Internet Journal for Teotihuacan Archaeology and Iconography
ACTIVITY AREAS AND DOMESTIC CULT CONTEXTS IN OZTOYAHUALCO, TEOTIHUACAN
Edith Ortiz Díaz
Our knowledge about the prehispanic domestic life in Middle America is limited, this is especially apparent when we try to say something about the habitual behavior of the population, such as productive activities, food consumption, storage, and family rituals and cults carried out inside living quarters. Ritual activities can be detected and recognized through adequate excavation, registration and analysis. This paper concerns a residential compound in the Oztoyahualco sector of the northwest section of Teotihuacan (site 15B: N6W3; Millon 1973). Here, from 1985 to 1988, Linda Manzanilla carried out the "Antigua Ciudad de Teotihuacan. Primeras fases de desarrollo urbano" project, the objectives of which were detect, excavate, and analyze each room from the residential compound, searching for significant material associations or activity areas. This could be carried out through an effective field work methodology, and the participation of a multidisciplinary team that allowed us distinguish and interpret the different sectors excavated (Manzanilla 1993, 1996; Manzanilla and Barba 1990; Manzanilla et.al 1990).
Activity areas and domestic cult
The way that the archaeology attempts to say something about social processes is through material remains. We must bear in mind that all human activities, ideological or economic, involve spaces and objects that may or may not be delimited by building elements. In our example we will examine the places enclosed within the residential compound that are associated with ritual and cult activities. In order to understand these more clearly, we will focus on three different levels of the activity area concept:
1) The systemic context, in which the activity area is the space where people carry out corporal movement, intellectual processes, displacements, and transformations; all of which are conditioned by specific conduct patterns; 2) the archaeological context, in which the activity area is the space where where objects having a systemic relation were deposited; normally, the systemic context coincides with horizontal space; 3) where the activity area is the deposition zone which the archaeologist rationalize in order to explain the events occurring systemic and archaeological contexts (Ortiz Díaz 1992). Based on an extensive excavation with careful registry and detailed analysis of the evidence, it was found that these three levels were perfectly integrated in Oztoyahalco. On the basis of on these precedents, it's feasible to attempt an interpretation of the ritual and cult activity areas of the inhabitants of the Oztoyahualco residential compound in order to understand the space where these practices were carried out to establish contact with the supernatural forces. These practices have a guide ruled to protect the believer and materialize his claims by means of specific places and objects (idem). En español es: Las prácticas rituales están pautadas por una normatividad para proteger al creyente y para materializar sus peticiones a través de lugares y objetos específicos.
We must imagine that the space destined to be lived in was enclosed by a magic conception and inside the compound an intensive life style was carried out, reinforcing the family atmosphere, work habits religious beliefs and the sense and of belonging to the group. (López Austin 1989: 18). The areas which yielded most information about domestic cults were courtyards and burials.
It has been proposed that the residential compound in the area excavated were divided in three sections or households (Ortiz 1990; Ortiz and Barba 1993), each of them being occupied by a family, with each family unit containing specialized zone for food consumption, butchering, refuse, sleeping sectors, courtyards and burials (Fig. 1, left). Furthermore, these were areas where the entire family gathered to share activities, particularly those related to ritual (Manzanilla 1996:233). A place with these characteristics is Room C57, where a little altar or momoztli (Ortiz 1990; Manzanilla 1993:88) was found.
Courtyards carried out two functions: first, allow light to enter the unit and, second, to be the place for celebrating rituals. Small altars dedicated to the patrons deities were built in the courtyards (López Austin 1989:17). At Oztoyahualco " we could observe that all the indicators associated with the cult were located toward the eastern side of the residential compound..." (Manzanilla y Ortiz 1991).
As mentioned above, the residential compound has been divided into three family units. In the courtyard of the first one, Room C25 (Fig. 1), located at the southwest sector, we found part of a miniature temple, with talud and tablero, and the peg used to join it to another piece. An appliqué figurine from a three-pronged vessel representing the Fat God. (Fig. 2, right), similar to others found at Teotihuacan (Linné 1942: 167, fig. 305; Séjourné 1966a: figures 100, 101 and Caso (1966: figure b) was also found here. Faunal remains of rabbit and deer, as well as human bones fragments, which could come from burial pits looted in later times were also found.
The courtyard pertaining to the second familiar unit Room C41, which in turn was related to Room C57, is located toward the north (Fig. 1). In it were found remains of red geometric motifs painted on the walls. Although we did not discover ceramic or other visible material, chemical analysis of the floor detected remains of fire and ash, (Ortiz 1990; and Manzanilla 1993b).
Finally, in the courtyard of the third familiar unit, Room C33, located at the eastern side of the compound (Fig. 1), we found another miniature talud tablero temple with the sculpture of a small rabbit on it (Fig. 3, left photo). Also found here was vessel prong with what appears to be a mixture of a bat and monkey motif (Fig. 4, right; Ortiz Díaz 1993). The chemical analysis of the floor yielded high levels of phosphate, and the dark color indicates fire (Ortiz 1990).
Burials also offer evidence for ritual behavoir. They reflect familiar ties, diet, paleopathology, funerary costumes and the socioeconomic pattern of the compound. Death plays an important role within the prehispanic cosmovision, being clearly reflected in the dual nature of the life-death concept.
Eighteen burials were found at Oztoyahualco (Table 1), of which ata least one in each familiar unit had an important offering. There burials were excavated in the first family unit, the most important one being Burial 8 (N312 E284 C21), which was a closed pit that containing a 22 years old male and an offering consisting of 12 bowls, a pendant in form of rabbit, a puppet figurine, a jadeite bead and a theater type incense burner, with the Butterfly God incense, that was intentionally disassembled and placed the appliqués around the deceased in a funerary ritual (Manzanilla and Carreón 1991, 1993b). It is possible that this person may have been one of the most important ancestors of the whole residential compound (Fig. 5. left photo).
Inside the second familiar unit were founded three burials too and probably an offering in the room C18, because it is only a semicomplet female human jaw, a censer and a bone ornament. C18 was used to storage cult objects too. The principal burial of this unit was the burial 13 (N304 E276 C10), probably a male adult. He was sorrounded by 12 miniature bowls, two figurines, two obsidian blades, charcoal, two vessels, a hematite ball, and a "hand stone", probably related with the ballgame (Fig. 6, right). It is made in sedimentary stone a material foreigner in Teotihuacan. We have called this object hand stone, because it is very similar to the material from the Mexico Gulf Coast, and Borhegyi (1967) classified this kind of material in "hachas-palmas-yugos" complex (Ortiz Diaz 1992; 1993).
The third familiar apartment contained eleven burials, the majority of which were children. For Manzanilla (1996: 242) numbers 1 and 10 were the most important; I have added Burial 18 becauuse it is a closed pit oriented to the east of the compound which contains at least three infant skeletons associated with a dog bone, 2 rabbit bones, 2 slate fragments, a stucco polisher, and a silex fragment. The infants rested on a "handled cover" with a Tlaloc representation stamped (Fig. 7, left). The Tlaloc is interesting in that the plant that emerges from his mouth appears in other Tlaloc representations in muural painting and on ceramics. Armillas (1945) and Langley (1986)) identified the motif as the "water lily", relating it to the bifurcate tonguue of Tlaloc; authors like Pasztory (1974) and Von Winning (1987) say that this element is one of the Tlaloc's diagnostic attributes.
Mc Clung (1989:31) proposes that this water lily is really a plant named amamalacotl. its habitat being the banks of shallow lagoons (Cuemanco, D.F.; San Juan Teotihuacan or Barrio de Guadalupe in San Mateo Atenco, Estado de México). The appearance of the amamalacotl in other parts of Middle America is always related with Tlaloc, for example, on the Stela 2 of Xochicalco (Piña Chan 1977); the sculpture of Los Horcones, Chiapas (Navarrete 1976), and on the on the bowl of Las Colinas (Linné 1942).
When we compare our burial information with that from other compounds, we can find similarities, for example, with those of Bidasoa (Sánchez Alaniz 1989: 378-406) and San Antonio de las Palmas (Monzón 1989: 158-172). In Bidasoa 18 burials were excavated, 16 of which were infants. In San Antonio de las Palmas most were males.
C. Other objects related to the cult
All objects that have iconographic motifs or that were found within cult activity areas are considered here.
a) Figurines. At Oztoyahualco they have been grouped into five categories: puppet, portrait, idols, preclassics and postclassics. Portrait figurines are interesting given the possibility that individuals were being represented of the residential compound (Fig. 8, right). Very few puppet figurines were found, but both types described by Von Winning (1958:2) were found.
b) Candeleros. As in other residential compounds, a large sample was found, coming mostly from the southwest area, in rooms C18, C29, C32 and courtyards C33 and C25.
c) Censers. Their spatial distribution is most interesting in that their distribution tends to favor western sector of the compound, associated with Room C18 (cult storage room) and the Courtyard C25 of the first apartment unit.
Handled covers. The archaeological contexts of these objects appears to indicate
ritual usage; for example, there is the handled cover upon which Burial 18 rested;
and in Activity Area AA28, located at the western end of the residential compound
(C29), an infant vertebra, with two bowls and pieces of slate, was found on
a handled cover. A stamped motif (Fig. 9. left) which
has been interpreted as a "quincross" was found on this cover. Caso
(1967a:145, fig.2) interpretes it as the turquoise glyph, and relates it to
Tlaloc and the five directions of the Universe; Pasztory (1967: 136-137) suggests
that it means "water"; Langley (1986:279) also feels that it bears
a close relation to water; and Von Winning (1987), in agreement with the other
authors, says that the chalchihuite, and symbolizing water. On the other hand,
Séjourné (1956:89-94) proposes that it is related with fire symbols.
e) Tlaloc vessels. A vessel of this type was associated with Burial 4, Room C51 (Fig. 10. right). These vessels occur frrom the Tzacualli through Metepec phases (Müller 1978).
Half sphere. This dolomite object was found in Room C9 (Fig.
11, left). Prismatic obsidian blades and rabbit bones were associated with
it. It has the trilobulate sign that has been associated with the horizontal
cross section of the heart (Séjourné 1966b; Langley 1986). The
piece suggest that it fulfilled a ritual function.
g) Year sign and reptile eye gliph vase. This vessel was associated with Burial 4, at the north side of the compound (N322 E285 C51) belonging to the third familiar apartment. (Fig.12, right) The burial was in a secondary context. The iconography of the vase is interesting because the year sign has two rings. This characteristic has been interpreted by Von Winning (1987) and López Austin et.al. (1991) as being associates with cipactli, emphasizing that it could be Quetzalcoatl headdress.
Epilogue: A contextualization of the domestic cult in the Teotihuacan religion.
Teotihuacan was a huge urban settlement with a powerful religious sphere that influenced all the aspects of the ordinary life, something that is clearly reflected in our residential compound. López Austin (1989) suggests that an aquatic deity was the patron of the city. The Tlaloc representations and elements associated with this god can be detected throughout the city in ceramics, stone, painting, etc., appearing everywhere, from the principal buildings to modest family apartments. The Tlaloc cult is clearly evident at Oztoyahualco where we have the stamped handled covers, the "Tlaloc vase," jadeite bear, the infant burials, shell objects, etc. The domestic cults to the patrons of each residential compound are combined with the cult of the main god of the city (idem). At compounds such as Tetitla, Atetelco, and Yayahuala; jaguars, eagles, and coyotes are found together with Tlaloc representations, very likely indicating the lineage or patronage of these appartments. It is possible that the rabbit was the patron of Oztoyahualco because of the rabbit sculpture on the temple in Room C33; the rabbit bones associated with the half sphere from Room C9, and the rabbit pendant from the Burial 8 (which had the richest offering of all the burials).
I feel that the figurines, especially the portrait type, are related to family patrons;their purpose could have been to portrait lineage features, such as compound chiefs.
The presence of these cult elements, and the identification of the spaces ritual activities took place, has led us to propose ideas concerning how the domestic cults and their rituals were carried out in the everyday life of a Teotihuacan household. Nevertheless, it is indispensable to have more information concerning the residential compound in order to understand the complex world of the prehispanic society
I thank Linda Manzanilla the opportunity she gave me to participate in the "Antigua ciudad de Teotihuacan. Primeras fases de desarrollo urbano" project analizing the archaeological materials of the excavation and provided me some figures for this article. I also thank Paul Schmidt, that helped me with the translation of this article.
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