[Navajo: ‘the ancient ones’]
Term applied to the prehistoric ‘Basketmakers’ (fl to c.
[Navajo: ‘the ancient ones’]
Term applied to the prehistoric ‘Basketmakers’ (fl to c.
[Sp.: “peg-and-socket joint”]
Construction method that enables an exact joint to be made between two pieces of wood, stone, or other material by means of a tenon or peg (espiga) on one piece fitted into a corresponding mortice or socket (caja) in the other. In Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica the caja-espiga joint was used particularly in sculpture, both freestanding and architectural. Its origins probably lie in Olmec sculpture, as represented in Monument 34 from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, the figure of a kneeling man carved in andesite (h. 790 mm, c. 1200–750
At Teotihuacan (fl.
Term applied to a type of roadway, avenue or processional path characteristic of urban sites and groupings of structures within sites in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. At Classic period (c.
Pre-Columbian Maya site in the south-western Maya Highlands of El Salvador, c. 120 km south-east of Kaminaljuyú. Set at an altitude of c. 700 m, Chalchuapa comprises four main architectural groups—El Trapiche, Casa Blanca, Pampe, and Tazumal—in addition to other areas of ancient remains covering a total area of c. 3 sq. km. Initial excavation and restoration of the Tazumal group was conducted by S. H. Boggs in 1950, and the entire site was investigated by Robert Sharer on behalf of the Chalchuapa Project of the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in 1966–70. The latter project documented sedentary occupation at Chalchuapa from c. 1200
Modern town, partially overlying a Pre-Columbian site in Ancash Department, Peru. Ancient Chavín de Huántar flourished between c. 1000
The importance of Chavín de Huántar was never entirely forgotten during the Spanish colonial period, and the ruins attracted 19th-century travellers, including Charles Wiener and Ernst W. Middendorf. The first systematic study of the ruins (from 1919) was carried out by the Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello, who by the early 1930s had conceptualized the Chavín culture as the fountainhead of central Andean civilization. ...
[Nahuatl: “snake wall”]
Wall decorated with serpent motifs built adjacent to temple pyramids in the Postclassic Period (c. 900–1521
Although he did not actually see it, Fray Diego Durán (1537–1588) seems to have described the Great Temple coatepantli from eye-witness accounts: “Its own private courtyard was surrounded by a great wall, built of large carved stones in the manner of serpents joined one to another … This wall was called Coatepantli, Snake Wall” (...
Region and culture of Mesoamerica that produced distinctive Pre-Columbian architecture, sculpture, pottery, and shell ornaments. From the Middle Preclassic Period (c. 1000–c. 300
Few Huastec buildings survive, and these only partially. Their most common characteristic is a circular floor plan. One of the oldest is in El Ebano in Tamaulipas; it may date from the Middle Preclassic Period and has a circular floor plan (diam. 57 m), on top of which is a sort of hemispherical cap, 3 m high. The area of the Tamuín River was the most densely populated, and among the best-known sites are Tamtok and Tamuín, both Late Classic (c. 600–c. 900
Site in Narayit state, Mexico. The term is also used for an associated regional style of pottery and figurines. The site has an architectural complex that dates largely from the Early Post-Classic period (c.
The Pre-Classic period ceramics, and group and architectural figurines, are found over a wide area of Nayarit and adjacent sections of the state of Jalisco, but the main production centre may have been in the vicinity of Ixtlán del Río. The figurines are truly ethnographic documents, nearly always polychrome and almost ‘baroque’ in the amount of detail used. This attention to detail provides a wealth of information on costume, ornamentation, personal artefacts, economic activities, and architecture. Some are clearly portraits, and again great attention is paid to such details as facial expressions and hand gestures. Warriors and group activity scenes are the best-known types. The group scenes often have architectural settings, ranging from individual houses on platforms to entire villages. One spectacular group scene in a modified Ixtlán style represents a ball-game in progress (Mexico City, Museo Diego Rivera de Anahuacalli); other scenes include festivals, processions, dances, and combat....
Site of a 16th-century rock-cut Aztec temple, c. 60 km south-east of Mexico City. The temple at Malinalco is an example of a widespread type of ritual building described in 16th-century ethno-historical texts and associated with the cult of the earth. Its monolithic inner chamber is the only excavated example to have survived intact. The temple forms part of a ritual and administrative centre built at the hilltop Matlazinca town of Malinalco after it had been incorporated into the Aztec empire. The buildings were begun in 1501, under the Aztec ruler Ahuizotl (reg 1486–1502), as extensions of the symbolic architectural system developed in Tenochtitlán; they are compactly arranged along an artificial terrace partly carved from the steeply sloping mountainside. The façade comprises two sections. Sculptured guardian figures flank the foot of a flight of 13 steps ascending the lower platform. Similar figures flank the front of the upper temple chamber; another figure forms part of the centre of the 3rd to 6th steps, in which the most important sculpture is a large relief carving of a serpent-like mask framing the chamber doorway. The carved mask functions as a hieroglyph for ...
Maya cave shrine in the Lowland Maya area, c. 30 km east of Poptún in Petén, Guatemala. Naj Tunich (Maya: ‘stone house’) lies at an elevation of 650 m along part of a spectacular upland karst zone (limestone terrain characterized by water-formed caverns) containing some of the longest caves in Central America. It was rediscovered in 1980, and archaeological work began in 1981. The 3 km of broad passages yielded a wealth of ancient remains including rock-cut architecture and artefacts of pottery, jade, shell, obsidian, and other materials. The major find, however, was a remarkable collection of Late Classic period (c.
For more than a thousand years in Mesomerica, during the Early Preclassic period (c. 2000–c. 1000 BCE) and later, simple huts served for domestic, communal, and religious purposes. During the Middle Preclassic period (c. 1000–c. 300 BCE) more lasting and elaborate structures began to be built, and in the Late Preclassic period (c. 300 BCE–c. 250 CE) most of the basic components of Mesoamerican monumental architecture were developed.
See also Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
Large-scale Mesoamerican buildings can be analyzed in terms of primary and complementary architectural elements, layout, and variation in form and function, although it is not always possible to determine the purposes for which specific buildings were used. While particular traits make some structures easy to identify, for example ballcourts, steam baths, monumental platforms, or tombs, determining the function of most other buildings is difficult. Thus the residential functions of range-type buildings, usually termed “palaces,” can be deduced, though only in a few regions, by the presence of large integrated masonry benches in the interiors of many rooms. Few other features, however, provide a clear distinction between the residential buildings of elites or of priestly orders, houses of a “monastic” nature or used for spiritual retreat, or houses for the education of the young, for servants, or other members of society. Sometimes a clear distinction cannot be made between a temple and a palace (e.g. the Hall of Columns at ...
America’s interest in Pre-Columbian culture began to take tangible form in the 19th century. American explorer John Lloyd Stephens (1805–52) and artist Frederick Catherwood journeyed to Chiapas and the Yucatán peninsula in 1839 to describe and document Mayan ruins. Their research was published in 1841 as Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and the Yucatan. An expanded two-volume version, Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan, was published in 1843 and contained over 120 woodcut illustrations, and provided the first pictorial views of ancient Mesoamerica.
The ancient sites of Mitla, Palenque, Izamal, Chichén Itzá and Uxmal were first photographed by French photographer and explorer (Claude-Joseph-)Désiré Charnay between 1858 and 1860. The resulting images were collected into a book published in 1863 entitled Cités et ruines américaines, which later included an essay by the influential French architect and theorist Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. Charnay made a second trip to the region from ...
Name applied variously to an area in the lowlands of Campeche, Mexico, a Pre-Columbian Maya site and a Maya architectural style of the Late Classic period (c.
The Río Bec style flourished between c.
Spanish term for a form of wall profile found throughout Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, comprising a vertical panel (tablero) resting on a slanting talus (talud). It is particularly associated with the type of pyramidal structure developed at Teotihuacan in the Basin of Mexico and characteristic of its culture (see fig.). Its origins are uncertain, but it occurs between 400 and 300
Pre-Columbian archaeological zone in the region of the headwaters of the River Magdalena, Cauca Department, Colombia. Dating evidence for the sites and artefacts is imprecise, although some of the burial architecture probably dates to c.
There are approximately 200 underground tombs, which served as family or community vaults, cut into the soft granodiorite rock. Each tomb is entered by either a straight or spiral stairway, sealed at the top by an earth-covered slab, leading to a circular or oval chamber with inset niches and a roof supported on free-standing square columns chiselled out of rock. Walls and ceilings were covered with a layer of white paint on which geometric patterns and stylized representations of lizards, frogs, serpents, large shield-shaped human faces, and full-length human figures were depicted in red, black, and yellow paint. Shaft tombs, often with side chambers, were also used. A painted underground chamber at ...
[Nahuatl: “skull rack”]
Structure used in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica to display the heads of sacrificed human victims or a stone platform carved with human skulls. Skull racks were usually placed near temples or ballcourts (see Ballcourt §1). Those displaying real skulls comprised a wooden framework supporting skulls skewered on horizontal poles run through holes drilled through the temples. Skull racks were described by Spanish conquistadors and missionary friars. Tzompantlis took a variety of forms and seem to have served several functions: altars and venues for ritual; displays of Aztec prowess; and structures to terrorize subjugated populations. Attempts to calculate the numbers of skulls on them include Diego Durán’s report of 80,000 and Andres de Tapía’s (a soldier with Cortés) 136,000.
The earliest known tzompantli was excavated by Charles Spencer at La Coyotera in Oaxaca, a Late Classic Period (c. 600–c. 900