Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Working on ceramics in Toluca

Mr. Monkey-Helmet
I'm in Toluca for a few weeks working in our lab at the Colegio Mexiquense. I am wrapping up a variety of final tasks with our ceramics. One thing I am doing is organizing the miscellaneous ceramic forms, checking catalogs, recording attributes, drawing the artifacts, and taking photos. Here are a few photos to show what I've been doing.

The first photo is a monkey face, someone I call Mr. Monkey-Helmet. This is classified as a ceramic appliqué, which means it was stuck on the side of some object. In the profile view you can see the projection where this attached to the wall of the vessel. The problem is, what kind of vessels had monkey faces sticking out their sides? I really don't know (let me know if you have a

 Next we have some tobacco pipes. These little pipes were most abundant in western Mexico, among the Tarascans and other cultures. We found more pipes than I did in my earlier excavations near Cuernavaca, but they are still pretty rare items. Not all the houses had pipes, but since they are rare it is tough to tell whether this is significant or not.

Here are a few stamps. Ceramic stamps, like the one on the top left, are common at Aztec sites in the Valley of Mexico and in Morelos. These were regular household items at Yautepec and the other sites I excavated near Cuernavaca. But they are quite rare at Calixtlahuaca. In fact, the two on the left are the only Aztec-style stamps we excavated. The rarity of stamps at  Calixtlahuaca is one of many indications that the site was not closely integrated with the styles, culture, and practices of the Aztec heartland in the Valley of Mexico. My Morelos sites, on the other hand, matched the materials and styles of the Aztec center much more closely. The object on the right is unusual. The design does not match Aztec stamps, and it lacks a tab on the back. If you have any suggestions about what this may be, please let me know. Maybe it is from an earlier time period.

Tlaloc vessels
When he excavated at Calixtlahuaca in the 1930s, José  García Payón found a bunch of offerings of Tlaloc Vessels (tall, crude, ugly vessels with Tlaloc faces) in Temple 4, which then became known as the Tlaloc Temple. We found a few fragments of probable Tlaloc vessels in our excavations, but not very many. If you have seen the Tlaloc vessels from offerings at the Templo Mayor in Mexico City, these crummy sherds look pretty pathetic. Ah, the curse of household archaeology. We excavate fragments of everyday items, and rarely fine a beautiful complete object worthy of a museum. Oh, well.

Imports from Morelos

And finally, a photo of sherds from vessels imported from the state of Morelos. Contemporary sites in Morelos have move imports from the Toluca Valley than the reverse. Aztec-period houses in Morelos have a much higher number of imports overall, and imports from a larger number of places, than the houses at Calixtlahuaca. One interesting thing is that these Morelos imports span the entire sequence. At the top right is Morelos-Puebla Black-on-Orange, an Early Aztec type, and the two bottom decorated sherds, Morelos Type I, are from the final half of the Late Aztec period in western Morelos.

Brad Andrews is down here too for a few days, checking the obsidian. Next week I return from the 70 degree weather of Toluca to the 115 degree heat of Phoenix.