colonial period. Before 1521, Calixtlahuaca was a big capital city and Tollocan (if it existed at all) was a small village. Today, Toluca is the state capital, and Calixtlahuaca just a village. But that village has some great ruins (our site!) and the big city has none.


Esparza, René, Rita Reséndez, and Arnulfo Embriz Osorio (editors)
    2000    Catálogo de mapas, planos, croquis e ilustraciones históricas de restitución y dotación de tierras y ampliación de ejidos del Archivo General Agrario. CIESAS, Mexico City.

Jarquín Ortega, María Teresa
    1994    Congregaciones de pueblos en el Estado de México. Colegio Mexiquense, Toluca.

Olmedo Gaxiola, Regina (editor)
    1998    Catálogo de documentos históricos del Archivo General Agrario. CIESAS, Mexico City.

Pizzigoni, Caterina
    2007    Testaments of Toluca. UCLA Latin American Studies, vol. 90. Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Prem, Hanns J.
    1980    Chronolgische Miszellen I. Mexicon 2(2):20-21.

*** Check out Wide Urban World for a post on Calixtlahuaca ***

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Visit to the site

Structure 16 cleaning
Angela and I showed Jennifer Burley around Calixtlahuaca today. Jennifer is a student of art history at the University of Arizona, studying Aztec sculpture with Emily Umberger, our project art historian. In case we got lost there is a nice new blue pyramid sign pointing up the hill. One new development is that many of
Catalino surveying
the temples and public buildings are being cleared off and cleaned up. The biggest change is in structure 16, the big rectangular platform on the plain, east of the royal palace at the edge of the modern town. José García Payón did some superficial clearing of the structure, but did not really excavate much of it.  The photo shows the south side of the structure, where two walls are visible. It wasn't clear to us whether these are two different construction stages, or else a two-step profile of the building. I'm sure that the archaeologist in charge, Arqueóloga María del Carmen Carbajal, will sort this out.

Angela & Jennifer on Str. 16
The work crew is headed by Calixtlahuaca resident Catalino Estrada Monte de Oca. Catalino was one of our best workers during the excavations in 2007. He spent much of the time helping out mapper, Max Farrer (see photo). If you visit Calixtlahuaca, be sure to stop in at Catalino's store, on the road up to the site, and say hi.

The work crew has cleared off part of a small platform on top of structure 16 (photo at right). The purpose of structure 16 remains a mystery. Was this a ballcourt? The form does not seem to fit. Perhaps a calmecac (school)? García Payón had labeled the royal palace as a calmecac, but that is an error; perhaps the school was here instead. We did notice a slab support from an Aztec III black-on-orange bowl in the fill of structure 16, suggesting that it was built (or enlarged) in either the Ninupi or Yata phases (Late Postclassic).

The site museum
The Calixtlahuaca bird
Another nice development at the site is that the small site museum has re-opened. It was closed in 2007 for repairs. The plan was to re-do the exhibits with new objects, new text, and a better exhibit. I was asked to participate, and I gladly agreed, but then no one ever contacted me! The leaks in the roof were fixed quickly, but the museum remained closed for several years. Then the old objects were simply put back, with minimal signs or explanation, and the museum opened again.

It's nice to see the materials back in the site museum. One is a nice stone relief of the Calixtlahuaca bird. As discussed in an earlier post, this seems to have been some kind of emblem of the city or dynasty, back before it was called Calixtlahuaca (that is, prior to the Mexica conquest of the 1470s, when the name Calixtlahuaca first appears in the historical sources), and perhaps even before the city was called Matlatzinco (its name during much of the Middle and Late Postclassic periods). Emily Umberger and Maëlle Sergheraert identified a number of examples this turkey-looking bird on stone reliefs recovered at the site in the 1930's by José García Payón.

Here is an old photo of García Payón's crew working on structure 4, the Tlaloc temple. Someone could do a seriation of old Mexican excavation photos, and date the photo by the size and shape of the workers' hats.
Restoring structure 4 in the 1930s