I should also comment on the town's two names. Both Zultépec and Tecoaque are Nahuatl, the language of the Acolhua. They, along with the Méxica (Aztecs) and the Tlaxcalteca, were part of the great Chichimec invasion which followed the collapse of the Toltec Empire. Zultépec, which means "Hill of the Quails", was the name the Acolhua chose for their city. Tecoaque means "Place where they ate the lords or the gods". It was only after the Acolhua town was destroyed by the Spanish that its ruins were given that name. For the sake of simplicity, from here on I will just use the name Zultépec,
Tzompantli. There are also two small altars to the north and east of the Tzompantli. South of the Tzompantli is a large, square structure with a small, circular enclosure attached to its south side. That is the Temple of Tezcatlipoca. There are also two other plazas which we will look at in future postings. South of the Plaza Principal is the Plaza Superior Sur, which contains temples to Tlaloc, the Rain God, and Mictlantecuhtli, the God of Death. To the north of the Plaza Principal is the Plaza Inferior Norte, containing the Temple of Xiuhtecuhtli, the Fire God, and the elite council-house known as the Salón de los Nobles. Finally, in the map's northwest quadrant are two large residential complexes where most of the population once lived.
Temple of Ehecatl, the God of the Wind
both extremely important in pre-hispanic cosmology because the cyclical nature of their disappearances and reappearances represent renewal, regeneration, and fertility.
mask resembling a bird's beak, through which he blew the wind that cleared the way for rain. This wind also symbolized human breath which, along with blood, was one of the two essences of life. The God of Wind was associated with several other gods, most importantly with Quetzalcoatl, the famed Plumed Serpent. The relationship was so close that he is often called Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl. The Wind God played a key role in the creation of the 5th World (our current universe), when the sun refused to move. Ehecatl stepped in and blew strongly to set the sun on its course. Because the rain is preceded by, and moves with, the wind, the God of the Wind was also partnered with Tlaloc, the Rain God. Finally, as Ehuecatl-Quetzalcoatl, he was the lover of Mayahuel, the Goddess of Maguey.
decorative elements placed in a line along the cornices of pre-hispanic buildings. They were usually covered in stucco and painted in bright colors.
Mayahuel was a beautiful goddess who was hidden away in the clouds by her jealous grandmother, Tzitzímitl. Eventually, Mayahuel became very lonely and began to sing. Her alluring song attracted Ehecatl-Quezalcoatl, who helped her to escape. They made love in the sky and, in their passion, they fell to earth and became a maguey plant. Tzitzímitl discovered the plant when, angered by her granddaughter's escape, she followed the lovers. In her rage, she hacked the maguey to pieces, missing only one part, which Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl protected. His tears over the death of Mayahuel caused the maguey fragment to grow. The magnificent plant was found by the Acolhua people during their great migration from the north and it provided them with many useful products. The spines on the ends of its leaves became needles; the fibers were used for rope and sandals; and much of the plant was edible. Most importantly, they found that they could make pulque, an alcoholic drink, from the juice of the plant. Pulque was declared sacred and came to be used in many important ceremonies.
Temple of Tezcatlipoca, the Smoking Mirror God
jaguar, a powerful night hunter believed to be capable of moving freely between the world of the living and the dark underworld of the dead. Jaguars were also totems of royalty, power, and warfare, thus making Smoking Mirror a favorite of rulers. Thus those who worshipped Tezcatlipoca, by extension, worshipped their rulers.
Toxcatl, a ceremony held during the month of May, was the most important festival devoted to Smoking Mirror. During the previous May's ceremony, a handsome young man would be selected to impersonate Tezcatlipoca for the coming year. Usually, but not always, this was a captured enemy warrior. Over the following 12 months, he appeared as the god, dressed in finery and jade jewelry. People meeting him in the streets would worship him as if he really were Tezcatlipoca.
Tzompantlis date back to the Toltecs (900 AD-1150 AD). They were a highly militarized civilization that dominated most of Mesoamerica, until they too declined and fell. The end of the Toltec Empire opened the way for invasion by the Acolhua and other fierce Chichimec tribes. These newcomers viewed the remains of the Toltec civilization with awe. They readily adopted key aspects of the its culture, including militarism and public displays of the results of human sacrifice.
Méxica (Aztecs) arrived in Central Mexico about the same time as the Acolhua, and later became their close allies. In their capital of Tenochtitlán (Mexico City), the Méxica constructed an immense tzompantli platform and decorated it with carved stone skulls. Recently, archeologists digging around Tenochtitlán's Templo Mayor uncovered a huge "skull tower" made up of more than 650 actual human skulls mortared together in circles. Another tzompantli can be found at Chichen Itza, a great Maya city in Yucatan with a strong but mysterious connection with the Toltecs.
This completes Part 2 of my Zultépec-Tecoaque series. I hope you have enjoyed it and, if so, you will leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim