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HomeSpecial EventsSecond Shanghai Archaeology Forum 2015
Teopancazco:a Multiethnic Neighborhood Center at Teotihuacan, Central Mexico
From:Chinese Archaeology  Writer:Linda R. Manzanilla  Date:2015-12-24
Few pre-industrial urban settlements were as planned and multiethnic as Teotihuacan in Central Mexico. A 20 km2 metropolis with a rigid urban grid, this city housed ca. 100,000 persons of diverse origins, and must have required an efficient organization on the neighborhood level to integrate everyone into the city’s life.

Groups from different regions (Oaxaca, Michoacan, Veracruz) settled primarily in the periphery of the metropolis in foreign enclaves, where archaeologists have found evidence of funerary rituals mirroring the migrants’ foreign practices; import wares from these foreign regions as well as local imitations; symbolic items such as stone slabs with glyphs, urns, and figurines; and the skeletons of individuals determined to be from other regions by oxygen isotopic analysis.

Nevertheless, around the core, my collaborators and I detected multiethnic neighborhood centers, such as Teopancazco (150-650 CE), where intermediate elites actively fostered the movement of sumptuary goods and the arrival of specialized workers from diverse homelands for a range of tasks. Some of these skilled craftsmen acquired status and perhaps economic power as a result of the dynamic competition among neighborhoods to display the mostlavish sumptuary goods, as well as to manufacture specific symbols of identity that distinguished one neighborhood from another, such as elaborate garments and headdresses. Cotton attire worn by the Teotihuacan elite may have been one of the goods that granted economic importance to Teopancazco, a compound that displayed strong ties to the Gulf Coast where cotton cloth was made. Other foreign goods that came to Teopancazco were pigments, cosmetics, slate, greenstone, travertine, foreign pottery, foreign fauna, cotton cloths, and specialized craftsmen.

Possible administrator's domestic quarters

In my interdisciplinary project “Teotihuacan. Elite and rulership,” I excavated extensively (during 13 field seasons: 1997-2005) most of the neighborhood center of Teopancazco, which is located in the southeastern sector of Teotihuacan. The aim was to locate different activity areas in each of the rooms, porticoes, and courtyards to determine functional sectors within the neighborhood center. We identified a ritual sector in the center (ritual courtyard, altar and main temple), the military quarters in the southwest, a possible administrative sector to the south, a garment-making area to the northeast, a medical facility also to the northeast, the living quarters for the administrator and his family to the north in one phase and to the southwest in the next phase, and an alignment of kitchens and storerooms in the northern periphery.

Distributional maps of pottery, lithics, ground stone, figurines, lapidary work, marine shells, bone instruments and other industries,ecofacts (pollen, botanical macrofossils, and fauna) and human remains were contrasted. Archaeometrical analyses on lapidary work, mica, slate, pigments, cosmetics, pottery and other materials were also done to determine the origin of foreign raw materials and objects. Through osteological standard analyses, paleopathology, activity markers, nutritional status, trace elements, stable and strontium isotopes, and ancient DNA, as well as facial approximation, a very complex set of roles, origins, and socioeconomic relations emerged. It appears that many foreign workers who had experienced nutritional stress in their infancy may have been attracted to such neighborhood centers for regular food provisioning.

Different activity markers, for example roughness and asymmetry in certain articulations and joints, have been recognized at Teopancazco:

-- 21.55% of individuals bore signs of having worked fibers with their frontal teeth. We suspect that they were involved in making nets, which are depicted in mural art at Teopancazco and may have been used to procure the 14 varieties of marine fish present at the site; net-making is also indicated by the presence of the bone shuttles used for net manufacture.

-- 7.75% displayed signs of having thrown nets or spears.

-- 6.89% showed signs of having sewed and/or painted for long periods of time. Significantly, two of the primary crafts practiced at Teopancazco were the production of garments and headdresses for the intermediate elite, as well as the painting of polychrome pottery and walls. Numerous examples of bone needles and pins, as well as paint-brush handles, were found in the garment making sector and to the north of the ritual plaza.

-- 15.51% had carried heavy loads. Foreign luxury goods at Teopancazco were abundant and included pyrites; greenstone; travertine and onyx; gray marble; Thin Orange pottery vessels from south-central Puebla; pottery from the Ocotelulco region in Tlaxcala; Granular Ware from Morelos-Guerrero; fine and Orange Lacquer wares from the Mixtequilla area in Veracruz; foreign metamorphic tempers; rhyolitic glass shards from the AltotongaRegion in Veracruz, used as an aggregate for stucco floors; pigments for painting one’s body and for pottery and mural painting (particularly cinnabar, galena, jarosite, and malachite); slate (from the state of Mexico and Morelos-Guerrero); mica from Oaxaca; 99 fish specimens, crabs, and a crocodile from Nautla in Veracruz; 665  marine shells belonging to 16 families of marine mollusks from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Ocean; cotton fibers and cloths, probably from Veracruz; and non-local flint. Any or all of these goods may have required heavy lifting.

-- Of these, 16 were found to have squatted for long periods. Perhaps they were also involved in some sort of craft production; two of them were found in the garment making sector together with needles and pins.

--Three cases of auditory exostoses caused by diving in cold waters were detected at Teopancazco, perhaps related to the diversity of marine shells found at the site.

Adult women buried in this neighborhood center accounted for only 15% of the sexed adults, of which five received special funerary treatment and were seemingly related to multiple tasks and crafts in the neighborhood center.

Two migrant adolescents (a male and a female) from ca. 340 CE were buried together in a funerary ritual reserved for elite individuals in Teotihuacan. They were seated in a pit (perhaps as funerary bundles), with their faces to the west; fire was lit inside the pit. Numerous miniature vessels with galena, cinnabar, jarosite, and hematite pigments, as well as resins and oils were found with them, together with mica discs and other geometric shapes, and orange lacquer negative-painted bowls from the Mixtequilla region of Veracruz. The diet of these individuals displayed a substantial marine component, though they came from the corridor leading tothe Gulf Coast rather than the coast itself.

Most of the paleopathologies detected in this multiethnic population were derived from nutritional stresses during childhood:

1. Porotic hyperostosis due to parasitism or anemia was present in 15.51%.

2. Nutritional stress in the form of cribra orbitalia was present in five individuals.

3. Seven individuals displayed scorbutic disease (scurvy) from a lack of vegetables and fruits containing Vitamin C in the diet; most of these adults also had porotic hyperostosis.

4. Enamel hypoplasia was present in seven decapitated individuals; the cause may have been lack of exposure to the sun, disease, or malnutrition during childhood.

5. Sixty-one of the 84 adults and juveniles had slight tooth decay; 18 more had moderate cavities, and five had severe problems.

6. One example of facial paralysis was found: a decapitated male 20–25 years of age, from lower altitudes.

It is significant that 29% of the individuals in our sample had suffered dietary stress during their child but managed to overcome it. The metropolis needed labor and presented itself as a land of opportunity and abundance. Nevertheless, some of these migrant workers were embedded in the neighborhood center, perhaps as fulltime craft workers who often spent long hours in a squatting position.

Teopancazco neighborhood
Three groups were present at Teopancazco: a local Basin of Mexico population, migrants from nearby regions (Puebla, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo), and migrants from farther away (Gulf Coast, Oaxaca, and Chiapas). Based on the strontium isotope analysis, we know that returnee migrants were also present. From stable isotope analyses, it would seem that people came from different altitudes --- mainlyfrom the Central Highlands, but some from lower altitudes, and a few from higher altitudes. Some individuals may have consumed a substantial portion of marine resources in their diet, since Teopancazco was regularly supplied with 14 varieties of marine fish, mainly from the coastal lagoons of Veracruz. Nevertheless, stable isotope research shows that the primary food of many of these workers was maize and maize-fed domestic animals (dogs and turkeys). The analysis of ancient DNA shows that all four Mesoamerican haplogroups (A, B, C, and D) were present at Teopancazco, constituting evidence that from the outset, this was a heterogeneous neighborhood center.

Twenty-nine decapitated individuals belonging to a single ceremonial event at the end of the Tlamimilolpa phase (ca. 350 CE), each with his decapitated head set in a crater and covered with a bowl or plate, represent a foreign practice at Teotihuacan (perhaps from Cerro de las Mesas, Veracruz). These individuals, mainly young adult males, came from different altitudes and sites in the corridor to the Gulf Coast, a few from the coastal region, and two were returnee migrants.

A large number of the individuals buried at Teopancazco were migrants. Many of them display activity markers that suggest they played important roles in the labor pool of this multiethnic neighborhood center. The garments manufactured at Teopancazco were the only ones at Teotihuacan that bore clear reference to the ocean, inasmuch as they included seashells attached to the cotton cloth, thus assuring the recognition of their wearers in the city.

This society capitalized on the knowledge, craftsmanship, and experience that foreigners brought to the city as part of the neighborhood intermediate elite caravan system to compete with other neighborhood centers in producing the finest crafts, the rarestraw materials, and the most diverse sumptuary goods. Some of these skilled craftspeople acquired status and perhaps economic power, given the dynamic competition among neighborhood centers to display the most exotic goods, as well as specific symbols of identity such as elaborate garments and headdresses. The cotton clothing that was worn by the Teotihuacan elite may have been among the goods that augmented the economic status of certain neighborhood centers, such as Teopancazco, with strong ties to the Gulf Coast.

The ruling elite of Teotihuacan controlled raw materials that came from afar: jadeite from the Motagua region in Honduras- Guatemala, and mica from the central valleys of Oaxaca, as seen in palatial structures such as Xalla, but the intermediate elites were highly active in providing a wide range of other sumptuary goods to Teotihuacan society.

Two different forms of organization (corporate and exclusionary) were on display in Teotihuacan society. The contrast between the corporate organization at the base (the apartment compounds) and at the top of Teotihuacan society (perhaps co-rulership), and the exclusionary organization of the neighborhoods headed by the competitive intermediate elite introduced the tensions that became exacerbated with time, setting the stage for the collapse.

The major ritual and administrative buildings along the Street of the Dead were set on fire in AD 550 and the sculptures inside palatial structures, such as Xalla, were shattered. No traces of foreign invasion are visible at the site. We interpret this event as a revolt against the ruling elite, perhaps a response to a late intervention on the part of the state to control the entrepreneurial movements of the intermediate elite. In this multiethnic setting, the exclusionary organization prevailed and became the hallmark of theensuing Epiclassic and Postclassic periods.

I am grateful to the participants in my project for their support and expertise, particularly Luis Adrian Alvarado for the osteological analysis; Peter Schaaf , Gabriela Solis, and Becket Lailson for the strontium isotope analysis; Pedro Morales, Isabel Casar, Edith Cienfuegos, and Jose Ramon Gallego for the stable isotope data; Brenda Alvarez and Rafael Montiel for the ancient DNA data; Lilia Escorcia and Fabio Barba for the facial approximation of five individuals.

The project has been funded by the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico. I thank the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) for the federal permit to perform this research.

Linda R. Manzanilla

Professor at the Institute for Anthropological Research, National Autonomous University of  Mexico. Author and/or editor of 22 books and 189 articles and chapters related to the emergence and change of early urban societies in Mesoamerica, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Andean Region. One subject that has been of her interest is the domestic life of the inhabitants of the first urban developments of archaic states, such as Teotihuacan, its government at the state and neighborhood level, as well as the detailed analysis of its multiethnic population and the movement of foreign raw materials and goods. She has excavated in Mexico (particularly at Teotihuacan and Cobá), Bolivia (Tiwanaku), Egypt (Ma’adi), Eastern Anatolia (Arslantepé) and Migdal (Israel). Professor Manzanilla is a recipient of numerous academic awards; among them are: Mexican National of Sciences Award for 1990; Alfonso Caso Award (INAH) in 1993, for the best research in Archeology, for interdisciplinary research on the activities and organization of three households in a multifamily apartment compound of Teotihuacan and in 2013, for the interdisciplinary research at the Teopancazco neighborhood center in Teotihuacan; Presidential Award of the Society for American Archaeology, March 1999; foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (2003); National University of Mexico Award (Premio UNAM) in Research in Social Sciences (2003). Foreign Member of the American Philosophical Society (2006) and member of El Colegio Nacional in Mexico (2007).

Linda R. Manzanilla (National Autonomous University of Mexico)

(Source: Research Center for World Archaeology, Shanghai Academy)

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