Marriage and procreation were very important as a way of securing and improving a family's social position in these ancient societies. The filed teeth, elaborate hairstyles, tattooing, and ample hips were all considered marks of beauty. In addition, women of the noble classes took steps to artificially elongate the craniums of their babies so that as adults they would have a different appearance from the common people. The statue above appears to express just such an elongation.
famous for their weaving, producing textiles as early as 500 BC. When the Aztecs finally subdued them in the 15th Century AD, woven cloth was one of the key tributes demanded. Not much of the ancient cloth has survived. However, wall murals and statues such the figure above give us an idea of their style and quality, and archaeologists have found women's tool kits for weaving. In addition to childcare and weaving responsibilities, women tended gardens, ground maize on stone trays called metates, cooked, and transported water.
Daily life in ancient Meso-america
the presence of pots, usually made from the local clay. A culture that must constantly, or even just periodically, be on the move rarely creates such pots because of weight and breakage. Instead, they specialize in woven containers that are lighter and sturdier. Once people have settled in one location, they can possess articles that may be more fragile and heavier. As the culture develops, the decoration of the pots becomes more elaborate, with painted designs and interesting shapes. Archaeologists often can place a new site in time, and show the geographical extent of a culture, by the pots they find.
tumpline". This is a strap attached to a heavy burden, which then extends over the top of the head, just back of the hairline. Tumplines have been used to carry heavy objects for thousands of years by cultures all over the world. In Mexico and the rest of Latin America, tumplines are still regularly used, particularly by indigenous people. In Mexico City of recent times, a man used to deliver pianos using a tumpline. On the pot above, the tumpline that extends from the side of the pot to the man's hands cleverly forms handles allowing the container to be easily moved. The pot-man's expression clearly conveys an anticipation of great effort.
manos and metates originated in the Neolithic Age, probably around 5000 BC. Items virtually identical to these can still be purchased at local hardware stores in my town. They are not tourist knick-knacks, but are functional tools for the kitchen. Manos and metates form a direct, unbroken connection between the Stone Age world and that of the present day.
jade, one of the most valuable commodities in the ancient world, roughly equivalent to diamonds today. Both jade and diamonds can be used either as personal adornments or as tools, and both are extremely hard and difficult to cut. A further similarity is that fierce wars have been fought to control their sources. The beautifully carved ancient jade that I have seen in the Amparo and elsewhere is especially impressive in that the ancient craftsmen would have had to find stone of even harder quality than the jade in order to do the work. The large blade is probably made of flint which, along with obsidian, was used for cutting tools and weapons such as knife blades, arrowheads, and axes. Both flint and obsidian (volcanic glass) are easily worked through a flaking process. Obsidian blades can be sharper than modern surgical tools.
An early form of printing
Music and Dance
Music in the Mesoamerican world served social, political, and religious purposes. The presence of conch trumpets in many areas far from either the Pacific or the Gulf Coast indicates both their popularity as wind instruments and the efficiency of the vast network of trade routes throughout Mesoamerica, stretching not only from coast to coast, but from the southwestern US to Honduras. Shell trumpets have been found in Western Mexico tombs of the Pre-Classic era (300 BC - 150 AD). In Teotihuacan, the shell trumpets were considered so sacred that the Templo de los Caracoles Emplumados (Temple of the Plumed Conch Shells) was dedicated to them. There, a mural shows a procession of jaguar-headed priests blowing conch shells as they dance. According to mythology about Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent creator god, he formed the first human beings out of bones from past eras. However, he could not access the bones until he blew the conch trumpet 4 times, once each for the 4 cardinal directions. He was assisted in creating the first conch trumpet by insects that drilled the blow holes for him.
ancient flute. Beginning in the Pre-Classic period (1200 BC - 300 BC) Mesoamerican people began to manufacture ceramic flutes as well as using wood. They even invented a wind instrument that did not require human breath to create sound. The "whistling vase" was partially filled with water. When moved in particular ways, the vase could produce whistling sounds that were attributed to magic.