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Article

Phil C. Weigand

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. ad 900–c. 1200), while the Narayit style is an earlier phenomenon, spanning the Middle and Late Pre-Classic periods (c. 1000 bcc. ad 250). Quantities of chemical turquoise found at Ixtlán del Río and in its vicinity indicate that the region played an important role in long-distance trade. The site is now a national park.

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....

Article

Izapa  

Julia Guernsey

Pre-Columbian site located in the foothills above the Pacific coastal plain in the Soconusco region of modern Chiapas, Mexico, which reached its apogee during the Late Preclassic period (300 BCE–c. 250 CE). The Late Preclassic period witnessed the florescence of a unique mode of artistic expression known as the “Izapan style,” which takes its name from the site of Izapa. The ruins of Izapa were first reported by José Coffin in 1935 in a letter to Ignacio Marquina (Marquina 1939, 40) who, along with other early scholars such as Carlos Culebro (1939), Matthew Stirling (1941, 1943), and Philip Drucker (1951), were drawn to the site and its impressive corpus of monuments. According to Matthew Stirling, who led the 1941 National Geographic–Smithsonian Institution expedition to Izapa, the impetus for the project came from the renowned artist and Olmec scholar Miguel Covarrubias, who had told Stirling of a site with many stone monuments near the city of Tapachula, Chiapas....

Article

Kabáh  

Jeremy A. Sabloff

Pre-Columbian Maya site c. 18 km south-east of Uxmal and 7 km north of Sayil in the Puuc region of the Northern Maya Lowlands in Yucatán, Mexico. It flourished during the Late Classic (c. ad 600–c. 900) and Early Post-Classic (c. ad 900–c. 1200) periods. Kabáh was one of the major Puuc sites that rose to prominence at a critical juncture in the development of Maya civilization, when the great Classic-period sites of the Southern Lowlands had collapsed and the cultural and demographic centre of lowland civilization shifted to the Northern Lowlands. Although it is clearly one of the largest Puuc sites, Kabáh is not as well known as other centres, due to its relative lack of large-scale archaeological research. The centre of Kabáh appears to cover c. 1 sq. km, with the east–west axis of the site marked by two large building complexes. The architecture conforms to the typical Puuc style, with an emphasis on decorated walls surmounting medial mouldings or cornices; repetitive stone-mosaic designs comprising stylized geometric or naturalistic patterns; stone-mosaic masks above doorways; decorated roof-combs; and carefully cut stone-veneer masonry. However, few of the buildings at Kabáh have been reconstructed. As at Sayil and ...

Article

David M. Jones

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya city within the limits of modern Guatemala City. It was a centre of religious, civic, and political power in the Middle to Late Pre-Classic (c. 1000 bcc. ad 250) and Classic (c. ad 250–c. 900) periods and is the largest known Highland Maya city. Occupation dates from the Middle Pre-Classic period (from c. 800 bc) to c. ad 1520. Alfred Maudslay surveyed the site around 1900, and excavations have been conducted by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, DC (1930s), directed by A. V. Kidder, J. D. Jennings, and E. M. Shook, and by Pennsylvania State University (1968), directed by W. T. Sanders and J. W. Michels. C. D. Cheek studied the architecture in the 1970s. Pottery and stone sculptures from the site are in the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología, Guatemala City.

In the Early Pre-Classic period (...

Article

Kotosh  

Yoshio Onuki

Pre-Columbian Andean site covering c. 1 ha, 5 km to the west of modern Huanuco, Peru, at an elevation of 1950 m above sea level. Its importance was first pointed out by Julio C. Tello in the 1930s. Between 1960 and 1966 Seiichi Izumi led intensive excavations on behalf of the University of Tokyo. A dense accumulation of building debris has been divided into six construction and occupation periods with distinct cultural characteristics: Mito, the Pre-Ceramic occupation, c. 2000 bc; Wairajirca, including the earliest pottery in the upper Huallaga Basin, c. 1800–c. 1200 bc; Kotosh, c. 1200–c. 1000 bc; Chavín, c. 1000–c. 500 bc; Sajarapatac, c. 500–c. end 1st century bc; and Higueras, c. beginning 1st century ad–600.

Among the most remarkable discoveries are the temple complexes constructed on the well-built, stone-faced platforms of the Mito period. The Temple of Crossed Hands, 9 m × 9 m in plan and 2 m high, has an entrance in the south wall, and large and small niches on the interior walls. Two pairs of crossed hands sculpted in mud plaster were found beneath small niches flanking the large central niche on the north interior wall. A round hearth was set into the centre of the floor, beneath which ran its two flues. All the interior surfaces were neatly coated with mud plaster of a creamy white colour. This was the first ceremonial public building of the Peruvian Pre-Ceramic period to have been subjected to large-scale stratigraphic excavation under strictly controlled conditions....

Article

Kimberly L. Jones

Archaeological site located within the Andean highlands near the town of San Pablo in the department of Cajamarca, Peru. Construction and occupation spanned from the Middle through Late Formative Periods (1200–250 bce). During the local Kuntur Wasi and Copa phases (800–250 bce), eight high-status individuals were buried within the site (Onuki 1998). These tombs provide important contexts for the analysis of Formative Period elite society, iconography, and ideology.

The monumental center comprised terraces built atop a highland peak known as La Copa. The terraces featured elevated platforms and sunken plazas, with stone walls, central staircases, and subfloor canals (Inokuchi 2008). Excavations revealed nine construction subphases. Through these phases, local ceramic styles reflected similarities with the Cajamarca basin, the north coast Cupisnique, and highland site of Chavín de Huántar (Onuki 1995; Inokuchi 1998).

Stone sculptures were generally executed in low relief on one or two faces, with a few monuments conveying carving in the round (Onuki ...

Article

Joan K. Lingen

Site of Pre-Columbian culture in Costa Rica, in the Línea Vieja sub-region of the Atlantic watershed of the eastern lowlands, 10 km west of Las Mercedes on the south-west bank of the Guacimo River. Archaeological remains indicate a multi-component site, but the most important occupation was the final phase, from c. ad 1000 to c. 1500, when it apparently served as a ceremonial centre and living site. It was apparently a smaller version of several similar sites investigated elsewhere in the region, such as Guayabo de Turrialba, Las Mercedes, Costa Rica Farm, and Anita Grande. Two radiocarbon dates, ad 1220±60 and ad 1360±60 place La Cabaña within the same time frame as these and other nearby sites. It is also the type site for the La Cabaña ceramic complex of the Atlantic Watershed Late period (c. ad 1000–c. 1500). The local and regional ceramics of this phase were undoubtedly related to those of an earlier period, in which modelling, appliqué techniques, incising, resist-decorating, and fine-line painting predominated. As well as common cylindrical- and annular-based bowls and jars, at La Cabaña there were ollas and long-legged ...

Article

Terence Grieder

Site of Pre-Columbian culture in the highlands of Ancash Department, Peru. It was occupied late in Pre-Ceramic period V (c. 4200–c. 2500 bc), Pre-Ceramic period VI (c. 2500–c. 1800 bc), and the Initial period (c. 1800–c. 900 bc; see South America, Pre-Columbian §III 1., (ii)). Its temples and tombs are dated between c. 2700 and c. 1700 bc. The site was excavated between 1976 and 1985 by Terence Grieder; the finds are in the Museo Nacional de Antropología y Arqueología, Lima. La Galgada’s Pre-Ceramic temples were subcircular chambers, each with a fire-pit in the centre and a bench running around the walls, which contained empty niches. The chambers were later converted to tombs by replacing their log roofs with stone vaults. The chambers were then buried, and new chambers built on top. A shaft was retained for access to burials in the tomb. The resulting mound was supported by a massive corbelled revetment wall. Sixteen intact burials provided cotton mantles, shawls, and bags worn by the site’s Pre-Ceramic inhabitants. Cloth was made by twining, looping, and linking. Bags made by looping were the main art form. These bear intricate two-colour designs of birds, snakes, and, more rarely, frontal views of anthropomorphic beings. Twenty-eight designs in five colours have been identified. After the introduction of the back-strap loom ...

Article

Peter W. Stahl

Island and adjacent mainland areas around the Gulf of Guayaquil in south coastal Ecuador, important in Pre-Columbian trade. The region was inhabited by the Punáes, who were possibly confederated with ethnically similar littoral groups into a Pre-Columbian league of merchants. A principal article of commerce was the shell of the venerated Pacific thorny oyster Spondylus (Quechua: mullu), traded for millennia over vast distances. Long-distance trade was conducted by means of ocean-going balsa rafts equipped with sails and oars and steered by centreboards. A possible form of Pre-Columbian currency consisting of small, thin, hammered copper sheets with flanged edges occurs throughout the area.

Political authority was held by seven caciques (leaders), including a paramount leader. The death of a cacique was honoured by interment in a large tomb with rich grave goods. The Punáes were never successfully incorporated into the Inca domain, which ended at a fortress on the mainland coast at Túmbes, approximately 77 km to the south-west. Early Spanish explorers describe the Punáes as able mariners, skilled ship builders, and fierce warriors, and Spanish descriptions of metal vessels and armaments attest to their skill as metalsmiths. Their weapons included bows and arrows, lances, clubs, slings, and metal axes. Documents of the colonial period describe the Punáes as fishermen and pilots for the Spanish port of Guayaquil....

Article

Phil C. Weigand

[Chicomoztoc; Tuitlán]

Pre-Columbian fortified citadel and ceremonial centre in the Malpaso Valley, Zacatecas, Mexico. Its occupation and first constructions were probably begun in the Late Classic period (c. ad 500–c. 900) and maintained and rebuilt throughout much of the Early Post-Classic period (c. ad 900–c. 1200). It was probably built by Central Highland Mesoamericans and West Mexican Chalchihuites or Caxcan peoples to defend the frontier against the Chichimecs, who were non-agricultural peoples beyond the northern limits of Mesoamerica. In its strategic frontier location it served both for defence and as an emporium for trade between northern regions and the Central Highlands. It is sometimes referred to as Chicomoztoc, the site of the legendary ‘seven caves’ from which originated the seven Aztec tribes. La Quemada was mentioned by Spanish explorers in 1535 and described, as Tuitlán, in a history of Nueva Galicia (1650) by Fray Antonio Tello, and by other chroniclers (e.g. by Menéndez in ...

Article

Warwick Bray

Pre-Columbian site on an island at the mouth of the Río Santiago, Department of Esmeraldas, on the far north coast of Ecuador close to Colombia. The region is famous for its clay figurines and for the wealth of tiny gold ornaments from destroyed or looted sites. Ecuadorean archaeologists assign these items to a Tolita culture or phase, though, for historical and political reasons, identical material from the Colombian side of the frontier is assigned to the Tumaco culture. La Tolita has a long history, beginning c. 400 bc. Excavations in 1984 showed that the figurines belong to a second period, dated c. 300 bcad 400. The later history of the site is obscure. Forest clearance at the beginning of the 20th century revealed some 40 artificial mounds of various sizes, the largest measuring 25 × 80 m. Some may have been burial mounds, others platforms for temples or residences. The construction of these mounds, known locally as ...

Article

Carolyn Tate

The premier Gulf Coast Olmec ritual and pilgrimage center of the Middle Formative period, which flourished from c. 1100–400 BCE. It carried on the artistic traditions established at the earlier site, San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, such as the carving of colossal heads, cave-niche thrones, and in-the-round seated figures, but also added a new form of monumental sculpture, the stela. However, it differed from San Lorenzo in important ways. Whereas most of the San Lorenzo monuments were carved from basalt from the Tuxtla mountains, La Venta used this basalt but also imported stone from as far away as the Pacific slope of Oaxaca and the El Chichon volcano in Chiapas, indicating a vast interaction sphere. Also, while caches of regalia and stone figurines have not been found at San Lorenzo, dozens of such caches, some large and complex, fill the plazas between Mounds C-1 and A-2 at La Venta. Furthermore, although four or five monuments were grouped in each of several “scenic displays” at San Lorenzo, at La Venta the entire site, measuring 1927 m north–south, was integrated as an artistic composition....

Article

Labná  

Jeremy A. Sabloff

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya culture c. 6 km east of Sayil in the Puuc region of the Northern Maya Lowlands in Yucatán, Mexico. Labná flourished during the Late Classic (c. ad 600–c. 900) and Early Post-Classic (c. ad 900–c. 1200) periods. It was one of the major Puuc sites that became prominent at a critical time when the great Classic-period sites of the Southern Lowlands collapsed and the cultural and demographic centre of Lowland Maya civilization shifted to the Northern Lowlands. Labná is situated on the level floor of a small valley. Although it has never been intensively surveyed, the site appears to be much smaller than the neighbouring centres of Sayil, Kabáh, and Uxmal. In addition, the civic plan is less ordered than that of other major Puuc sites, and Labná has been described as having a straggling appearance (Pollock, p. 10). The architecture is in the typical Puuc style, with an emphasis on walls decorated above medial mouldings or cornices; stone-mosaic masks over doorways; repetitive stone-mosaic patterns of stylized geometric or naturalistic designs; carefully cut stone veneer masonry; and decorated roof-combs. The most renowned buildings include the Palace, the Mirador, and the Arch or Portal Vault; the Palace is connected to the latter two by a north–south causeway running through the centre of an immense plaza....

Article

David C. Grove

Site of Pre-Columbian Olmec political and religious centre in the southern Gulf Coast of Mexico, c. 15 km south-west of the Tuxtla Mountains in a region of rolling foothills. It has received less scholarly attention than the other Olmec centres of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, La Venta, and Tres Zapotes. Excavations were carried out by Alfonso Medellín Zenil in 1960, and, though not fully published, the results demonstrate that the site was an important Olmec ceremonial centre. They also show that the Olmec period occupation was merely the earliest of many, and that the site’s nearly 100 mounds cover a timespan of approximately 1500 years. Exactly which mounds are attributable to the Olmec is therefore uncertain.

No major investigations have been carried out since Medellín Zenil’s; however, in 1978 the available data were summarized (see Bove), and, on the basis of Olmec ceramics from the 1960 excavations, it has been suggested that the initial Olmec occupation occurred in the Early Pre-Classic period (...

Article

Lamanai  

H. Stanley Loten

[Indian Church]

Site of extensive Pre-Columbian Maya settlement in northern Belize, on a low ridge on the west shore of the New River Lagoon at its northern end, where the lagoon drains northwards along a winding jungle river. It is a commanding location that has obvious strategic advantage for the control and exploitation of the river passage north to Chetumal Bay. Archaeological excavations, which have sampled approximately 10% of the structures mapped, indicate that the site was occupied continuously from the middle Pre-Classic period (c. 1000–c. 300 bc) until contact with the Spaniards in 1521. It was previously known as Indian Church, the name still applied to the general locality of the ancient ruins. A major archaeological project was conducted at Lamanai between 1974 and 1986 under the auspices of the Royal Ontario Museum, directed by David Pendergast of the museum and Stanley Loten of Carleton University, Ottawa.

The monumental ceremonial and élite precinct of Lamanai extends along slightly more than 1 km of the lagoon edge, and the site as a whole appears to be contained within an area of 4.5 sq. km on the higher ground along its shore. Within this area, 718 buildings were recorded, most of which appear to be élite ceremonial structures and residences. Test excavations by ...

Article

John Paddock

Site in Mexico, in the Valley of Oaxaca. It was a Pre-Columbian Zapotec settlement, and the modern name derives from the Zapotec terms for place (late) or flat area (lachi) and artificial mound (piteco). Lambityeco lies within the larger and older site of Yegüih: the community expanded into the Lambityeco area from c. ad 600, when it prospered with salt and pottery production, although its lands were poor. Lambityeco provides a picture of Zapotec life outside Monte Albán, probably in the 7th century ad. At this time artists were still anonymous, but interest in the genealogies of nobles had increased sharply. Tomb 6 has named portrait sculptures on its façade portraying ‘Lord 1 L’ (1 Earthquake) and ‘Lady 10 J’ (10 Reed?). Like most Zapotec tombs, this was a family tomb located under the house. A unique masonry altar was placed over it. The façade sculptures probably portray the principal occupant’s parents. Slightly larger than life, they were sculpted in mud and pebbles, with only a thin coating of stucco. Friezes at each side show another named pair, probably the grandparents; these figures, however, depict stylized old people, not portraits. Above these, another pair of friezes with plaster reliefs was almost entirely destroyed ...

Article

Muriel Porter-Weaver

Site of Mesoamerican Olmec culture in southern Puebla, Mexico. It flourished from the latter half (c. 1200 bc) of the Early Pre-Classic period (c. 2000–c. 1000 bc) to c. 800 bc in the early part of the Middle Pre-Classic period (c. 1000–c. 300 bc), yielding important grave goods. Las Bocas was strategically situated on the route of early travellers between the Gulf Coast region and the Mesoamerican Central Highlands. Archaeological remains comprise grave offerings. The importance of the site is twofold: it is a highland site relating to Tlatilco and Tlapacoya in the Basin of Mexico, to Chalcatzingo and Gualupita in the state of Morelos, and to the site of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán in the Olmec heartland on the southern Gulf Coast. Artefacts of the highland sites share some features of the Olmec style of the Gulf Coast region; examples from Las Bocas are particularly fine. Las Bocas has been repeatedly pillaged by grave robbers, and consequently most of the material from the site, whether in private collections or museums, has no recorded archaeological context. Excavations in the only remaining undisturbed area, directed by ...

Article

Ann Kendall

Pre-Columbian Inca citadel in Peru, 120 km north of Cuzco in the eastern Andes.

Machu Picchu citadel was built on a saddle between the peaks of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, 2743 m above sea-level in the Cordillera de Vilcabamba, probably late in the reign of Inca Pachacutec Yupanqui (reg 1438–71). Although there is no direct mention of the site by Spanish chroniclers, archival data suggest that it may have formed part of the Inca’s private estate of Quentemarca. The site was rediscovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. Clearing, research and restoration was carried out by Yale University expeditions in 1911, 1912 and 1915, and the first plan of the site was drawn by Albert Blumstead. Fifty-two burial caves were excavated by George Eaton and Elwood Erdis. Further restoration and excavation at the site, and at several smaller locations in the immediate vicinity, has been conducted under the direction of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura since the 1950s....

Article

Richard F. Townsend

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 ...

Article

Colin McEwan and Maria-Isabel Silva

Pre-Columbian culture that flourished on the Pacific coast of Ecuador c. ad 800–c. 1500. Manteño artisans were skilled in metalworking, especially copper, in textile-weaving, and in ceramics, but it was the late elaboration of free-standing stone sculpture that introduced a novel dimension to their artistic production.

Despite its limited repertory, Manteño sculpture stands as one of the rare pre-Inca stoneworking traditions in the northern Andes. Best known are the seats and stelae sculpted from monolithic blocks of stone of variable quality and thickness, according to the locally available raw materials. Several hundred examples, in varying states of repair, have been recovered from the abandoned ruins of major Manteño ceremonial and political centres such as Cerro Jaboncillo, Cerro de Hojas, and Agua Blanca, all in the south of Manabí Province. Both the type of stone used and the details of stylistic treatment differ from site to site, suggesting the existence of local schools of artisans. Almost invariably either a feline or a crouching male prisoner is depicted under the U-shaped arms of the seats. Although zoomorphic shamans’ stools of wood are widespread among the lowland tropical forest cultures of the New World, the Manteño seats also served to denote hierarchical ranking analogous to that of the Incas. The Spanish chronicler Guaman Poma de Ayala described how the type and size of seat awarded to an official in the political hierarchy was carefully graded according to his status. The stone stelae are engraved with images featuring the ‘heraldic woman’ motif and a reptilian ‘earth monster’, both of which were evidently integral elements of a seasonal fertility cult. Other forms found in the corpus of Manteño stone sculpture include free-standing human and zoomorphic figures in a rigidly constrained style reminiscent of Aztec monumental stone sculpture (...