face within the theatre/temple represents a god, probably associated with fertility. The large plaque hanging from his nose represents a butterfly, variously associated with renewal, transformation, fire, death and the military. The four circles on the headband above the face are chalchihuites ("precious things"), which were often used to represent drops of water, always precious in agricultural societies. The four square pieces hanging below the stage represent cloths used in a temple. Censers like this were manufactured at Teotihuacan in a State-owned factory in the North Palace of the Citadel next to the Pyramid of the Plumed Serpent. Clay molds were used to make the individual parts. These were then assembled in one of the very first uses of identical, interchangeable parts in a manufacturing process. To help fund Teotihuacán's theocratic government, the censers were sold both for domestic use and as trade items. This explains their presence in Zultépec-Tecoaque, an outpost established at the intersection of key routes to the Gulf Coast and southern Mexico. Theater censers are generally associated with the private altars of palaces and residential compounds, rather than with the altars found in temples and public plazas. They may have doubled as an altar in households of modest means which lacked one. The incense burned was usually copal, a sacred substance derived from the sap, or "blood", of the Torchwood tree. Smoke from copal was used for divinatory purposes, for preventive and therapeutic health care, and as an offering to the gods.
Teotihuacán depictions of the human face typically show it with long, narrow eyes set horizontally in a heart-shaped face with a slightly parted mouth. Archeologists believe that this uniformity of appearance was a strategy by the State to establish a sense of unity and common identity among a very diverse and cosmopolitan population.
Jade Goddess. The supremacy of the Great/Jade Goddess sets Teotihuacán apart, because the goddesses of other Mesoamerican civilizations are all subordinate to male deities.
The role of trade
Zapotecs from Oaxaca, Maya from Guatemala, people from Western Mexico's Teuchitlán Culture, and many from elsewhere. Zultépec-Tecoaque functioned as a last stop, before reaching the great metropolis. Heavily loaded caravans arrived from the Gulf Coast and southern Mexico bringing goods, immigrants, and new ideas, while other groups stopped on the way from Teotihuacán to points east and south. Zultépec-Tecoaque served as a place to rest, sort out goods, trade information about conditions on the route ahead and, no doubt, to socialize with other traders.
Tlaxcala's Palacio Gobierno, depicts Tlaxcaltecas from the Post-Classic period. Although that was several hundred years after Zultépec-Tecoaque was abandoned by the Teotihuacanos, the traders and their goods from earlier times would probably have looked pretty much the same. Since large animals capable of carrying burdens or pulling wheeled vehicles didn't arrive until the Spanish Conquest, all transport throughout ancient Mesoamerica was by humans, on foot. Even so, these expeditions were highly organized and those who led them held high status in their societies. Traders from Cacaxtla, of the Epi-Classic Era (650 AD-900 AD), had their own god. Those of the Post-Classic Aztec Empire (1250 AD-1521 AD) were called pochteca and had powerful guilds and special laws that protected them.
Shells, packed either as finished jewelry or raw materials, would have passed through Zultépec-Tecoaque from the Gulf Coast. The distance from the Gulf to Teotihuacán is about 300 km (approx. 200 mi). Jade was as highly valued by Mesoamericans as gold or diamonds were by Europeans. The main sources of jade were even farther than the Gulf. The jade mines along the Rio Motagua, in central Guatemala, lay more than 1000 km (650 mi) from Teotihuacán. Long distance traders favored these items not just because their scarcity made them valuable. Jade and shell jewelry are both light and compact, important considerations, given the long distances that had to be covered. The jade disks at the top, with the holes in their centers, are parts of ear spools. They were a form of personal decoration that was very popular among the elites of both sexes.
How an ear spool was worn. A hollow stone rod passes through both the disk and the ear. It is held in place by two beads, connected by a cord. Since all of these (except for the cord) were jade, a fairly heavy stone, this must have put a strain on the wearer's earlobe. I suppose modern people also wear uncomfortable items of personal decoration. What price beauty?
"Teotihuacán Thin-Orange". It sits on a tri-pod base that is also typical of Teotihuacán. Ceramics were a valuable trade item, in spite of their weight and fragility. Ceramics from Teotihuacán have been found throughout Mesoamerica, even as far away as the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. The great Empire's cultural influence was ubiquitous. The bottom pot is painted in an abstract style that is also characteristic of Teotihuacán.
specular hematite, an iron oxide flecked with mica that was highly favored by Teotihuacano artists. Notice the similarity in the color and painted design with the small pot in the previous photo. The larger pot is also decorated with a head wearing a typical Teotihuacán head dress.
Temples and Gods
recovered in Teotihuacán itself. Archeologists speculate that the models may have been used by ancient architects in the process of designing a full-scale building. Another possibility is that the models were used as altars. In fact, they may have been used for the second purpose after their original architectural function was done. In any case, this model does give us an idea of what the temples of this trading outpost may have looked like in the Classic Era.
in 2013, the remains of a temple to Huehueteotl was discovered at the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. Given all this, his appearance at this Teotihuacán trading outpost should be no surprise.
Teotihuacan's Citadel. This particular sculpture is a solid stone block, carved on all sides except the base. On its top is a rectangular cavity that was apparently used as a receptacle for human hearts cut from living sacrificial victims.
The Teotihuacán outpost of Zultépec-Tecoaque helped spread the Empire's trade, culture, and influence for 450 years, In 650 AD, the ruling elite of Teotihucán was overthrown and driven out during an internal uprising. This political decapitation of the Empire resulted in chaos. Warfare broke out between city-states such as Xochicalco, Cacaxtla, Cantona, and others. They were all scrambling to dominate the trade routes, now that the great Empire no longer controlled them. Along with this came a series of invasions from the north by fierce Chichimec nomads, long kept in check by Teotihuacán's military power. Since the Empire could no longer protect them, Zultépec-Tecoaque's population drifted away. Gradually, the dust and vegetation of the high desert overcame the ruins of their once bustling community. It would be 600 years before the site was again occupied, this time by the Acolhua, a hardy new people who founded their own trading outpost.
This completes Part 1 of my Zultépec-Tecoaque series. I hope you enjoyed it and, if so, you will leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below.
If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.
Hasta luego, Jim