Monday, February 28, 2022

Public Zoom Lecture: "At Home with the Aztecs", March 10

 I will be giving a public lecture on zoom, focused on my book, At Home with the Aztecs: An Archaeologist Uncovers Their Daily Life.

This lecture is sponsored by the Aztlander magazine:

Time: Thursday, March 10

6:00 PM Eastern Standard Time


Here is a blurb:

At Home with the Aztecs provides a fresh view of Aztec society, focusing on households and communities instead of kings, pyramids, and human sacrifice. This new approach offers an opportunity to humanize the Aztecs, moving past the popular stereotype of sacrificial maniacs to demonstrate that these were successful and prosperous communities. Michael Smith engagingly describes the scientific, logistic and personal dimensions of archaeological fieldwork, drawing on decades of excavating experience and considering how his research was affected by his interaction with contemporary Mexican communities. Through first-hand accounts of the ways archaeologists interpret sites and artifacts, the book illuminates how the archaeological process can bring ancient families and communities to light. Smith’s research also redefines success, prosperity and resilience in ancient societies. Michael’s zoom will be suitable not only for those interested in the Aztecs but in the examination of resilient households and communities across space and time.

This book won the award, "Best Archaeology Book, General Audience Category", from the Society for American Archaeology, 2017.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Publication Updates

Angela Huster

Despite the number of other things many members of the project are juggling, we're continuing to publish about Calixtlahuaca. This is our semi-annual summary of publications about the project. As always, if I've forgotten something, or you want a copy of one of these, let me know.

Borejsza, Aleksander
            2018    Las nueve reencarnaciones de Matlatzinco: comentarios acerca de la estructura del altepetl y un intento más de acomodar el rompecabezas terminológico matlatzinca. Anales de Antropología 52(2):71-93.
A look at prehispanic political structure of the Toluca Valley, based on early Colonial records. It includes a very useful clarification of the multiple things “Matlatzinco/a” has been used to describe. It also argues that Calixtlahuaca/Tollacan may have been a double altepetl, something that would help explain the linguistic confusion between the two.

Huster, Angela C.
            2019    Maguey use at Postclassic Calixtlahuaca. Mexicon 41(1 - February):20-27.
A summary of the evidence for relatively intensive maguey cultivation and use at Calixtlahuaca, including its use in terracing, house construction, and textile production.

Huster, Angela C.
            2019    Looming Deficits: Textile Production Specialization in Postclassic Mesoamerica. Latin American Antiquity 30(4):780-797.
A paper on broad regional trends in textile production during the Postclassic, with a focus on how Calixtlahuaca compares to other contemporaneous sites. Calixtlahuaca shows the same general pattern of increasing textile production over time, but a higher emphasis on maguey textiles (as opposed to cotton) results in a modestly lower total level of textile production than is seen at many other sites in the Central Mexican highlands.

Huster, Angela C. and Daniel E. Pierce
            2020    A Geochemical Baseline for Clays of the Toluca Valley, Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 39:online preview.
The results of INAA of 28 clay samples from the Toluca Valley, showing both regional trends and a degree of overlap with portions of the Basin of Mexico.

Ossa, Alanna, Michael E Smith and José Lobo
            2017    The size of plazas in Mesoamerican cities and towns: a quantitative analysis. Latin American Antiquity 28(4):457-475.
A comparative study of plaza size and population at in three Mesoamerica settlement systems. Calixtlahuaca is one of the cases in the Postclassic dataset. Despite not having a clear primary plaza, the total plaza area at Calixtlahuaca is consistent with the population/plaza size relationship seen at other Mesoamerican sites. 

While some of our publication is behind schedule, we're not this behind schedule...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Bezotes (Lip Plugs or Labrets)

By Angela Huster
One form of Aztec jewelry were decorative objects worn through a piercing in a person’s lower lip, known as bezotes in Spanish and lip plugs or labrets in English. They can be made out of different materials – bone, clay, obsidian, or other stones – and come in various shapes. While there are a few very fancy examples in museums, with gold and turquoise inlays, most examples are much simpler. In Central Mexico, “T-shaped” lip plugs are traditionally associated with the Otomi ethnic group, based on historic documents. In her excavations at Xaltocan, Lisa Overholtzer (2015) showed that T-shaped lip plugs were used during the Middle Postclassic, and and wider, flatter "Button-shaped" ones were used during the Late Postclassic. However, people seem to have switched forms before the Aztec conquest of the site, suggesting that they may have actively manipulated their ethnic identity in anticipation of shifts in regional power. 

The rock crystal and obsidian lip plugs from Calixtlahuaca (plus a copper earspool on the left)

At Calixtlahuaca, we recovered two T-shaped lip plugs (one made out of obsidian and one of rock crystal), and two button-shaped ones (both made out of clay). Both T-shaped pieces come from Ninupi phase contexts. One of the button-shaped ones comes from a Ninupi phase context and the other from a Yata phase context. The fact that we recovered so few examples of lip plugs is interesting, since the Otomi were one of the ethnic groups who lived in the Toluca Valley. The phasing of the few lip plugs we did find parallels the findings from Xaltocan; T-shaped lip plugs are earlier and from prior to the Aztec conquest of the site, and button-shaped ones are more likely to be later, from the period under Aztec rule, but there’s some fuzziness. However, because Calixtlahuaca was conquered by the Aztecs later than Xaltocan was, the transition in forms occurs later in calendar time; instead of a change between the Middle and Late Postclassic, the switch in forms occurs between the two halves of the Late Postclassic.
The ceramic lip plugs from Calixtlahuaca

Because lip plugs are low frequency objects (even at sites where they are more common than at Calixtlahuaca!), it can be hard for any one project to find enough to identify meaningful patterns. As a result, it is important for projects to publish good descriptions of their rare finds and their proveniences, so that a larger regional sample can eventually be put together. We are currently writing the informe chapter on miscellaneous ceramic objects at Calixtlahuaca – which includes, but certainly isn’t limited to, lip plugs.

Works Cited:

Overholtzer, Lisa M.
                2015       Agency, practice, and chronological context: A Bayesian approach to household chronologies. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 37:37-47.