Plaza of the Porticos and Staircases
Ucaréo area near Zinapécuaro, Michoacan. Although a major source near Teotihuacán was much closer, very little came from there. This was probably because it had been pre-empted by Xochicalco's trading competitor Cacaxtla. Obsidian tools and weapons could easily be chipped from rough blocks called "cores". The finished products were remarkably sharp and, importantly, of relatively light weight. These qualities made the volcanic glass one of the most important trade items in Mesoamerica. A city-state which could dominate a major source of obsidian was somewhat equivalent to a modern state possessing large oil deposits.
Zapotecs of Monte Albán were especially popular.
coffee was not introduced into the Americas until 1720, 800 years after Xochicalco was abandoned. The city's craftsmen needed a regular supply of materials to produce goods for inter-city trade as well as the local market. Unfortunately, Xochicalco's natural resources were limited. This required the city's leaders to look elsewhere for many of the necessary materials. Sometimes, access could be gained through marriage alliances with other city-states. When this was not possible, conquest was often the next resort. This was how the city ended up dominating most of western Morelos and northern Guerrero. For example, the Taxco area was seized because it was the source of valuable green stones used to make jewelry. If neither marriage nor conquest were feasible, raw materials could sometimes be acquired from long-distance traders who brought in cotton from the Gulf Coast, obsidian cores from Ucaréo, and oxides of copper and iron from the Puebla area to make pigments for paint. As a last resort, desirable items could be purchased as finished products from visiting traders. However, this tended to be costly and Xochicalco's leaders preferred to manufacture trade items themselves because that was the route to wealth and power.
aligned 15 degrees clock-wise from true north. This was no accident or vagary of the terrain. Both Teotihuacán and Monte Albán share similar orientations. These alignments match the positioning of celestial bodies on particular days of the year.
Temple of the Three Stelae
Teotihuacán maintained a close connection with the Zapotec Kingdom. The refugees from Teotihuacán who built Xochicalco may have brought Zapotec architectural styles with them. Alternatively, Zapotec architects may have helped design the complex. Another unusual aspect of this structure has to do with the three stelae unearthed there in 1961.
The reassembled stelae tell the story of Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent god. The glyphs include his emergence from the jaws of a snake monster; his creation of the World of the 5th Sun (the age of humans) through sacrificing himself; his rebirth as the "morning star" Venus; and his gift of maiz (corn) to humans. Also included among the glyphs is the goggle-eyed face of Tlaloc, the rain god. Quetzalcoatl has many facets, one of them being Ehecatl, the god of wind. The wind god is linked with Tlaloc because the wind pushes the rain so that it will arrive to nourish the maiz. Various elements of the glyphs display features characteristic of Teotihuacán, Maya, and Zapotec styles, once again demonstrating the multi-cultural nature of Xochicalco.
This completes Part 3 of my Xochicalco series. I hope you found it as fascinating as I did. If so, please feel free to leave comments or questions in the Comments section below, or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim