Citation
Shared symbolism in powerful places

Material Information

Title:
Shared symbolism in powerful places cosmological principles displayed through the ceremonial public architecture of the Teuchitlan tradition in the Tequila valleys of Jalisco, West Mexico
Creator:
DuVall, Shina
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
xxvvi, 483 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Public architecture -- Mexico -- Jalisco ( lcsh )
Architecture and cosmology -- Mexico -- Jalisco ( lcsh )
Architecture and cosmology ( fast )
Public architecture ( fast )
Mexico -- Jalisco ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 461-483).
General Note:
Department of Anthropology
Statement of Responsibility:
by Shina duVall.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
230742434 ( OCLC )
ocn230742434
Classification:
LD1193.L43 2007m D82 ( lcc )

Full Text
SHARED SYMBOLISM IN POWERFUL PLACES:
COSMOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES DISPLAYED THROUGH THE CEREMONIAL PUBLIC
ARCHITECTURE OF THE TEUCHITLAN TRADITION IN THE TEQUILA VALLEYS OF
JALISCO, WEST MEXICO
by
Shina duVall
B.A., Anthropology, Metropolitan State College of Denver, 1999
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Anthropology
2007


by Shina duVall
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Shina A. duVall
has been approved
by
XT'
Christopher S. Beekman
/t y
JJ
7 007
Date


duVall, Shina A. (M.A., Anthropology)
Shared Symbolism in Powerful Places:
Cosmological Principles Displayed Through the Ceremonial Public Architecture of the
Teuchitlan Tradition in the Tequila Valleys of Jalisco, West Mexico
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Christopher S. Beekman
ABSTRACT
This research examines two specific examples of public architecture associated with the Teuchitlan
Tradition, which dates to the Late Formative and Eady Classic periods in the modem state of Jalisco,
West Mexico. The public architecture researched includes circular compounds, called guachimontones,
and ballcourts. The widespread repetition of this public architecture across the region is remarkable -
with over 60 identified sites and over 200 examples of guachimontones that generally exhibit similar
characteristics regardless of whether they are located at larger, major sites or smaller, minor sites. This
research specifically considers the use of public architecture for the purposes of astronomical
observation, community ceremony, and as a conveyor of cosmological principles. Consequently,
drawing on theoretical elements from Symbolic Archaeology and Political Economy, it examines
systems of ideology and power, and how these systems are symbolically expressed through the form,
appearance, and function of public architecture. The research hypothesis is that the public architecture
of the Teuchitlan Tradition is tied to the ancient West Mexican worldview and cosmology and may have
been deliberately planned to physically represent or aid in the observation of celestial phenomena.
Alignment data was collected from multiple circles and ballcourts, and an analysis of the data was
conducted in order to identify patterning at the inter-site level. The results were then used to address 1)
the nature of the ideological and political relationships between major and minor centers; and 2)
whether the architecture demonstrates alignments toward astronomical phenomena. The results of the
analysis show repeated similarities in the overall orientation of the circles regardless of circle size, site
type, or the habitation zone in which they occur. These results lead to the suggestion that the
Teuchitlan Tradition settlement system resembles a segmentary state (Southall 1988), with shared
ideological connections, but relative political autonomy across sites. Although a direct connection to
event(s) of astronomical importance remains uncertain, the consistency in orientations across sites
most certainly served a specific purpose, and future research into this question would further contribute
to our understanding of the public architecture, as well as the social and political makeup of the
Teuchitlan Tradition.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its publication.
Signed:
Christopher S. Beekman


DEDICATION
This thesis is dedicated
To my best friend, my most steadfast and certain ally, and my heart: Guy P. Runco Jr. To you, it must seem
now as if Ive been pursuing this forever, but you have never wavered in your unconditional support and
encouragement; you never let me give up. I know that I would not have gotten to this point in my life if it were
not for the ease with which you've guided me through my perceived crises and the peace and genuine
happiness that you consistently bring into my life.
To my mom, Susan Wong, who struggled and sacrificed much to ensure that I would have an opportunity to
receive an education and to succeed. You are the incredible woman who has inspired me from the earliest
days to seek out a challenge; you taught me the value of hard work, perseverance, and follow-through. Youve
pushed me hard (I would say 'shoved,' at times), and I am a better person for it. The love and pride that I feel
when I think of you is immeasurable.
To my dad, Wayne duVall, whose kind spirit and gentle presence, is always perceptible to me. You have
supported me in this and many other endeavors and I could never express my gratitude to you enough. You
are so very important to me, and I love you dearly.
To Dr. Jonathan D. Kent, my professor, mentor, colleague, and friend (the order of which has shifted, after all
this time, with friend now being the first and most important). You will probably never know the impact that
you've had on my life and the lives of so many others. Muchisimas gracias.
There are so many other incredible individuals in my life that I have had the privilege of being inspired by. The
following brilliant, loving people are those to whom I look for wisdom and renewal: Marissa Knight, Sara
Hoerlein, Noemi Ipanaque-Jimenez, Summer OConnor, Jenny Lange, The Landis Family, Melissa Fernandez,
The entire extended Runco Family, especially Gina, Mike, Dontae, Kathie, Guy Sr., and Dorothy; The entire
extended DuVall Family, especially Violet, Christy, and Barb, The Taylor-West Family, The McDonald Family,
Debby and Gary Holmes, Jake Coats, The Ellis Family, The Carlin, Gagnon, Kanick, and Olson Families,
Revoluciones Art Collective, The Faculty and Students of the Departments Of Anthropology at UCDHSC and
MSCD, TURBO, Ja Lindberg, The Dracs and Clocks, South Sherman, Dorje, Dojo, Nobot, UNNET, Buddy
Jerome, Nicole Cacciavillano, Ron Lujan, Francisco Mayoral, The Twist N Shout Family, all of my former and
current colleagues and so many more...l am eternally grateful for your presence in my life.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Phil Weigand and the entire Proyecto Guachimonton
crew for their assistance and support of my research. My fieldwork was conducted under the Proyecto
Guachimonton permit, granted by the regional center of the Instituto Nacional de Arqueologia y Historia (INAH) and
would not have been possible otherwise. Dr. Weigand and the members of the Proyecto Guachimonton crew
provided me with a number of resources that aided in the collection of my data and completion of my research.
These resources included site maps, unpublished background information on the architectural features of the
numerous sites of the Teuchitlan Tradition, and access to restricted areas of the site of Guachimonton where
current excavations were being carried out during the time of this research so that I was able to collect my data.
Second, I would like to thank my Dreamteam, the members of which assisted me in all aspects of my research
before, during, and after the fieldwork. My advisor (and Team Captain), Dr. Chris Beekman first invited me to
explore the sites of the region and sparked my interest in the unique and intriguing guachimontones of Western
Mexico. In addition to supporting my research from beginning to end, continuously challenging me, and steadfastly
sticking by me (despite my various and extended furloughs), Dr. Beekman also spent a great deal of time with me in
the field (at times as my sole companion), assisting me with my baseline data collection. The other two members of
the Dreamteam, Kathy and Greg, also assisted me greatly in the process of data collection and most importantly,
kept me laughing, even at the emergency room.
Third, I would like to thank various faculty members, staff, and fellow students. There are so many individuals that
played a role in making my experience in graduate school all that it was inspiring, challenging, successful, and
rewarding. Although there are too many to name individually, I am so grateful to my fellow students, with whom I
shared engaging conversations and at times, seemingly torturous deadlines. In addition to my advisor, Dr. Chris
Beekman, I would like to specifically thank Dr. Tammy Stone, who was the first faculty member I met in the
department and who, from the get-go, provided me with straightforward direction and advice. In and out of the
classroom, Dr. Stone provided an atmosphere for critical thought and discussion. Next, I would like to thank Dr. Jim
Igoe in whose classes I found myself challenged and inspired by some of the best anthropological literature I have
ever read. Moreover, Dr. Igoe facilitated the most engaging forums for group discussion and participatory learning
activities that I have ever had the privilege of participating in. I would also like to express my appreciation to Connie
Turner, the departments Program Assistant. In addition to her infinite knowledge of the program and its
requirements, Connie and I shared many great conversations, and she offered me resolute encouragement.
Finally, I would like to thank my loved ones who have supported me unconditionally throughout my education. You
are truly loved.


CONTENTS
Figures........................................................................xi
Tables.......................................................................xxiii
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION..............................................................1
1.1 Chapter by Chapter Overview..............................................10
2. THE SETTING..............................................................13
2.1 Physical Environment.....................................................13
2.2 Seasons..................................................................16
2.3 Agriculture..............................................................18
2.4 Culture History..........................................................21
2.4.1 The Circles (Guachimontones).............................................27
2.4.2 The Ballcourts...........................................................32
3. THEORY...................................................................37
3.1 A History of Thought and Methods in Archaeoastronomy.....................37
3.2 Symbolic Archaeology.....................................................47
3.2.1 Symbolism in Mesoamerica.................................................48
3.2.2 Symbolism in the Teuchitlan Tradition....................................61
3.3 Political Economy........................................................70
3.3.1 Politics and Power in Mesoamerica........................................74
3.3.2 Politics and Power in the Teuchitlan Tradition...........................78
4. METHODOLOGY..............................................................95
4.1 Choice of sites..........................................................95
4.2 Field Methods............................................................97
4.2.1 Site-Specific Methodology...............................................113
4.2.2 Summary.................................................................139
4.3 Post-Field Methodology..................................................139
4.3.1 Field Data..............................................................139
4.3.2 Existing Map Data.......................................................140
IX


5. ANALYSIS.......................................................146
5.1 Polar Coordinate Graphs........................................146
5.2 Inferential Statistics.........................................150
5.3 Analysis of Potential Astronomical Alignments..................187
6. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION......................................216
6.1 Research Challenges and Lessons Learned........................231
6.2 Potential Directions for Future Research.......................234
APPENDICES
A: CIRCLE AND BALLCOURT DATA FIELD...............................237
B: CIRCLE AND BALLCOURT DATA MAPS................................241
C: MAPS OF SITES RECORDED FIELD..................................251
D: MAPS OF SITES RECORDED MAPS...................................303
E: POLAR COORDINATE GRAPHS FIELD.................................367
F: POLAR COORDINATE GRAPHS MAPS..................................401
G: RESULTS OF LSD POST-HOC TEST....................................439
REFERENCES..........................................................461
x


LIST OF FIGURES
Figure
1.1 Map of West Mexico..............................................................2
1.2 Map of the Teuchitlan Tradition Sites...........................................3
2.1 Circle 2 at Guachimonton Late May..............................................17
2.2 Circle 2 at Guachimonton mid- to late June.....................................17
2.3 Aerial Photograph of the Chinampa Blocks.......................................20
2.4 Ceramic Model. Village scene...................................................25
2.5 Ceramic Model of a Circular Ceremonial Center..................................25
2.6 Ceramic Model of a Teuchitlan Tradition Circle.................................26
2.7 Profile of an Idealized, Five-Element Guachimonton.............................28
2.8 The Hidden Geometry of the Guachimonton Architectural Complex......:..........29
2.9 Teuchitlan Tradition Architectural Proportionality............................30
2.10 Artist's reconstruction of the Teuchitlan Tradition site of Guachimonton.....31
2.11 Artists reconstruction of a Teuchitlan Tradition site.......................32
2.12 Comparison of Three Types of Ballcourts......................................34
2.13 Ceramic Model of a West Mexican Ballgame....................................34
3.1 Maya Quadripartite Glyphs......................................................54
3.2 Pecked-Cross Circles...........................................................56
3.3 Three Different Depictions of the Axis Mundi...................................57
3.4 Two Ceramic Models of West Mexican Pole Ceremonies.............................63
3.5 The Ehecatl Codex from Teuchitlan, Jalisco...................................65
3.6 Comparison Between Harinoso de Ocho and the Guachimonton.......................67
3.7 Circular Floorplan of the Huichol Tuki.........................................68
3.8 Astronomical Events/Alignments of Importance...................................93
XI


3.9 Position of the Sun During the Rainy and Dry Seasons.........................93
4.1 BruntonCompass..............................................................100
4.2 Positioned at Center of Looted Central Mound (Santa Rosalia)................104
4.3 Santa Quiteria Mesa Alta Complex............................................105
4.4 Huizache....................................................................106
4.5 Schematic Demonstrating Data Collection Methodology at Each Circle..........107
4.6 The Position of the Sun and its Path Along the Ecliptic Euring the Equinox as
Viewed from the Equator.................................................109
4.7 The Position of the Sun and its Path Along the Ecliptic During the Equinox as
Viewed from 20 North Latitude..........................................109
4.8 The Position of the Sun and its Path Along the Ecliptic During the Summer and
Winter Solstices as Viewed from the Equator.............................110
4.9 The Position of the Sun and its Path Along the Ecliptic During the Summer and
Winter Solstices as Viewed from 20 North Latitude.....................110
4.10 The Path of the Sun at the Summer/Winter Solstices and the Equinox.........111
4.11 Schematic Demonstrating Data Collection Methodology at Each Ballcourt......113
4.12 View of the Circle 2, Guachimonton.........................................115
4.13 JDP1 at Guachimonton.......................................................116
4.14 Guachimonton Circle 1 Central Mound........................................117
4.15 Facing Southwest From Atop Circle 1........................................118
4.16 June 21 Sunrise from Circle 1 .............................................120
4.17 View of Presa de la Vega and Surrounding Valley............................121
4.18 Taking Measurements at Circle C, Potrero de las Chivas.....................123
4.19 Remainder of Central Mound at La Noria.....................................125
4.20 Central Mound of Circle A at Ahualulco.....................................126
4.21 Taking Measurements at Circle 1, La Florida................................132
xii


4.22 Santa Quiteria Rancho Nuevo Complex Circle 1
133
4.23 Agave Cultivation at Santa Quiteria Mesa Alta...........................134
4.24 Central Mounds of guachimontones at Santa Quiteria Mesa Alta.............135
4.25 Blue-Green Obsidian Located Near the Site of Llano Grande................138
5.1 Map Showing the Habitation Zones of the Teuchitlan Core Area..............176
5.2 Ballcourt Lines of Sight recorded in the field and from existing maps....186
5.3 Orientations of the Main Axes of Ceremonial Centers......................188
5.4 Dallas Structure and Burial Orientation..................................189
C.1 Ahualulco Site Map........................................................252
C.2 Ahualulco Circle A........................................................253
C.3 Ahualulco Circle B........................................................254
C.4 Ahualulco Juego de Pelota 1...............................................255
C.5 Arroyo de Las Chivas Site Map.............................................256
C.6 Arroyo de Las Chivas Juego de Pelota 1....................................257
C.7 Estanzuela Circle 1.......................................................258
C.8 Guachimonton Site Map.....................................................259
C.9 Guachimonton Circle 1.....................................................260
C.10 Guachimonton Circle 2................................................261
C.11 Guachimonton Circle 3................................................262
C.12 Guachimonton Circle 4................................................263
C.13 Guachimonton Circle 5................................................264
C.14 Guachimonton Circle 6................................................265
C.15 Guachimonton Circle 8................................................266
C.16 Guachimonton Circle 10............................................. 267
C.17 Guachimonton Juego de Pelota 1...........................................268
XIII


C.18 Guachimonton Juego de Pelota 2...............................................269
C.19 La Florida Circle 1..........................................................270
C.20 La Florida Circle 2..........................................................271
C.21 La Noria Site Map............................................................272
C.22 La Noria Circle 1............................................................273
C.23 Las Navajas Site Map.........................................................274
C.24 Las Navajas Circle 1.....................................................275
C.25 Las Navajas Circle 3.....................................................276
C.26 Las Navajas Circle 5.....................................................277
C.27 Las Navajas Circle N6....................................................278
C.28 Las Navajas Circle 9.....................................................279
C.29 Las Navajas Juego de Pelota 1................................................280
C.30 Llano Grande Site Map........................................................281
C.31 Llano Grande Group 14........................................................282
C.32 Loma Alta Site Map...........................................................283
C.33 Loma Alta Circle A...........................................................284
C.34 Loma Alta Circle B...........................................................285
C.35 Loma Alta Circle C...........................................................286
C.36 Loma Alta Circle D...........................................................287
C.37 Loma Alta Elemento 1.........................................................288
C.38 Loma Alta Feature III........................................................289
C.39 Loma Alta Juego de Pelota 1.................................................290
C.40 Potrero de Las Chivas Circles B and C Site Map...............................291
C.41 Potrero de Las Chivas Circle B...............................................292
C.42 Potrero de Las Chivas Circle C...............................................293
XIV


C.43 Santa Quiteria Rancho Nuevo Site Map..........................................294
C.44 Santa Quiteria Rancho Nuevo Circle 1..........................................295
C.45 Santa Quiteria Rancho Nuevo Juego de Pelota 1.................................296
C.46 Santa Rosalia Site Map........................................................297
C.47 Santa Rosalia Circle A........................................................298
C.48 Santa Rosalia Circle B........................................................299
C.49 Santa Rosalia Circle C........................................................300
C.50 Santa Rosalia Circle E........................................................301
C. 51 Santa Rosalia Juego de Pelota 1..............................................302
D. 1 Ahualulco Site Map............................................................304
D.2 Ahualulco Circle C..............................................................305
D.3 Ahualulco Circle E..............................................................306
D.4 Arroyo de Las Chivas Site Map...................................................307
D.5 Arroyo de Las Chivas Circle A...................................................308
D.6 Arroyo de Las Chivas Circle B...................................................309
D.7 Arroyo de Los Lobos Circle A Site Map..........................................310
D.8 Arroyo de Los Lobos Circle A....................................................311
D.9 Arroyo de Los Lobos Circle B Site Map..........................................312
D.10 Arroyo de Los Lobos Circle B..................................................313
D.11 Bugambilias Site Map.........................................................314
D.12 Bugambilias Circle 1..........................................................315
D.13 Caldera de Los Lobos Circle D Site Map........................................316
D.14 Caldera de Los Lobos Circle D.................................................317
D.15 Caldera de Los Lobos Potrero Lobitos Site Map.................................318
D.16 Caldera de Los Lobos Potrero Lobitos..........................................319
xv


D.17 Campanillo Site Map..............................................................320
D.18 Campanillo Juego de Pelota 1.....................................................321
D.19 Cerro de Pipiole Site Map........................................................322
D.20 Cerro de Pipiole Circle A........................................................323
D.21 Cerro de Pipiole Juego De Pelota 1...............................................324
D.22 El Arenal Site Map...............................................................325
D.23 El Arenal Circle A...............................................................326
D.24 El Arenal Circle B...............................................................327
D.25 El Refugio Site Map..............................................................328
D.26 El Refugio Circle A..............................................................329
D.27 El Saucillo Site Map.............................................................330
D.28 El Saucillo Circle A.............................................................331
D.29 El Saucillo Circle B.............................................................332
D.30 El Saucillo Juego de Pelota 1 ...................................................333
D.31 Huitzilapa Cerro de Las Navajas Site Map.........................................334
D.32 Huitzilapa Cerro de Las Navajas Circle A.........................................335
D.33 Huitzilapa Cerro de Las Navajas Juego de Pelota 1................................336
D.34 Huitzilapa Southern Complex Site Map.............................................337
D.35 Huitzilapa Southern Complex Circle A.............................................338
D.36 Huitzilapa Southern Complex Circle B.............................................339
D.37 La Pena Site Map.................................................................340
D.38 La Pena Circle A.................................................................341
D.39 Laguna Colorada Site Map.........................................................342
D.40 Laguna Colorada Circle A.........................................................343
D.41 Laguna Colorada Circle B.........................................................344
XVI


D.42 Las Navajas Site Map..........................................................345
D.43 Las Navajas Circle 4..........................................................346
D.44 Las Navajas Site Map.........................................................347
D.45 Las Navajas Circle 2.........................................................348
D.46 Loma Alta (Cortacena) Site Map...............................................349
D.47 Loma Alta (Cortacena) Circle A...............................................350
D.48 Loma Alta (Cortacena) Juego de Pelota 1......................................351
D.49 Los Ceborucos Site Map.......................................................352
D.50 Los Ceborucos Circle B........................................................353
D.51 Potrero de Las Chivas Circle A Site Map.......................................354
D.52 Potrero de Las Chivas Circle A................................................355
D.53 Rio Salado Site Map.............................................!.............356
D.54 Rio Salado Circle A..........................................................357
D.55 Rio Salado Circle B..........................................................358
D.56 Rio Salado Circle C..........................................................359
D.57 Rio Salado Juego de Pelota 1.................................................360
D.58 Santa Quiteria Mesa Alta Site Map............................................361
D.59 Santa Quiteria Mesa Alta Circle A.............................................362
D.60 Santa Quiteria Mesa Alta Circle B.............................................363
D.61 Santa Quiteria Mesa Alta Juego de Pelota 1....................................364
D.62 Santa Quiteria Rancho Nuevo Site Map.........................................365
D. 63 Santa Quiteria Rancho Nuevo Circle 2.........................................366
E. 1 Platform centerpoint orientation measured in the field. Circles with four
platforms..................................................................368
xvii


E.2 Platform centerpoint orientation measured in the field. Circles with six
platforms......................................................................369
E.3 Platform centerpoint orientation measured in the field. Circles with eight
platforms.......................................................................370
E.4 Platform centerpoint orientation measured in the field. Circles with ten
platforms.......................................................................371
E.5 Platform centerpoint orientation measured in the field. Circles with twelve
platforms.......................................................................372
E.6 All platform centerpoint orientation measured in the field...........................373
E.7 Alley centerpoint orientation measured in the field. Circles with four platforms....374
E.8 Alley centerpoint orientation measured in the field. Circles with six platforms.....375
E.9 Alley centerpoint orientation measured in the field. Circles with eight platforms...376
E.10 Alley centerpoint orientation measured in the field. Circles with ten platforms.....377
E.11 Alley centerpoint orientation measured in the field. Circles with twelve
platforms.......................................................................378
E.12 All alley centerpoint orientation measured in the field.............................379
E.13 Platform centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with four
platforms at Type A and Type B sites............................................380
E.14 Platform centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with eight
platforms at Type A and Type B sites............................................381
E.15 Platform centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with ten
platforms at Type A and Type B sites............................................382
E.16 Platform centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with twelve
platforms at Type A and Type B sites............................................383
E.17 Platform centerpoint orientations measured in the field. All circles at Type A
and Type B sites................................................................384
E.18 Alley centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with four
platforms at Type A and Type B sites...........................................385
xviii


E.19 Alley centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with eight
platforms at Type A and Type B sites..............................................386
E.20 Alley centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with ten platforms
at Type A and Type B sites........................................................387
E.21 Alley centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with twelve
platforms at Type A and Type B sites..............................................388
E.22 Alley centerpoint orientations measured in the field. All circles at Type A and
Type B sites......................................................................389
E.23 Platform centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with four
platforms at Type C and Type D sites..............................................390
E.24 Platform centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with six
platforms at Type C and Type D sites..............................................391
E.25 Platform centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with eight
platforms at Type C and Type D sites..............................................392
E.26 Platform centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with ten
platforms at Type C and Type D sites..............................................393
E.27 Platform centerpoint orientations measured in the field. All circles at Type C
and Type D sites..................................................................394
E.28 Alley centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with four
platforms at Type C and Type D sites..............................................395
E.29 Alley centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with six platforms
at Type C and Type D sites........................................................396
E.30 Alley centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with eight
platforms at Type C and Type D sites..............................................397
E.31 Alley centerpoint orientations measured in the field. Circles with ten platforms
at Type C and Type D sites........................................................398
E.32 Alley centerpoint orientations measured in the field. All circles at Type C and
Type D sites.....................................................................399
XIX


E.33 Ballcourt orientations measured in the field.
400
F.1 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with four
platforms.....................................................................402
F.2 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with six
platforms.....................................................................403
F.3 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with eight
platforms...................................................................404
F.4 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with nine
platforms.....................................................................405
F.5 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with ten
platforms.....................................................................406
F.6 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with twelve
platforms.....................................................................407
F.7 All Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps.............................408
F.8 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with four platforms......409
F.9 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with six platforms.......410
F.10 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with eight
platforms.....................................................................411
F.11 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with nine
platforms.....................................................................412
F.12 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with ten platforms....413
F.13 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with twelve
platforms.....................................................................414
F.14 All Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps..............................415
F.15 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with four
platforms at Type A and Type B sites.........................................416
F.16 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with eight
platforms at Type A and Type B sites..........................................417
xx


F.17 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with ten
platforms at Type A and Type B sites...........................................418
F.18 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with twelve
platforms at Type A and Type B sites...........................................419
F.19 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. All circles at Type A
and Type B sites...............................................................420
F.20 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with four platforms
at Type A and Type B sites.....................................................421
F.21 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with eight
platforms at Type A and Type B sites...........................................422
F.22 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with ten platforms
at Type A and Type B sites.....................................................423
F.23 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with twelve
platforms at Type A and Type B sites...........................................424
F.24 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. All circles Type A and
Type B sites...................................................................425
F.25 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with four
platforms at Type C and Type D sites...........................................426
F.26 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with six
platforms at Type C and Type D sites...........................................427
F.27 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with eight
platforms at Type C and Type D sites...........................................428
F.28 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with ten
platforms at Type C and Type D sites...........................................429
F.29 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with twelve
platforms at Type C and Type D sites...........................................430
F.30 Platform centerpoint orientation measured from maps. All circles at Type C
and Type D sites...............................................................431
XXI


F.31 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with four platforms
at Type C and Type D sites......................................................432
F.32 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with six platforms
at Type C and Type D sites......................................................433
F.33 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with eight
platforms at Type C and Type D sites............................................434
F.34 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with ten platforms
at Type C and Type D sites......................................................435
F.35 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. Circles with twelve
platforms at Type C and Type D sites............................................436
F.36 Alley centerpoint orientation measured from maps. All circles at Type C and
Type D sites....................................................................437
F.37 Ballcourt orientation measured from maps.............................................438
xxii


LIST OF TABLES
Table
2.1 Chronology of greater Mesoamerica1................................................22
3.1 Teuchitlan core area sites and their rankings.....................................82
4.1 Sites, circles, and ballcourts measured in the field with corresponding map
source and date1............................................................103
4.2 All sites, circles, and ballcourts measured in the field and measured on paper
using available maps1.......................................................140
4.3 Example of the process for adjustment of magnetic declination...................144
5.1 Key for combining raw data into class intervals of five..........................147
5.2 T-test for independent samples run on circle size by platform number controlled
for site scale (two scales) circles measured in the field (parametric version).152
5.3 T-test for independent samples run on circle size by platform number controlled
for site scale (two scales) circles measured in the field (non-parametric
version).......................................................................153
5.4 T-test for independent samples run on circle size by platform number controlled
for site scale (two scales) circles measured from existing maps (parametric
version)....................................................................153
5.5 T-test for independent samples run on circle size by diameter controlled for site
scale (two scales) circles measured in the field (non-parametric version)......153
5.6 T-test for independent samples run on circle size by diameter controlled for site
scale (two scales) circles measured from existing maps (parametric
version)....................................................................154
5.7 One-way ANOVA run on circle size by platform number controlled for site scale
(four scales) circles measured in the field (parametric version)...............154
5.8 One-way ANOVA run on circle size by platform number controlled for site scale
(four scales) circles measured in the field (non-parametric version)........155
xxiii


5.9 One-way ANOVA run on circle size by platform number controlled for site scale
(four scales) circles measured from existing maps (parametric version).......155
5.10 One-Way ANOVA run on circle size by diameter controlled for site scale (four
scales) circles measured in the field (non-parametric version)...............156
5.11 One-Way ANOVA run on circle size by diameter controlled for site scale (four
scales) circles measured from existing maps (parametric version).............156
5.12 One-Way ANOVA run on circle size by platform number controlled for
habitation zone (1-8) circles measured in the field (non-parametric version).157
5.13 One-Way ANOVA run on circle size by platform number controlled for
habitation zone (1-8) circles measured from existing maps (parametric
version)....................................................................157
5.14 One-Way ANOVA run on circle size by diameter controlled for habitation zone
(1-8) circles measured in the field (non-parametric version).................158
5.15 One-Way ANOVA run on circle size by diameter controlled for habitation zone
(1-8) circles measured from existing maps (parametric version)..............158
5.16 T-Testfor independent samples run on platform and alley measurements
controlled for site scale (two scales) eight-platformed circles measured in
the field (non-parametric version)..........................................161
5.17 T-testfor independent samples run on platform and alley measurements
controlled for site scale (two scales) four-platformed circles measured in
the field (non-parametric version)..........................................162
5.18 T-testfor independent samples run on platform and alley measurements
controlled for site scale (two scales) eight-platformed circles measured
from existing maps (parametric version).....................................163
5.19 T-testfor independent samples run on platform and alley measurements
controlled for site scale (two scales) eight-platformed circles measured
from existing maps (non-parametric version).................................164
XXIV


5.20 T-test for independent samples run on platform and alley measurements
controlled for site scale (two scales) four-platformed circles measured from
existing maps (non-parametric version)..................................164
5.21 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for site
scale (four scales) eight-platformed circles measured in the field (non-
parametric version).....................................................165
5.22 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for site
scale (four scales) four-platformed circles measured in the field (non-
parametric version).....................................................166
5.23 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for site
scale (four scales) eight-platformed circles measured from existing maps
(parametric version)....................................................166
5.24 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for site
scale (four scales) eight-platformed circles measured from existing maps
(non-parametric version)................................................167
5.25 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for site
scale (four scales) four-platformed circles measured from existing maps
(non-parametric version)................................................168
5.26 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for
habitation zone (1-8) eight-platformed circles measured in the field (non-
parametric version).....................................................168
5.27 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for
habitation zone (1-8) four-platformed circles measured in the field (non-
parametric version).....................................................169
5.28 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for
habitation zone (1-8) eight-platformed circles measured from existing
maps (parametric version)...............................................169
5.29 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for
habitation zone (1-8) eight-platformed circles measured from existing
maps (non-parametric version)...........................................170
xxv


5.30 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for
habitation zone (1-8) four-platformed circles measured from existing maps
(non-parametric version)..................................................171
5.31 Summary of LSD post-hoc for one-way ANOVA on platform and alley
measurements, controlled for habitation zone (1-8) run on eight-platformed
circles measured from existing maps.......................................173
5.32 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for
circle size eight-platformed circles measured in the field (non-parametric
version)..................................................................179
5.33 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for
circle size four-platformed circles measured in the field (non-parametric
version)..................................................................180
5.34 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for
circle size eight-platformed circles measured from existing maps
(parametric version)......................................................180
5.35 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for
circle size eight-platformed circles measured from existing maps (non-
parametric version).......................................................181
5.36 One-Way ANOVA run on platform and alley measurements controlled for
circle size four-platformed circles measured from existing maps (non-
parametric version).......................................................182
5.37 T-Test for independent samples run on ballcourt angles controlled for site
scale (two scales) ballcourts measured in the field (non-parametric
version)..................................................................184
5.38 T-Test for independent samples run on ballcourt angles controlled for site
scale (two scales) ballcourts measured from existing maps (non-
parametric version).......................................................184
5.39 One-Way ANOVA run on ballcourt angles controlled for site scale (four scales)
ballcourts measured in the field (non-parametric version).................185
XXVI


5.40 One-Way ANOVA run on ballcourt angles controlled for site scale (four scales)
ballcourts measured from existing maps (non-parametric version)........:.....185
5.41 One-Way ANOVA run on ballcourt angles controlled for habitation zone (eight
zones) ballcourts measured in the field (non-parametric version).............185
5.42 One-Way ANOVA run on ballcourt angles controlled for habitation zone (eight
zones) ballcourts measured from existing maps (non-parametric version).......185
5.43 Summary of orientations toward events/alignments of astronomical importance
across all circles recorded in the field (using altitude data)...............210
A.1 Circle data collected in the field.................................................238
A. 2 Ballcourt data collected in the field............................................240
B. 1 Circle data collected from existing maps (raw)...................................242
B.2 Circle data collected from existing maps (adjusted for magnetic declination).......246
B.3 Ballcourt data collected from existing maps (raw)..................................249
B.4 Ballcourt data collected from existing maps (adjusted for magnetic declination)....250
G.1 Results of LSD post-hoc test for one-way ANOVA on platform and alley
measurements, controlled for habitation zone (eight zones) run on eight-
platformed circles measured from existing maps......................440
xxvii


1. INTRODUCTION
This research examines public architecture that occurs during the Late Formative and Early
Classic periods in the modern state of Jalisco, West Mexico (Figure 1.1). Specifically
considered is the use of public architecture for the purposes of astronomical observation,
community ceremony, and as a conveyor of cosmological principles. Consequently, it
examines systems of ideology and politics, and how these systems are symbolically
expressed through the form and appearance of public architecture and the types of activities
that are performed there. The architecture studied is associated with the Teuchitlan
Tradition, a West Mexican culture that is also recognized for sub-surface shaft tombs,
extraordinarily detailed ceramic sculpture, and three-dimensional ceramic dioramic models,
among other things. The public architecture of interest for this research includes circular
compounds, called guachimontones (also referred to as circles or guachis) and ballcourts.'
The sites of the Teuchitlan Tradition are generally positioned around the Volcan de Tequila
(Figure 1.2). Over 60 related sites have been identified and documented in this general core
area, and examples of the Teuchitlan Tradition public architecture the guachimontones
and/or ballcourts have been identified in the areas that now make up the seven modern
states surrounding Jalisco. The widespread repetition of the Teuchitlan Tradition public
architecture across the region is remarkable. While ballcourts do not occur at every site, they
are repeated consistently. However, across the known sites, there are over 200 examples of
the guachimonton architectural form, all of which generally exhibit the same characteristics.
The largest and most centrally-located site is that of Guachimonton, which consists of ten
known circles (guachimontones), two known ballcourts, an obsidian workshop, numerous
walls, terraces, burials, and several other features. It is the most extensively studied and
excavated site to date. There are approximately six to eight additional large sites in the
Teuchitlan Tradition core. These larger, administrative sites (referred to hereafter as major
sites) are generally central to areas of high habitation densities. The other sites of the
Tradition are smaller, locally important centers (referred to hereafter as minor sites) that
exhibit fewer examples of monumental public architecture and are volumetrically smaller.
1


Figure 1.1 Map of West Mexico.
Copyright 2004, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
2


Lakes High-density habitation CS area surrounding formal architecture site
' River Medium-density 'W habitation area
N Arroyo Low-density habitation area
uncertain habitation- area boundary
Contours in meters
10
Kilometers
Figure 1.2 Map of the Teuchitlan Tradition Sites
showing habitation densities (after Ohnersorgen and Varien 1996: Figure 2).
Copyright 1996, Cambridge University Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
3


The Teuchitlan Tradition and other cultures that have flourished in West Mexico have, in the
past, often been distinguished as separate from the cultural phenomena of greater
Mesoamerica. However, a broad shift in opinion regarding West Mexicos position within
Mesoamerica has occurred (Beekman 1996b; 1998b; 1999; 2003a; 2003b; Beekman and
Weigand, in press; Blanton and Feinman 1984; Carrasco 1990; Evans and Webster 2001;
Foster and Gorenstein 2000; Kirchoff 1943,1952; Kowalski 1999; Scarborough and Wilcox
1991; and others). Early research had previously defined West Mexico more by the cultural
material it supposedly lacked in comparison to the more well-known Mesoamerican centers
in the Valley of Mexico for example rather than by what it had. However, these early
definitions of West Mexico resulted from the dearth of archaeological research thus far
conducted in the region, and hence, a lack of knowledge of the cultural material it beheld.
Since originally defined, it has been demonstrated that across numerous social, ideological,
and political spheres, the archaeological record of West Mexico fits clearly within the greater
Mesoamerican context. Several have shown that West Mexico shares aspects of diet,
cosmological principles, sociopolitical structure, land use, topography, and likely more with
greater Mesoamerica. Indeed, with the amount of new research that has emerged from this
region in the past several decades, it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the original
distinction, as the archaeology has failed to indicate anything here that is so markedly
different from the rest of the pan-Mesoamerican region. The argument that West Mexico is
indeed part of the pan-Mesoamerican phenomenon is reiterated here, and further, it is argued
that the greater Mesoamerican context can be used to evaluate the cultural material of the
Teuchitlan Tradition in West Mexico.
This research aims to further examine the Teuchitlan Tradition public architecture in order to
understand its role in the cosmological vision of its builders, as well as the ideological and
sociopolitical systems that created it, and consequently, it creates. I am interested in the
symbolic, political, and functional purposes of the public architecture across the Teuchitlan
Tradition, and specifically regarding if and how it may have been built to reference
astronomical events. As such, an aspect of this research involves archaeoastronomy, which
is the study of the knowledge, interpretations, and practices of ancient cultures regarding
celestial objects or phenomena. The objective is to arrive at greater clarity about the ways in
which symbolism displayed through public architecture and the knowledge of environmental
phenomena namely astronomical were used to support ideological and/or political ideas
4


and possibly used to maintain community ceremonial practices related to agriculture or
subsistence and the cycles of the seasons. Considering strong pan-Mesoamerican evidence,
specific archaeological evidence within the Teuchitlan Tradition, regional ethnographic
evidence, as well as the physical nature of the region, this study into the extent to which the
people living during the Teuchitlan Tradition were symbolically expressing cosmological
themes and possibly observing celestial phenomena through the use of the architectural form
- how it was interpreted, used, and expressed can further contribute to the wider body of
anthropological knowledge about astronomy and cosmology, symbolism, ideology, and power
in a relatively lesser-studied area of ancient Mesoamerica.
There are few phenomena that can be considered as potent and influential toward the
maintenance of earthly affairs as astronomical events. The movements of celestial bodies
and the corresponding cycles of the seasons have significant impacts on community ritual
and cosmology, subsistence and agricultural practices, the observation of time, and the
documentation of histories and traditions all of which have a direct influence on the
structure and maintenance of religious belief and power relations. The cyclical activities
occurring overhead represent the permanent and the unknown, especially in antiquity. They
are out of human control, and truly out of our grasp. However, these cycles such as the
movements of the sun and stars the phases of the moon and Venus have an incredible
influence on earthly life. They demand our attention. An increased knowledge of the
patterns of celestial movements leads to a greater sense of control of our surroundings and
an increased ability to predict important events.
Archaeoastronomical research across the world and especially in the Americas has grown
considerably over the past several decades. The field has developed due in large part to an
improved balance between scientific rigor and the incorporation of cultural context.
Knowledge of ancient astronomies; what people knew about the events that were occurring
overhead, how they observed them, what events were particularly important to them, and
how they used their knowledge can offer insight into the past and aid in reevaluating present
perceptions.
Archaeoastronomy at the pan-Mesoamerican scale has been incredibly widespread and
diverse. Countless examples of the upward looking nature (Aveni 2003:164) of
Mesoamerican peoples have been explored in the literature. The lives of Mesoamerican
5


people depended upon watching of the sky. Without skywatchers the ethos of this people,
its distinguishing spirit, its own genius would not have developed (Leon-Portilia 1989:225).
Aveni (2003:163) presents five reasons that support the assertion that astronomy was an
essential aspect affecting daily life, and in particular city planning and site organization across
Mesoamerica:
1. Evidence from ethnohistoric texts and codices strongly implies the
existence of astronomically oriented structures.
2. Much Mesoamerican ceremonial architecture can be interpreted as
an ideological text that makes manifest in the work of people the
observed principles of cosmic, ancestral order to which they responded
by conducting rituals in the outdoor environment surrounding their
temples.
3. Alignment studies reveal a widespread pattern of systematically
deviated orientations. The confinement of alignments to particular
ranges of azimuths is well established all over Mesoamerica. There is
evidence that changes in the basic pattern of orientations through time
may have corresponded both to local sky conditions and to changes in
ideology.
4. Specialized assemblages of buildings, some oddly shaped and
radically skewed from the prevailing grid, often can be explained by
resorting to astronomical principles.
5. Finally, there must be an underlying basis for the precise calendars
that appear in almanacs in the codices and dates in...monumental
sculpture. Astronomical alignments offer a rational, concrete basis for
documenting these calendars at an early time.
Architecture of all forms public and domestic, monumental and residential is often built to
express ideas that extend beyond simple utilitarian function (e.g., shelter). Monumental,
public architecture in this region of West Mexico and across Mesoamerica incorporates its
builders impressions and notions about the environment that surrounds it (Ashmore 1989,
1991; Aveni 1992, 2001; Beekman 2003a, 2003b; Broda 2000; Carrasco 1990; Cohodas
1975; Crumley 1999; Curet 1996; Freidel, Scheie, and Parker 1993; Houston and Stuart
1996; Joyce 2000; Koontz, Reese-Taylor, and Headrick 2001; Kowalski 1999; Kubler 1990;
Malmstrom 1978; Mathews and Garber 2004; Schaefer and Furst 1996; Scheie 1977; Scheie
and Mathews 1998; Sprajc 2001,2005; Sugiyama 1993; Tichy 1981; Townsend 1998;
Witmore 1998). The connotations conveyed through architecture in Mesoamerica, whether
subtle or obvious, intentionally or unintentionally incorporated, may speak to critical issues of
subsistence and agricultural practices, seasonal change, origin myths, religious practice, or
sociopolitical hierarchies such as those based on age or gender or those based on
widespread regional interaction. Architecture especially monumental structures and/or
6


public space is connected to and indicative of the world around it. Understanding its
meaning and what it was intended to communicate requires an understanding of the
environmental, social, and political context in which it is set.
Considering this, the use of public architecture as a means to observe and celebrate
astronomical phenomena has important implications for both ideological and sociopolitical
power. These structures serve as a commanding means to transmit critical social and
political concepts. In antiquity, astronomical knowledge was one of the most potent tools
toward the management of meaning, the control of ritual and subsistence activities, and
therefore, the establishment of power. If seasonal activities occurring at public buildings are
managed or manipulated appropriately incorporating visual spectacles, as well as specific
sounds, smells, and movements a desired atmosphere, message, and experience is
created for the participants and the successful management of this experience reifies social
and political power (Coben and Inomata 2006; Houston 2006; Inomata 2006; Inomata and
Coben 2006; Rappaport 1969, 1971a).
Two public architectural components of the Teuchitlan Tradition the guachimontones and
the ballcourts were chosen as the primary subjects of this research due to the prominent
role that they played in Teuchitlan Tradition society. Other objects in the archaeological
record, such as fineware and domestic ceramics, tools, elite goods, burial offerings, etc. also
convey messages about a groups social, political, and religious systems. However, large-
scale public architecture was chosen as the focus for this research due to its central role as a
stage for community activities, its special role in public ceremony, festivity, and ritual, and
because it is highly visible and conspicuous for all members of society as well as visitors.
Sugiyama (1993) argues that builders are more likely to be intentional and explicit about
symbolic and cosmological themes in monumental public architecture than in smaller,
residential structures, primarily because construction of the latter may necessarily involve
other factors that relate to their utility as private domestic structures.
Limited research has been conducted on the role of astronomy and cosmology within the
Teuchitlan Tradition of West Mexico (Aveni personal communication to Weigand 1979, cited
in Weigand 1991:83; Beekman 2003a, 2003b; Weigand 1991; Witmore 1998). However,
there are several reasons to believe that these circular architectural complexes were
constructed using cosmological principles, and may have been used in the observation of
7


astronomical events. These reasons include the overall form of the Teuchitlan Tradition
public architecture, the types of community ceremonies and activities that are believed to
have been performed within them, as well as the pan-Mesoamerican and regional
archaeological and ethnographic evidence of public architecture being constructed with
suggestions of cosmological principles and being used to mark events/alignments of
astronomical importance.
Specific research questions are as follows.
1. Did large, major centers establish regional political identities or were smaller,
minor communities able to maintain their own political and ideological
interpretations and uses of the guachimontones or the ballcourts?
2. Was the Teuchitlan Tradition public architecture in the Tequila Valleys built to
incorporate external elements of the visual environment, specifically
astronomical phenomena?
3. Did people across the Tequila Valleys share an ideological and/or political
connection that can be seen through a similar orientation of their public
architecture?
4. Did people across the Tequila Valleys share a functional role for their public
architecture (e.g., for seasonal ceremonial practices, calendrical scheduling,
astronomical observation, etc.)?
The research hypothesis is that the ballcourts and the circular guachimonton architectural
complexes are tied to ancient West Mexican worldview and cosmology and may have been,
as is much of the architecture across Mesoamerica, deliberately planned to physically
represent or aid in the observation of celestial phenomena for the purpose of calendrical,
agricultural, and/or ceremonial activities. Drawing on theoretical elements from Symbolic
Archaeology and Political Economy, I explore whether elites at different levels across the
region either perpetuated the meaning and symbolism ascribed to the guachimontones by the
core elites at the major centers, or alternatively, appropriated their form and ascribed local
meaning and symbolism to them.
This research requires a methodology that draws from multiple sources at multiple scales
because cosmology, ideology, sociopolitical systems, and public ritual are intricately tied
8


concepts. Arriving at answers to the first two research questions above involved data
collection at multiple circles across the region and an analysis of inter-site alignments. If the
alignments of the guachimontones or ballcourts are able to suggest something about the
ideological or political connections between major and minor sites, or if they were deliberately
planned to physically represent or aid in the observation of celestial phenomena for the
purpose of calendrical, and/or communal ceremonial activities, one would expect to observe
patterning at the inter-site level. The uniformity of the architectural form of these complexes
across the region in which they occur is clear. Specific alignments, however that
demonstrate a relationship between different sites and/or to the observation of specific
astronomical events have yet to be systematically evaluated on an inter-site level (Witmore
1998). Alignment data were collected from a total of 65 circles and 18 ballcourts in the field
or from existing maps. Statistical analysis was conducted on these data to address 1) the
relationship between major and minor centers; and 2) whether the alignment data
demonstrate alignments toward astronomical phenomena of known importance in the region.
Addressing the last two questions involved an examination of ideological and sociopolitical
contexts gathered from pan-Mesoamerican, regional archaeological and ethnographic
evidence, with specific consideration of public, ceremonial architecture. This provides the
support for the interpretation of the significance, the ideological or political meaning, as well
as the potential functional purpose of any observed alignments in Teuchitlan Tradition public
architecture. Accordingly, this research combined the alignment data collected at several
Teuchitlan Tradition sites (both in the field and from existing maps), the archaeological and
ethnographic context within which the sites are set, and theoretical considerations from
Symbolic Archaeology and Political Economy to arrive at a greater understanding of inter-
and intrapolity relationships. In addition to determining if there are similar alignments at the
inter- and intrasite level and if the Teuchitlan Tradition public architecture displays consistent
orientations toward the above events/alignments, the greater aim of this research is to
address how politics and/or ideology may have played a role in the repetition of these
complexes across the region; if larger, major sites differed from smaller, minor centers; if
there is general spatial variation across the sites; and what interpretations can be made
regarding the relationships between and amongst sites of differing levels across the Tradition.
Upon conclusion, I found that similarities in the overall orientation of the circles are repeated
regardless of the site at which they occur, or the habitation zone in which they are located.
9


Further, circles of all different sizes also share orientations. The data available do not
demonstrate that the ballcourts share consistent alignments and it is concluded that either the
ballcourts of the Teuchitlan Tradition are not oriented similarly or that a larger sample size
would be required to arrive at conclusions about their overall intersite alignments. I also
found that while some alignments of astronomical importance seem to recur across circles at
different sites, additional data collection would be necessary to more confidently assert that
alignments to astronomical events were deliberately built into the circles or ballcourts of the
Tradition.
The finding of shared orientations across the circles, regardless of circle size, the scale of the
site, or habitation zone at which they occur, has important implications for the political and
ideological relationships across the sites of the Teuchitlan Tradition. It is suggested here that
the Teuchitlan Tradition settlement system resembles something like the segmentary state
model first presented by Southall (1988), in which there is a shared ideological connection,
but possibly a level of relative political autonomy and the maintenance of a strong local
identity that persists across sites. The Teuchitlan Tradition settlement system is possibly
best described as two intertwined, and potentially antithetical, process...the creation and
maintenance of a regional political identity, and the simultaneous persistence of local
community identities (Barber and Joyce 2007). The data do not suggest that major sites
maintained a monopoly over the orientation of the circles and the meaning and practices that
are associated with it. Rather, the orientations of circles are shared across a variety of site
levels. The shared orientations also suggest that the circles shared similar functions or uses.
Although a direct connection to one or more events of astronomical importance cannot be
demonstrated via these data, the consistency in orientations across sites most certainly
served a specific purpose, and future research into this question would further contribute to
our understanding of the public architecture, as well as the social and political makeup of the
Teuchitlan Tradition.
1.1 Chapter by Chapter Overview
The setting chapter introduces project area. The terrain and physical conditions of the
surrounding environment are discussed, including a discussion of the differing seasonal
conditions and the subsistence/agricultural characteristics of the region. These specific
environmental conditions are introduced because of their close relationship to astronomy,
10


community ritual, and political authority. In addition to the environmental conditions, this
chapter explores the cultural historical setting of West Mexico and the Tequila Valleys, where
the Teuchitlan Tradition flourished, including a discussion of the known archaeological record
and chronology of the Tradition.
The theory chapter first provides an introduction to the field of archaeoastronomy. It explores
the early history of the field: its pioneers and its growing pains. Since the study of ancient
astronomies is a relatively young topic, archaeoastronomy has only recently carved out its
own niche in the scientific community. A great deal of debate has surrounded the various
theoretical and methodological approaches taken by its practitioners. These issues are
explored with the intention of introducing the potential obstacles one may encounter when
conducting research in archaeoastronomy.
The theory chapter then discusses Symbolic Archaeology and Political Economy used in
combination as the theoretical approach for this research. The specific tenets of each school
are introduced, followed by a specific discussion into how symbolism, politics, and power are
expressed through the public architecture of the Teuchitlan Tradition.
The methodology chapter introduces the approach taken for this project. It introduces the
pre-field planning, equipment chosen for data collection, how sites were chosen, and how the
data were collected in the field. This is followed by a specific discussion into each site that
was visited and each circle and ballcourt that was recorded; the specific conditions and
challenges that were encountered at each. Also referenced here are tables and graphics that
demonstrate the characteristics of each site, circle, and ballcourt. Chapter four then
addresses how data were collected from existing published and unpublished maps of
sites/circles of the Teuchitlan Tradition. Some sites previously mapped, for a variety of
reasons, were not accessible in the field. However, useful data were obtained from the maps
that were produced for these sites. The field data and map data are used in concert with one
another to provide a larger picture of the Teuchitlan Tradition sites with which to work.
The analysis chapter provides a discussion of how the field and map data were processed
and analyzed and the results of the analysis. It describes the polar coordinate graphs that
were created to visually demonstrate patterning among the alignment data collected in the
field and from maps. This is followed by a detailed discussion of how the alignment data was
11


evaluated against the first research question using tests of inferential statistics, including t-
tests for independent samples and one-way ANOVA analyses. These tests were run on both
the circle and ballcourt data collected in the field and from existing maps. The process for
addressing the second research question, regarding whether the Teuchitlan Tradition public
architecture was built to incorporate astronomical phenomena, is then described in detail.
The discussion and conclusion chapter reviews each of the research questions, summarizes
the results of the analysis presented in the previous chapter, and ties together the theoretical
entry-points previously presented with the field and laboratory data. This chapter also
outlines the challenges or unanticipated obstacles that were encountered during the research
and analysis process, as well as suggestions for future research directions.
The discussion and conclusion chapter is followed by Appendices and References.
12


2. THE SETTING
The following section introduces the physical and cultural-historical setting within which the
Teuchitlan Tradition sites reside. It includes a brief discussion of the physical environment,
the seasons, and the agricultural landscape of the area. This is followed by an introduction to
the cultural-historical context of the area. This introduction is provided with the intention of
providing a context within which to consider the possible meanings and uses of public
architecture within the Teuchitlan Tradition. As is shown in Chapter 3, public architecture -
especially that which is designed for the purpose of astronomical observation and large-scale
community ceremony is intrinsically tied to the natural environment that surrounds it as well
as the historical background that preceded it. All of these aspects the physical
environment, including the seasons, subsistence resources, and historical context have an
important relationship to the ideological and sociopolitical structure of a population.
Astronomical observation and calendar maintenance are especially tied to the cycle of the
seasons and its impact on daily life, including but not limited to subsistence activities and
community ceremony.
2.1 Physical Environment
Originally consisting of several natural lakes and reservoirs, much of the highland lake district
of the state of Jalisco in West Mexico has now been drained, either through natural trends
toward a more arid climate or through intentional drainage conducted to develop the land for
agriculture. However, there are a few bodies of water that remain in the region, including the
largest body of water in Mexico: Lake Chapala. A few modern reservoirs, including La Vega,
Presa Hurtado, and Laguna de Magdalena are located in the immediate vicinity of several of
the sites researched for this project. The lake basins include Chapala, Ameca, Teuchitlan-
Tala-Ahualulco, Etzatlan-Magdalena, Sayula-Atoyac, Zacoalco-San Marcos (south)-Santa
Catarina, Cajititlan, Zapotalan, San Marcos (west), Laguna Colorado, Palo Verde,
Tlajomulco, and Ixtlahuacan de Membrillos (Weigand 1985a:54). These lakes are all fresh-
water (with the exception of the Atoyac-Sayula basin) and are all shallow, flat-bottomed,
sensitive to drought, prone to flooding, and surrounded by high mountains of volcanic or
metamorphic origins (Weigand 1985a:54-55). These basins continue to support a diverse
13


ecosystem of reeds, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and insects (Weigand 1985a:55) and
the entire West Mexico region once likely supported a diverse ecosystem with an abundance
of game such as deer, peccary, rabbit, squirrel, opossum, and migratory waterfowl, and
several of its basins still support rich flora and fauna.. The system of lakes that were
exploited during the Late Formative and Early Classic periods was formed by the Early
Holocene. However, there is some fossil evidence that suggests an interior, freshwater sea
may have existed during the Pleistocene with a shoreline approximately 1600 meters above
sea level (Weigand 1985a). If it did once exist, this interior sea may have drained as a result
of the opening of the Rio Grande de Santiago barranca or it may have been disrupted by
ancient volcanic activity in the region. Four major river systems drain the highland lake
districts of West Mexico. The Rio Grande de Santiago in the north is the longest river in
Mexico and flows from Lake Chapala. The Rio Ameca system drains the southern Nayarit
plateau and the highland areas of central Jalisco. The Rio Armeria and the Rio Coahuayana
drainage systems operate further south.
The highland lake district of Jalisco provides easy access between the coastal areas to the
west, north toward Zacatecas and beyond, and to the east and south toward Central Mexico
(Beekman 1996b; Weigand and Beekman 1998). According to Weigand (1985a:56), [t]he
lake zone thus sits across an intersection of two axes of communication. The region also sits
astride another type of intersection of two axes: an east-west alignment of high-quality
obsidian flows, and north-south alignment of copper deposits. At least fourteen surface
flows of obsidian have been identified in the northern parts of the region. This obsidian
occurs in numerous colors including black, grey, striped grey and black, red, orange, yellow,
blue-grey, blue-green, and polka-dot combinations (Spence, Weigand, and Soto de
Arechavaleta 1981; Soto de Arechavaleta 1982; Weigand and Spence 1982; Weigand,
Weigand, and Glascock 2004). Large-scale obsidian workshops at the Teuchitlan Tradition
site of Guachimonton produced and distributed cores and large blades. Copper minerals,
including malachite, azurite, crysacola, and native copper occur on the northern end from
western Zacatecas and continue south through the Bolanos Valley and the highland lake
region of Jalisco into southwestern Michoacan. At the intersection of the axes of these rare
resource flows there are also other metals and crystals including nugget gold, native silver,
galena, hematite, pyrite, high-quality quartz, and opal. In addition, the Sayula-Atoyac lake
basin area is rich in salt (Neal and Weigand 1990; Weigand 1985a).
14


There is evidence for aboriginal mining of at least obsidian, copper (native, malachite, azurite,
and crysacola), silver, and quartz. Modern opal mining that occurs in the area suggests the
likelihood of ancient mining of this rare resource (Weigand 1985a). Because of these readily
available resources, Mesoamerican metalworking technology developed in West Mexico
during the Late Classic and Epiclassic periods, which is relatively late in comparison to other
Mesoamerican centers (Hosier 1994).
The highland lake region of Jalisco is characterized by closely-spaced, accessible and
dramatically different ecological zones (Weigand 1985a:60). Sharing the region with the
lake basins are foothills, mountains, barrancas (canyons), and several volcanic peaks:
Sanganguey and Ceboruco, Volcan de Colima with snow-capped peaks, and Volcan de
Tequila, a particularly dominant and central topographical feature in the Teuchitlan Tradition
core area. The area is noted for its rare resources and the trade of these items over
considerable distances. Exports included carefully crafted obsidian eccentrics and jewelry,
highly processed prismatic blades, and codical-style pseudo-cloisonne ceramic vessels
(Weigand 1993a:231). Imports included turquoise, some Pacific coast marine shell,
semiprecious stones from the north, and a small amount of Thin Orange vessels possibly
manufactured at Teotihuacan1.
The packing of different niches within each major ecological zone, and
the concomitant proximity of the zones per se facilitated the exploitation
of a very wide range of plants, animals, and minerals. Rare and
strategic-resource abundance gave the lake district a remarkable
advantage and potential for cultural development. Combining these
considerations with the districts key location astride two communications
axes, the ecological opportunities were exploited both early and
intensively (Weigand 1985a:60).
The sites researched for this project fall generally at 20 north latitude and between 103 and
104 west longitude (Figure 1.1). The Sierra Madre Occidental, the mountain range that runs
along the western region of Mesoamerica, breaks up into a series of valleys at approximately
20 north latitude. These valleys drain west into the Pacific Ocean. The core of the
Teuchitlan Tradition is located within the Etzatlan-Magdalena and Teuchitlan-Ahualulco-Tala
valleys. Both valleys are closed basins that are surrounded by high mountains that are
1 According to Weigand (1992,1993:231), there is very little evidence of major trade relations between
the Teuchitlan Tradition and Teotihuacan. There are very few other imports of obvious Teotihuacan
manufacture. Teotihuacan seemed to have no major stylistic impact in this area at all.
15


primarily volcanic in origin (Weigand 1985a, 1993a; Weigand and Beekman 1998). This
region is located at the west end of Mexicos Neovolcanic Axis, a string of volcanoes which
span an approximately 1000 km width of central Mexico between 18 and 22 north latitude.
The elevation of the highland region of West Mexico averages approximately 1525 meters
(5000 feet) (Meighan and Nicholson 1989).
2.2 Seasons
In the Tropics of Mesoamerica, between 23.5 north and 23.5 south latitude, people are
faced with distinct dry and rainy seasons (Beekman 2003a, 2003b). Two seasons, rather
than the four that are observed in temperate zones, define the Mesoamerican year. Because
this region is located in the tropics, these seasons are delineated by their differing levels of
precipitation, rather than changes in the overall temperature as is observed in more
temperate areas. In West Mexico, the heaviest rainy season begins in early June and ends
in early October. The rain that falls during this period accounts for approximately 90% of the
yearly rainfall in the area. Some winter rain storms occur in December and January, but
these are much lighter in comparison to the summer rainy season. Rainfall averages
1000mm per year in most areas, but can be as high as 1400-1600mm per year in select
areas (Beekman 2003a; Weigand 1985a). Obviously, these two seasons provide
opportunities and constraints toward food procurement, settlement, and sociopolitical
interaction strategies.
During the short duration of the field research, the effects of these strikingly different seasons
were noted. Upon arrival on May 23rd the rains had not yet begun. While some vegetation
was present, mainly in the form of well-irrigated agricultural fields, the area was
conspicuously dry and barren. Approximately one week after arrival, around the first of June,
the rains began. They came in the form of torrential downpours accompanied by violent
thunder and lightning. These storms normally occurred in the afternoon, evening or
overnight, however, gentler, steady rains frequently occurred during the day. After only a few
weeks, by the time that I left the field on June 22, the changes that occurred in the
surrounding environment were remarkable (Figures 2.1 and 2.2).
16


Figure 2.1 Circle 2 at Guachimonton Late May
prior to start of rainy season. Photograph S. duVall 2004
17


2.3 Agriculture
By approximately 2000 B.C., most people across Mesoamerica, including this region of West
Mexico, used a subsistence strategy of natural and cultivated resources mixed with foraging.
This mixed subsistence strategy continued through much of Mesoamerican history, but the
rates of foraging declined in response to the increase of intensified food production
strategies. Once domesticated, maize was grown wherever conditions were appropriate and
became the basis for sedentism across Mesoamerica (Sanders 1976; Smith 1995).
The numerous lake basins and ancient volcanic activity in the region of West Mexico support
rich, fertile soils. With good drainage, the soils of the region are excellent for the transition to
agriculture. Because of this, it has been suggested that this region of West Mexico is a good
candidate as a hearth or sub-hearth of agriculture and/or sedentary lifestyles (Foster and
Weigand 1985a:1). The highland-lake districts and fertile canyons of Western Mesoamerica
certainly are within the major hearth to the wild progenitors of the cultigens and the
prehistoric agricultural handbook for this area... (Foster and Weigand 1985a:1). While the
wild teosinte subspecies found in the Balsas drainage areas west of Oaxaca, Zea mays
mexicana and Zea mays parviglumis, are biochemically the closest relatives to modern
domesticate maize (Beadle 1939; Bennetzen et al. 2001; Doebley et al. 1990; Piperno and
Flannery 2001), Zea mays mays, the next closest kin to modern maize are found in the
valleys of West Mexico (Doebley et al 1990).
When the Spanish arrived in Mesoamerica, they encountered a concentration of large-scale
irrigation activities not only in Central Mexico, but in West Mexico as well and early chronicles
of the Spanish make numerous references to these hydraulic complexes. This
[concentration] might indicate the existence of two centers of diffusion, perhaps [one] in
Central Mexico and the other in the West (Palerm and Wolf 1972:63; translation provided by
Weigand 1993a:223). Water management activities in West Mexico include terraces,
springs, rivers, arroyos, checkdams, swamps (cienegas), irrigated fields, and raised marsh
gardens similar to the chinampas of Central Mexico (Parsons 1991). It was primarily the
lower areas of the basins that required management strategies that allowed for full
exploitation of resources. The lagos, lagunas and cienegas (lakes, lagoons, and swamps)
were far too soggy to support agriculture without some sort of modification and water
management (Weigand 1993a:228).
18


In West Mexico, while evidence for complex settlement systems occurs much earlier, the
earliest evidence for the development of hydraulic management occurs in the Early Classic
period (ca. A.D. 200-900). Both drainage irrigation canals as well as raised planting
platforms were being constructed by A.D. 500. The water management system involved the
addition of a water distribution network that allowed for year-round agricultural productivity.
The height of hydraulic management in the Teuchitlan Tradition area of West Mexico
occurred during the Classic and declined considerably during the Postclassic, with much of
the system abandoned during the Early Postclassic, and no remains of Postclassic ceramics
in water-management zones (Stuart 2003:iii). Agricultural intensification in this region was
marked by a technique very akin to the chinampa farming of Central Mexico and across
Mesoamerica (Parsons 1991; Sanders 1976), and the use of agricultural terracing.
Chinampas, or floating gardens, are created by trenching fairly deep canals in wetland
areas, and then building up the higher areas to form elongated islands between the canals
(Stuart 2003:5-6), sometimes supporting built-up areas with reed matting. Palerm (1990:456,
cited and translated in Weigand 1993a) defines a chinampa as a small artificial island
constructed in shallow places of a sweet water lake or swamp. This agricultural practice
allowed for otherwise unusable marshy soil to be productively utilized for agricultural
purposes. Evidence of its use occurs at least as early as the Formative periods and
continues to be practiced today in some areas of Mesoamerica. Chinampa agriculture was
enormously productive and likely sustained the large population of Tenochtitlan. In addition
to providing a high crop yield, chinampa-style agriculture provided an effective way to
maintain soil moisture, ready access to soil-enrichment materials, such as the nutrient rich
biotic resources available in the wetland environments, as well as an environment that
facilitated easy access to fish, and transport of harvested crops to market via canoe.
Chinampa agricultural practices were likely not wholly dedicated to maize cultivation. They
were more likely used toward the cultivation of beans, squash, tomatoes, and jitomates. The
swamps and marshes would have also supported a wide variety of food resources such as
algae, fish, ducks, turtles, frogs, etc. (Stuart 2003; Weigand 1993a:257).
The chinampas in West Mexico were organized into regular and highly uniform blocks
averaging 300 meters x 150 meters and the canals were approximately four to six meters
wide with depths sufficient to allow for passage of canoes between the chinampas (Figure
2.3). The islets were typically 10 meters x 15 meters, but some of the larger ones were 20
meters x 10 meters. The usable surface area of each islet was between 150 and 200 square
19


meters. Estimations from research conducted in Central Mexico indicate that 15 chinampas
of this size could support one household of 5-7 individuals (Weigand 1993a). Considering
the production potential of the chinampa system, it was clearly an important component in the
economic sustainability of the Classic-period sites in the region.
Figure 2.3 Aerial Photograph of the Chinampa Blocks
in the Laguna de Magdalena, Jalisco. Copyright JAI Press, 1993. All rights reserved.
Through archaeological fieldwork, Weigand (1993a) has identified at least four (possibly six)
zones of chinampa farms in the swamp lands adjacent to the areas of dense habitation in the
region of the Teuchitlan Tradition. These constitute over 30 square kilometers of space and
likely involved a great deal more space at the time of their use. The site of Ahualulco, one of
the largest Teuchitlan Tradition sites, was built above a marshy area where chinampa
farming was practiced. There are also hundreds of square kilometers of open terraced fields
of unknown dates (Weigand 1999) integrated into the settlement pattern of the Teuchitlan
Tradition. These are frequently incorporated alongside large-scale public architecture, such
as ceremonial centers and ballcourts.
Terraces were built by using 1-3 foundation courses of very large rock.
From this course(s), progressively smaller rock was stacked atop the
foundation, leaning into the uphill side of the building site. The result
was a near vertical back side and a front side at a 10-30 angle.
20


Terraces are seldom higher than 2 meters, and most are 1 meter or
slightly more. The fill behind the terraces is often rather rough next to
the actual wall, indicating that, at time, fill was purposefully brought in to
start the consolidation process. The upper courses of the fill are usually
composed of fairly evenly textured soils, without as much rock, indicating
that natural processes were meant to complete the building projects
(Weigand 1993a:255).
In many places, it appears that both ceremonial centers as well as habitation zones are
interlaced with hydraulic features such as the chinampa fields. Some of the ceremonial
centers and most of these habitations literally must have been islands within the overall
Cienega (Weigand 1993a:236).
Stuart (2003) has proposed that these complex wetland agricultural systems reached their
peak performance and production during the sociopolitical apex of the Teuchitlan Tradition or
even slightly after the period when sites were their largest and the Tradition extended its
farthest influential reach across the region. Research into the development of wetland
agriculture in this region, and its relationship to sociopolitical organization has concluded that
political economy and elite demands for surplus served as the proximate cause, if not of the
construction of the wetland agricultural system, then of early control and subsequent
intensification of agricultural production (Stuart 2003:iii).
2.4 Culture History
There have been some fascinating trajectories of cultural change in this region of West
Mexico. Of initial archaeological interest in this region were distinct, often monumental shaft
tombs. Research then came to focus on the surface architecture composed of circular
complexes that included terraced platforms built over deep shaft tombs and the occurrence of
ballcourts in the region, with the first evidence in West Mexico occurring at the site of
Campanillo. It was initially thought that the shaft tombs predated the elaborate surface
architecture that includes the guachimontdnes and the ballcourts, among other features.
However, new site-specific research indicates that all of the architectural complexes may
have been contemporaneous, depending on the site(s) at which they occur (Beekman and
Weigand, in press). The circles were originally thought to represent the construction of a
unique and exotic architectural form ... most apparently adapted from the circular and oval
burial platforms of the earlier Formative phases (Weigand 1985a:66). It is now argued
21


(Beekman and Weigand, in press) that the circles and the shaft tombs occur much more
closely together in the chronological sequence of the Teuchitlan Tradition.
Several have attempted to define chronological sequences, based on architecture and
ceramics that could be applied to the Teuchitlan Tradition as a whole. However, this
approach consistently encountered challenges, because a chronological sequence
developed from materials at one site was not easily applied to another site. This led to recent
work that argues against the establishment of a Tradition-wide chronology, at least for the
time, as excavation data continue to be relatively sparse for the Tradition. Rather, it is
proposed that an understanding of the Teuchitlan Tradition chronology is better reached
through a site-specific approach. Periods that have been defined for greater Mesoamerica
are provided in Table 2.1 to give the reader a context within which to understand where the
major developments and changes of the Teuchitlan Tradition occur.
Table 2.1 Chronology of greater Mesoamerica1
Date Mesoamerican Periods
A.D. 1800 Colonial
1700
1600
1500 Late Postclassic
1400
1300
1200 Early Postclassic
1100
1000
900
800 Epiclassic
700
600
500 Middle Classic
400
300 Early Classic
200
100 Late Formative
0
100
200
300
400 Middle Formative
500
22


Table 2.1 Chronology of greater Mesoamerica1
Date Mesoamerican Periods
B.C. 600
700
800
900
1000
1100 Early Formative
1200
1300
1400
1500
' Adapted from Beekman and Weigand, in press
The most recent attempt at a chronological synthesis is strictly based on excavation data, as
past chronologies for the Teuchitlan Tradition have been criticized for being too heavily based
on museum collections, looted material, and surface material. Using excavation data from a
variety of sources, Beekman and Weigand (in press) identify ceramic complexes arranged in
relative chronological order and use these to consider the phases in which the complexes
occur. Again, they found that previous attempts to define and apply valley-wide sequences
that are applicable to all sites within a given valley or basin, on the assumption that all sites
within that area closely shared ceramic types and sequence to be inadequate (Beekman and
Weigand, in press: 2). They found inevitable deficiencies in this approach because although
the sequence(s) often fit well at major centers, they do not correspond when applied to rural
or peripheral sites. [Sjite-specific sequences must be constructed across the region and that
a single cookie-cutter approach to chronology will produce highly misleading results (in
press: 6). Only then may patterns begin to emerge.
This new chronology that has been developed by Beekman and Weigand (in press) is an
attempt toward greater clarity of the Teuchitlan Tradition chronological sequence. It brings
together and synthesizes what was previously disparate excavation data. As a result of their
methodology of defin[ing] sequences individually for different sites...resulting] in a greater
appreciation in site to site variability (in press:2), they are better able to discern regional
variations and patterns, as opposed to the potential errors encountered when attempting to
apply a single master sequence. With these new data better integrated, Beekman and
Weigand (in press) have detected the possibility of a basic east-west division of the core.
23


However, additional excavation and dates of material across multiple sites will be required to
further support this idea.
The Tequila I Phase
This phase roughly corresponds to the Middle Late Formative period in greater
Mesoamerica. It is the earliest period defined for the Teuchitlan Tradition. It is known
exclusively in deep deposits at the largest and most centralized site of Guachimonton, and is
marked by ceramics that have stylistic and typological links to earlier types. These ceramic
types were previously found at sites with circular burial mounds that pre-date the rise of the
Teuchitlan Tradition in this region.
The Tequila II Phase
This phase roughly corresponds to the middle part of the Late Formative period in greater
Mesoamerica. It is marked by the appearance of a few long-distance trade artifacts and
technologies, such as Pacific-coast and Caribbean-coast shell, and the occurrence of resist
decoration on ceramics; a technique that is used elsewhere in Mesoamerica during this time.
Furthermore, this phase marks the appearance of hollow ceramic figurines that occur in burial
contexts and anthropomorphic obsidian figurines. Analogies have been made between the
former and lineage tombs and urn figures that occur to the south, in Oaxaca; and between
the latter and finer obsidian figurines that appear at Teotihuacan during this time. It is difficult
to definitively establish links between this area of West Mexico and other Mesoamerican
centers, but it is clear that people within this region are involved in stylistic and technological
trends that are occurring elsewhere in Mesoamerica during the same time. This may be
indicative of both contact and trade. The hollow figurines that begin to appear during this
period and continue into subsequent periods include ceramic models that appear to depict
the public, ceremonial activities that occurred at these circular complexes (Figure 2.4, Figure
2.5, and Figure 2.6). They depict what the superstructure may have looked like, upon each
platform surrounding the central altar.
24


Figure 2.4 Ceramic Model. Village scene.
Nayarit 600 B.C.-1000 A.D. Painted Terra Cotta. 5444-2080. Gilcrease Museum. All rights
reserved.
Figure 2.5 Ceramic Model of a Circular Ceremonial Center
Ixtlan del Rio style, Nayarit. Alan and Marianne Schwartz Collection, Bloomfield Hills,
Michigan. Cat. no. 184. All rights reserved.
25


Figure 2.6 Ceramic Model of a Teuchitlan Tradition Circle
North America, Mexico, Nayarit culture, Village Festival Scene, ceramic, c.200 A.D., ht, 7 cm;
diameter 15 cm; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Julian Goldsmith, 1989.639. Copyright and Photograph
1999, The Art Institute of Chicago. All rights reserved.
The Tequila III Phase
This phase roughly corresponds to the Terminal Formative period in greater Mesoamerica.
The excavation data which suggest that elite goods and markers of authority begin to only
occur at sites like Guachimonton, Las Navajas, Huitzilapa, and Llano Grande, and no longer
occur at more rural sites indicate that this period marks an increase in centralization and
control over these types of commodities. In addition, the evidence shows that there was a
great deal of construction occurring during this phase that included the construction of
centers positioned along the boundaries of the Tradition. During this time, the guachimonton
form is exported from the central core area near the Volcan Tequila to distant regions. The
end of the Tequila III phase and the beginning of the Tequila IV phase likely mark the time in
which the circles are constructed in each of what are now the seven surrounding states that
neighbor Jalisco. Stuart (2003) has shown that the extensive raised-field system of
chinampas was at least built by this time, and was likely undergoing extensive development
during this period. This phase is further marked by an increase in both local and long-
distance trade.
26


The end of the Tequila III phase is characterized by a transformation" for the Tradition. The
circles and shaft tombs built around this time are much smaller in size, which suggests either
a period of fragmentation and/or decline. Within the shaft tombs, the number of interred and
associated offerings also decreases. This transformation appears to occur right at the
beginning of the Classic period in greater Mesoamerica.
The Tequila IV Phase
The Tequila IV phase is not well-understood. It is defined at the site of Guachimonton by
remodeling, but little new construction. During the Late Formative period, the activity in the
Tequila Valleys dominated the neighboring areas in terms of the degree of political
centralization, and this trend likely continued to expand into the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.
However, the onset of decentralization in the region is noted as early as the beginning of the
Classic period. The Tequila IV phase ends with a poorly-understood transition into the El
Grillo phase, which dates to approximately A.D. 500 900. There is not much, if any, El
Grillo material to be found at Teuchitlan Tradition sites, which suggests a considerable
separation between the Teuchitlan Tradition and the El Grillo phase.
2.4.1 The Circles (Guachimontones)
The guachimontones are unique because circular structures are relatively rare as public
buildings in Mesoamerica (Pollock 1936), and while several ideas have been proposed, their
exact function and purpose remains unclear. They are also of interest because they occur
repetitively across a wide region, in a spoke-like pattern that appears to surround the Volcan
de Tequila, a dominant feature within the Tequila Valleys of Jalisco (Figure 1.2). Across the
sites where the guachimontones occur, particular details about each circle may differ, but the
general form is consistently maintained and replicated, as if a template for their construction
was distributed across the region. The guachimontones are best described as complexes,
as they are composed of several elements that together make a whole. In other words, a
guachimonton is not simply one architectural feature. Rather, it consists of a multipart
assemblage of features. Any of these features observed in isolation could not be called a
guachimonton.
27


These distinctive circular public architectural complexes of the Teuchitlan Tradition, the
guachimontones, can be characterized by five basic architectural features (Weigand
1985a:67) (Figure 2.7):
1. a central, circular altar/pyramid which is terraced and most often flat-topped;
2. an elevated, circular patio surrounding the altar/pyramid;
3. a circular platform/banquette which completely surrounds the circular patio and
altar/pyramid;
4. atop the circular platform/banquette are between four and twelve (16 in one
example) square or rectangular platform/pyramids, which are evenly spaced,
though often of different sizes and elaboration, and
5. burial chambers of the crypt variety beneath the platform/pyramids atop the
circular platform/banquette, and less frequently under the patio fill or in the
central altar/pyramid.
SU- FLOO*
1
t:",.
Figure 2.7 Profile of an Idealized, Five-Element Guachimonton
Architectural Complex of the Teuchitlan Tradition, West Mexico (Weigand 1999:49).
Copyright 1999, Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
28


They were built with a high level of planning and architectural complexity. Weigand (1996:96)
states,
As mentioned, many of these structures are monumental. While these
circular precincts are not enormous volumetrically, they indeed represent
a major investment in physical labor. They are the largest and most
complex structures so far reported for the Classic period in western
Mexico. However, sheer volume is not the sole measure of
monumentality. The amount of skill invested in formal design, and its
translation into construction has to be considered along with volume.
The complexity of design is a [sic] intrinsic corollary of monumentality.
The construction of these public, circular architectural complexes involved well-defined rules
of geometric proportionality and precision (Figure 2.8) and most appear to follow a general
formula (1:1:2.5:1:1) for their layout (Figure 2.9). That is, regardless of size or number of
platforms, if one moves in a straight line from one edge of the circle to the center of the
pyramid (i.e., the radius of the circle), one finds that the banquette is one measure, the patio
is one measure, and the pyramid is 2.5 measures. However, the formula does not appear to
apply as firmly to smaller circles or to those located at peripheral sites (i.e., outside the core
area of sites).
Figure 2.8 The Hidden Geometry of the Guachimonton Architectural Complex
Both Squares 1 (2-4-6-8) and II (1-3-5-7) are tangents to Circle C and secants to Circle D,
with the tangents touching at T-3-5-7 and 2-4-6-8, respectively (Weigand 1999:49).
Copyright 1999, Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
29


D
Figure 2.9 Teuchitlan Tradition Architectural Proportionality.
Key: A = Radical center for 3 proportionally related concentric circles. B = Outer diameter of
the central pyramid, and inner diameter of the elevated patio. C = Outer diameter of the
elevated patio, and inner diameter of the banquette. D = Outer diameter of the banquette
(Weigand 1999:50). Copyright 1999, Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
Other examples of the use of well-defined rules of geometric proportionality and precision
have been observed elsewhere in Mesoamerica. Most notably is the Teotihuacan
Measurement Unit (TMU) proposed by Sugiyama (1993). He has shown that the TMU, which
is approximately 83cm, appears to have been part of the initial city plan and throughout the
construction of the many temples and public buildings at Teotihuacan. Furthermore, it is
used in groupings that correspond with calendrical numbers (e.g., 52 TMU, 73 TMU, 260
TMU, etc.). This indicates that from the very earliest city planning activities for Teotihuacan,
considerations of cosmology and calendrics were of the utmost importance. They were built
into the relative locations of buildings across the entire city, as well as into the dimensions of
individual buildings themselves. In short, [this demonstrates] a master plan forming a
representation of the universe existing from the beginning of the citys configuration
(Sugiyama 1993:104). This relates to the widespread Mesoamerican perception of space
and time as intricately related.
Weigand (1996) has conducted some archaeological experiments aimed at determining the
exact techniques used in the planning of the guachimontones. He determined that it would
30


take several hours (not including ceremonial time) to lay out the architectural plan for one
large circle. Following the planning phase, it is estimated that even the smaller circles would
have required tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of person-hours of labor to
complete. In fact, at the largest, most centralized site, Guachimonton, it is estimated that the
construction of the entire site required approximately 1.25 million person hours of labor
(Beekman 2000).
This tradition was so unmistakably different and exotic from its
neighbors, near and far, as to offer highly visible boundaries for its
distribution. In effect, it was an experimental and innovative architectural
style of unusual beauty that certainly served as a signature for a well-
organized social system (Weigand 1996:97).
Figures 2.10 and 2.11 depict artists reconstructions of what a Teuchitlan Tradition site may
have looked like.
Figure 2.10 Artists reconstruction of the Teuchitlan Tradition site of Guachimonton
Copyright 1998, Art Institute of Chicago. All rights reserved.
31


Figure 2.11 Artists reconstruction of a Teuchitlan Tradition site
Copyright Judith Durr. All rights reserved.
2.4.2 The Ballcourts
While they are not found at every site across the Teuchitlan Tradition, ballcourts are a
widespread feature that is associated with the guachimontones of the Tradition. The
ballcourts consistently occur alongside the guachimontones in this region of Mexico, and are
of interest here because of their close association with them. However, the ballcourts are not
as widely or frequently distributed as the guachimontones. There is not necessarily a
(known) ballcourt at every site where the guachimontones occur. They frequently occur at
the larger sites, but also occasionally occur at smaller sites. The sociopolitical and
ideological importance of the ballgame has been well documented here and elsewhere in
Mesoamerica (Cohodas 1975; Gillespie 1991; Kowalski and Fash 1991; Krickenberg 1966;
Pasztory 1972; Scarborough and Wilcox 1991).
Weigand (1991) establishes four types of ballcourts. These include Types I, ll-A, ll-B, and III.
Type III ballcourts are smaller courts, averaging 30-40 metes long and 10 meters wide.
Parallel walls (ridges) that mark the lateral boundaries of the court sometimes have terraced
32


sections at the ends. Ceramic figurines appear to indicate that Type III ballcourts would have
accommodated four to six players and a number of spectators that would be positioned along
the ridges and at each end of the court. Type II courts were typically either 40 meters long
(Type ll-A) or between 50-60 meters long (Type ll-B); both were between four and six meters
wide. Ceramic figurines depicting Type II courts show marked distinctions in costumes and
seating arrangements, indicating increased political and social symbolism associated with the
ballgame.
Weigand (1991:77) identifies the distinct characteristics of the Classic period ballcourts of the
Teuchitlan Tradition (Figure 2.12 and Figure 2.13). They are,
1. two parallel ridges marking the sides of the playing field;
2. playing fields with prepared floors, which at times have dividers and
are elevated as floor platforms;
3. end platforms which are terraced and serve as foundations for
simple wattle and daub structures;
4. ridge platforms which apparently serve as particularizing gallery
areas;
5. an open-l arena between the end platforms and the playing field and
lateral ridges (E-1, the open I is set off with F, a whole court platform;
E-2, the open I is basically at the same level as the ground
surrounding the court; E-3, no end platforms, hence no actual open
I); and,
6. a whole court platform, including the end platforms, lateral ridges,
and playing fields. This form occurs infrequently or only partially on
Type II courts.
33


F

A [ e J c i e j c i 6 11 E.l 0 E.t 1 c L._£.J c L._a_i 1 A

TYPE I
80-90 m

t z
E.2
'B
types h-a a h-b
40 m a 50-60 m
E .3
X
D
I .............
3
i
C
E.3
type nr
30-40 m
Figure 2.12 Comparison of Three Types of Ballcourts
in the Teuchitlan Area, Jalisco (Weigand 1991). Copyright 1991,
The University of Arizona Press. All rights reserved.
Figure 2.13 Ceramic Model of a West Mexican Ballgame
Nayarit Ixtlan del Rio style (Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Proctor Stafford
Collection, purchased with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Allan C. Batch) (Butterwick
2004:18). Copyright 2004, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
34


Type I ballcourts are typically 80-90 meters long and six to eight meters wide. The Type I
courts are the most formalized of the three types, with the ridges having three platforms each
and serving as gallery particularizers. The Type I ridges are higher, more terraced and
wider than Type II ridges (Weigand 1991:79-80). There are only three of the Type I
ballcourts in the region. One is located at the largest and most centralized core site of
Guachimonton and two others are located at the large sites of Ahualulco and Santa Quiteria.
Weigand (1991:81) suggests that the ballcourt and the ballgame served politically
centralizing functions through formalized social opposition in public ritual. The occurrence of
these Type I courts at three of the largest administrative complexes of the Teuchitlan
Tradition sites further indicates the social, political and symbolic influence of these sites. The
distribution of the circles and ballcourts alludes to,
a hierarchy of politically integrative ballgames. The monumental Type I
courts may have been used to represent the interests of political elites
within the entire region and their dealings among themselves. Type II
courts may have been more compatible with interdistrict concerns, either
within a common habitation zone or between a political center and its
hinterland. Centers without ballcourts presumably used the courts at the
centers that controlled them... (Weigand 1991:83).
Clearly the ballcourts played an important part in the maintenance of a well-established social
hierarchy. Both the circular ceremonial public architecture and the ballcourts were used as a
means to uphold and perpetuate political and social influence through symbolic, community
ritual. The ballgame in West Mexico likely helped establish rules for the competition over and
access to resources in the region. The ballcourt functioned in the integrative realm at all
levels, expressing dualistic, ritualized oppositions (Weigand 1991:84).
In 1979, the orientations of the ballcourts associated with the Teuchitlan Tradition were
examined for possible astronomical significance. However, no regularities could be found
that would indicate an astronomical reference through their orientation (Aveni and Weigand
personal communication 1979, cited in Weigand 1991:83). It is unknown if this research was
conducted systematically under a developed research design. No additional documentation
or published material was available regarding this research.
It is estimated (Beekman 2000; Ohnersorgen and Varien 1996; Weigand 1985a, 1996;
Weigand and Beekman 1998) that at its height, the population of the core area of the
35


Teuchitlan Tradition, which is approximately 300km2, could have been between 40,000 and
60,000 people. There are over 50 documented sites, with over 200 examples of the circular
ceremonial public architecture. The guachimontones and their accompanying features
(balicourts, terraces, residential groups, obsidian workshops, etc.) appear to be deliberately
and strategically placed in proximity to fertile land for agriculture (Weigand and Beekman
1998:45). Furthermore, Weigand (1996:93) suggests, [T]he circular compounds are
arranged in a hierarchy representing complexity at both the community and zonal settlement-
pattern levels (Weigand 1996:93).
However, as noted, a transformation is noted near the end of the Tequila III phase and into
the Tequila IV phase. At this time, the presence of new, large guachimontones begins to
fade; the uniformity between sites and the symmetry within sites is lost, replaced by other
architectural forms, abandoned completely or rebuilt upon forming hybrids of old and new
architectural features (Beekman and Weigand, in press).
In some respects, the Teuchitlan Traditions trajectory now resembles
that of the major central Mexican centers, including even Teotihuacan,
which experienced peaks of centralization at the end of the Formative
before entering a period of stability or decline in the Early Classic
(Beekman and Weigand, in press:8).
36


3. THEORY
It is argued here that two theoretical schools of thought Symbolic Archaeology and Political
Economy which share a number of concepts, are effective toward explaining the meaning
that is deeply embedded in the West Mexican lifeway during the Late Formative to Early
Classic Mesoamerican periods and physically manifested across many aspects of the
Teuchitlan Tradition, from monumental architecture to domestic material culture. The
following discussion will first present an overview of the study of archaeoastronomy, its
origins, practitioners, controversies, and various theoretical and methodological precepts.
This will be followed by a brief introduction to the general theoretical framework of each
model, in order to introduce the essence of their positions and then a discussion of how
these schools of thought are applicable when considering the ideological and sociopolitical
atmospheres of the Teuchitlan Tradition and how they are expressed through the public
architecture. Working within the context of Symbolic Archaeology and Political Economy,
examples are presented of the critical ties between cosmology/worldview, agriculture, the
calendar, ideology, and politics as they occur across greater Mesoamerica, as well as within
the Teuchitlan Tradition. It shows that these aspects of life are intricately tied and difficult to
tease apart and evaluate separately.
3.1 A History of Thought and Methods in Archaeoastronomy
Scholars interested in the study of ancient astronomy and cosmology are faced with the
dichotomy of science versus humanities. Archaeoastronomy is a multifaceted subject that
straddles this dichotomy and challenges professionals from numerous distinct fields to
collaborate. The following discussion first explores the history of archaeoastronomy as an
area of interest to archaeologists, ethnographers, astronomers, mathematicians, historians of
science, and others. Second, it examines the various approaches that have been taken
toward the investigation and interpretation of ancient observational, calendrical, and ritual
features that relate to the cosmologies of ancient peoples.
It has been said that the study of the sky was the first science (Selin 2000). The sky and
celestial bodies that appear to reside therein represent the eternal and untouchable outside.
37


People throughout time have tried to make sense of what they observe in the sky and to
understand what the role of celestial phenomena is in their terrestrial lives. The prehistoric
record indicates that the use of astronomical observations as an aid in understanding
terrestrial phenomena has extremely ancient roots (Robbins 2000). Throughout time, the
observation of astronomical phenomena has helped people in their practical activities such as
keeping time, hunting, planting and harvesting, navigating, predicting seasonal changes, and
mapmaking. Additionally, it has served ideological, political, and ritual purposes in organizing
communities, as a means to legitimize leadership and the payment of tributes, toward the
timing of festivals and ceremonial activities, and to predict and explain terrestrial events
(Aveni 1984; Robbins 2000; Selin 2000).
Arriving at a greater understanding of what ancient people knew about celestial phenomena,
how they observed it, what was important to them, and how they used their knowledge can
offer insight into the past as well as aid in reevaluating present perceptions. But what are the
tools available to understand the observational activities of ancient peoples? An
understanding of a societys knowledge of celestial phenomena often comes through an
examination of written records (Aveni 1984) and, in some cases, indirect written records
(Selin 2000). However, when no written record is available, archaeoastronomers work with
the archaeological record, interpreting evidence from engraved bones, megaliths, rock art,
tombs, orientations of architectural features, and landscape (Selin 2000).
Archaeoastronomy has been defined in several different ways. There are many abodes in
the realm of archaeoastronomy and it is perhaps not entirely irrelevant to suggest that the
confines of this very concept are not yet clearly delineated (Pedersen 1982:268). In 1973,
Baity stated,
Archaeoastronomy, in the narrow sense, focuses on the analysis of the
orientations and measurements of megalithic and other monumental
ancient structures, many of which, as we will see, could have served for
the prediction of solar and lunar eclipses and unquestionably did serve
for the determination of solstices and equinoxes, enabling the setting of
dates for agricultural activities and for the ritual cycle of the year
(1973:390).
Baitys definition is reflective of the time period in which it was stated. By the early 1970s
when Baitys definition was put forth, the majority of work in the field had focused on
megalithic sites and the alignment of monumental architecture. In retrospect, her definition
38


seems rather narrow considering the breadth of archaeoastronomy today. Aveni (1982a,
1984:25, 1986, 1989, and elsewhere) has broadened the definition of archaeoastronomy as
the study of indigenous written and unwritten record relating to the practice of astronomy in
the ancient world.
Modern archaeoastronomy can trace its origins to 1906 when Norman Lockyer, the founder
of Nature, studied the orientation of Egypts pyramids (Aveni 1986; Marshack 1985).
However, since then it has been the target of considerable scrutiny. It has been called the
happy hunting ground of irresponsible cranks and monomaniacal theorists (Keiller 1934:1, in
Burl 1980). Between World War I and II, megalithic astronomy,, was pursued and
manipulated by a number of people, including O. Reuter and a group of publicists, who put
together an uncritical and unmethodical compilation entitled Germanische Himmelskunde.
The publication suggested that, real or alleged astronomical orientations of ancient
monuments marked the beginning of astronomy and testified to the scientific and intellectual
superiority of the Aryan Race on German soil (Pedersen 1982:269). Exploited in this
manner, archaeoastronomy was often dismissed as a pseudoscientific tool used to broadcast
specific ideologies.
Archaeoastronomy was renewed and popularized by Gerald Hawkins in 1965 through his
widely publicized research on solar and lunar alignments at Stonehenge (Aveni 1986;
Marshack 1985). Hawkins pioneering research helped reestablish archaeoastronomy as a
valid course of study. It also ushered into the public eye other archaeoastronomical studies,
including Alexander Thoms extensive work on megalithic stone circles in Britain, whose work
is widely cited, and recognized as fundamental in the development of modern
archaeoastronomy (Aveni 1986; Marshack 1985).
Some of the earliest references to celestial phenomena in the archaeological record are
burial orientations in Neolithic Britain (Robbins 2000). However, archaeoastronomy was
initially focused on megalithic and monumental architecture as noted in Baity's (1973)
definition of the discipline, and seen in the pioneering work of Hawkins and Thom. Thoms
work has been hailed as introducing an uncompromising discipline resulting in
measurements and surveys of a technical excellence never reached before which refined
and improved upon Lockyers method and reduced arbitrary elements of Lockyers
approach by measuring hundreds of sites, providing primary data in such numbers that
39


statistical methods could be employed (Pedersen 1982:270). Thoms work provided a
scientific basis for interpreting astronomical phenomena represented in the archaeological
record and prompted many archaeologists, ethnographers, astronomers, historians of
science, and others to reevaluate their perceptions of the potential achievements of
prehistoric peoples (Ritchie 1982). His research suggested that Neolithic peoples had a solid
grasp on mathematics, including complex geometry and arithmetic (Ellegard 1981). Thom
focused primarily on the measurable and quantifiable aspects of prehistoric and protohistoric
astronomical structural alignments (Marshack 1985:27). He argued that Neolithic peoples
utilized several sophisticated and precise units of measurement, including what he called the
megalithic yard or MY, which equated to 2.270 +/- 0.003 feet (Thom 1967, 1971; Thom and
Thom 1978). Thom believed that Neolithic people in Britain had a well-developed knowledge
of Euclidean geometry, including the properties of various geometrical figures like the circle,
the ellipse, and Pythagorean triangles (Ellegard 1981). He argued that Neolithic peoples
used these techniques in laying out the considerably complex alignments of megalithic stone
rings (Barclay and Ruggles 2000), which he believed were used as astronomical
observatories (Ellegard 1981).
Several have utilized and built upon the Thoms methodology in approaching the study of
astronomical features in the archaeological record. Through his work, a clear precedent was
set for thorough research and meticulous and rigorous data collection. Thoms research
made important contributions toward reestablishing archaeoastronomy as a scholarly and
respectable discipline (Pedersen 1982:269-70). Since his pioneering efforts, the importance
of rigorous scientific methodology in archaeoastronomy has been reemphasized numerous
times (Angell 1977; Aveni 1981, 1982a, 1982b; Baity 1973; Ellegard 1981; Freeman 1982;
Gingerich 1989; Hawkins 1965; Heggie 1982; Iwaniszewski 1989; Krupp 1978; MacKie 1982;
Pederson 1982; Reyman 1978; Ritchie 1982; Ruggles 1989; Selin 2000). The probability of
concluding that a site exhibits astronomical importance when only a coincidental alignment
exists, is quite high and this occurrence has been demonstrated (e.g., Reyman 1978). It is
inevitable that these coincidences occur, given the great diversity of targets and orientations
that can be imagined (Heggie 1982:4). Therefore, some argue that because it is unknown a
priori if the builders of a particular feature had celestial phenomena in mind when they built it,
then all apparent astronomical orientation should be approached as coincidence until
evidence is presented to the contrary.
40


According to Heggie (1982), the controversy surrounding archaeoastronomy relates directly
to the tendency to assume astronomical orientation while lacking strong supporting evidence.
Probability statistics have been used as a means to more confidently determine that
astronomical orientations are not coincidental. They can help determine whether one finds
more orientations towards phenomena of astronomical importance than would be expected to
occur by chance (Heggie 1982:5). Freeman (1982) and Ruggles (1989) have also stressed
the importance of statistics in archaeoastronomy as a rational means for strengthening an
astronomical hypothesis. Statistics allow a researcher to recognize trends amongst large
amounts of diverse data and eliminates the collection of evidence solely by preferentially
selecting oriented structures which appear to support a favored idea and excluding others
which do not" (Ruggles 1989:23).
However, critics have argued that the Thom camp has inappropriately imposed Western,
ethnocentric concepts of science onto preliterate and/or non-Western prehistoric peoples.
The study of prehistoric astronomy originated as an investigation into the history of our
formalized, arithmeticized astronomies and calendrics of the high, agricultural civilizations
(Marshack 1985:48). In this light, our understanding of ancient observational and calendrical
features may be skewed when examined through the lens of the scientific thought and
achievements of the Middle East, Egypt, and Greece, which have contributed to the modern
Western system of science. Critics argue that Thoms research places the builders of
megalithic monuments in Neolithic Britain within a linear stage of development in the history
and accomplishment of Western math and science.
Because it is most familiar, it is easy to use modern, Western methods as the judgmental
yardstick, and assume that Western science can examine our surroundings objectively, and
uninfluenced by any particular world-view or system of belief (McCluskey 1987, cited in Aveni
1989:8). However, modern, Western, positivist science may not adequately explain complex,
preliterate, non-Western systems of thought (Aveni 1982). Western ideas about astronomy
have typically assumed that,
one can totally divorce astronomical phenomena not only from social and
religious contexts, but also from events transpiring in other realms of the
natural world. We have become abstract, reductionist, model builders
and there are certain rules by which we play our game of science (Aveni
1982:27).
41


Several maintain that the practice of archaeoastronomy has focused too much on modern
scientific thought, with the expectation that an understanding ancient astronomies will lead to
a greater understanding of the origins of modern science (Aveni 1982a, 1982b, 1986, 1989,
2003; Barclay and Ruggles 2000; Gingerich 1989; MacKie 1982; Pederson 1982; Ruggles
1989; Ruggles and Saunders 1993; Selin 2000). Gingerich (1989) argues that the study of
ancient systems of astronomy may have more to tell about the alternatives to science that
existed in the past and different trajectories of thought, than about the origins of science as it
is known today.
Probably in no other area can we slip into contemporary ethnocentrism more easily than in
the interpretation of the role of observations and measurement (Gingerich 1989:42).
However, archaeoastronomers have begun to reevaluate this approach. Recent dialogue on
the subject has suggested that archaeoastronomers consider ancient systems of astronomy
as transcending the history of science, because [archaeoastronomy] studies not only the
roots of science but also how people coped with the natural world in ways that do not
necessarily lead to science (Gingerich 1989:43).
The science vs. humanities polarization in archaeoastronomy is clear. On one side is the
notion that modern Western scientific astronomical knowledge and methodology can offer
insight into astronomical features in the prehistoric archaeological record; that geometry and
mathematics are universal tools used toward understanding celestial phenomena; and that
they can be used to interpret the observational capabilities of ancient peoples. On the other
side is the notion that understanding ancient astronomies involves more than quantifiable
measurements of alignments and geometry; rather, it must involve an investigation into a
complex web of social, historical, cultural, ideological, and political contexts. These intricately
tied elements make up the whole of the intention, meaning, and use of features of
astronomical relevance (Pedersen 1982).
In 1986, at the 2nd Oxford International Conference on Archaeoastronomy, Aveni explicitly
addressed this dichotomy within the discipline by noting papers that were presented at the 1st
Oxford Conference on Archaeoastronomy in 1981. Interestingly, the science versus
humanities dichotomy appears to divide along the geographic lines. As a result of the first
conference in 1981, two separate collections of papers were published. One is entitled
Archaeoastronomy in the Old World, edited by D.C. Heggie with a green cover, and the other
42


entitled Archaeoastronomy in the New World, edited by A.F. Aveni with a brown cover.
Though each falling under the umbrella of archaeoastronomy, there are some striking
differences between the papers coming from the greens and those coming from the
browns (Aveni 1989). Specifically, the principle inquiry of Old World Archaeoastronomy or
green archaeoastronomy relates to the alignments and orientation of megalithic or
monumental archaeological features. Careful, rigorous collection of data is emphasized and
statistical analysis is a crucial methodological component. Green archaeoastronomy is
concerned with placing ancient astronomical knowledge into a historical sequence of
technological advancement, likened to a step on a pyramid (Aveni 1989:3), the apex being
modem, Western science and astronomy. For example, Aaboe (1974:23) illustrates the
number of achievement levels in the progression from a prescientific to a scientific
astronomy, with the top level of course being pure scientific astronomy. He states that this
organized sequence gives us control over the irregularities within each period and frees us
from constant consultation of observational records.
On the other side, New World Archaeoastronomy, or the brown camp is less concern with
alignments and more focus on time-reckoning and explanation by way of ethnohistorical
research. Brown archaeoastronomy takes the position that ancient astronomical
observations only have meaning when the corresponding social, historical, ideological, and
religious contexts are understood. Placing ancient observational capabilities into a linear,
step-like set of levels is based on the assumption that a universal scale with degrees of
technological difficulty exists that one can know the technological capability of any group
simply by ascertaining the level of precision involved in their observations and measurements
(Aveni 1989). Archaeoastronomy is an inter-discipline-in-practice and not simply a
multidiscipline, or collection of unrelated investigations, each emanating from different
disciplines (Aveni 1989:4).
To get at the truth, I believe we must put the archaeo before the
astronomy; every astronomer knows how our own recent predecessors
misled themselves by imagining that the Earth, then the Sun, was the
center of the universe. This physical geocentrism, which we have
learned to discard, has a social counterpart known as ethnocentrism
that may dominate our attempts to understand the place of astronomy in
the ancient world (Aveni 1986:459-60).
43


Referring to Geertzs work in ethnography, Aveni (1989:8) and others (e.g., McCluskey 1982)
argue that the ultimate aim of archaeoastronomy should be toward deepening our
understanding of culture. This goal only can be realized when one starts with the premise
that people engage in astronomical activities in order to make sense of their surroundings.
Exercises in observation are directly tied to meaning. Reevaluating and reformulating our
questions with a greater focus on cultural context and meaning, practicing a reflexive
awareness of the differences between Western and non-Western systems of thought and
increasing interdisciplinary collaboration will allow for important questions to be addressed
(Aveni 1984). As ideas about ancient perceptions of astronomy and cosmology become
more accepted in archaeological thought and discourse, resources and insights must be
drawn from multiple channels archaeology, ethnography, history, and astronomy alike.
Knowing nothing whatever of physical forces, of the blind steadiness with
which a given effect invariably follows its cause, the men of primeval
antiquity could interpret the actions of nature only after the analogy of
their own actions ... They personified everything, the sky, clouds,
thunder, sun, moon, ocean, earthquake, whirlwind (Fiske 1894, cited in
Krupp 2000:6).
Depending on ones context, astronomical observation, perception, and use will change
(Haynes 2000; Ruggles and Saunders 1993; Urton 1981). Observation is simply the
organized surveillance of the activity of celestial objects. Perception, quite distinct from
observation, is the process of making sense of and attaching meaning to particular
observations. In contrast to observation, perceptions are guided by both cultural and
psychological factors. How people observe and perceive astronomical phenomena
contributes to how the information is used, whether for subsistence, political, ideological, or
other purposes. This distinction is important because while observation techniques may be
more generalized, perception and use are culture-specific (1993:4).
One way or another, almost every celestial object participates in the
circuit of ordered change. And the stage where they perform is
delineated by the architecture of the sky. Our perception of the sky as
an overhead dome is the natural consequence of our eyes lack of depth
perception at cosmic distances. We use the structural elements of that
dome to frame the dramas presented there. The horizon, the zenith, the
directions, the celestial pole, the celestial equator, hour circle ribs on the
celestial sphere, the ecliptic, the ecliptic pole and the Milky Way confer
structure on the sky (Krupp 2000:19).
44


While Western science, being rational and material perceives space and time as objectively
measurable and quantifiable, Australian Aboriginal people view distance as dependent on
the time it took to get someplace, and that was dependent on what happened along the way
(Selin 2000:xxi). Australian Aborigines did not find it necessary to develop a measure of time
and space that was objective. Here is a fundamental difference in the relationship between
the observer and the observed in modern, Western and non-Western systems of thought. In
one, the observer is removed from and uninfluenced by the observed, which allows
mathematical expressions of relationships irrespective of the observer. However, some do
not perceive themselves as separated from their natural surroundings, but rather as an
integral part of that nature. Some select examples can further demonstrate this.
Hopi astronomy is completely different from Western scientific astronomy (McCluskey 1977,
1982). Hopi astronomy was developed to serve practical purposes related to planting,
harvesting, and the planning of religious activities. However, there is no evidence for a long-
term, continuous quantification of time. Hopi astronomy is extraordinarily complex,
embodying many elements that are similar to modern astronomy. However, Hopi astronomy
keeps making contact with Hopi meteorology, Hopi agriculture, Hopi theology, and other
elements of Hopi thought (McCluskey 1982:55). The Hopi do not have astronomer
specialists (nor are there Hopi specialists of meteorology, agriculture or theology). Rather,
the Hopi elders are endowed with the education and wisdom to work in matters of weather
lore, farming and religion (1982:55).
The Mursi measurement of time in southwestern Ethiopia is tied to ones daily social activity
(Turton and Ruggles 1978). The social interaction that one individual has throughout the day
determines their perception of time and knowing what day of the month or what month of the
year it is turns out to be as much a matter of social consensus and public opinion as of
applying a set of objective criteria of measurement (1978:593). There is no structured
system of time measurement among the Mursi that is not highly socially constituted. This
emphasizes the importance of the social determination of knowledge (Turton and Ruggles
1978:593).
Emanating from the city of Cuzco, the Inca ceque lines and their associated huacas (sacred
places on the landscape) served many purposes, including marking important astronomical
events and travel and trade routes. They also served as markers of different areas if political
45


control. In this way, the ceque lines connected aspects of ideology, cosmology, landscape,
and social and political organization for the Inca centralized authority in Cuzco and for the
secondary, locally important sites that were organized under the Incan government. Our
present knowledge of the ceque system and how it worked for those who used it comes not
from statistical methods, but more from ethnohistorical research. Regarding the ceque
system, Aveni (1985:5) notes,
if we set out to measure the alignments of the 41 directions to the
horizon indicated by the ceque lines, fed the data into a computer and
then attempted to correlate the alignments with astronomical phenomena
of conceivable significance at the horizon, we would not have the
slightest chance of arriving at the conclusions that in fact, turn out to be
consistent with the historical record. Using alignment data alone, no
fieldworker could possibly have deduced that other astronomical sight
lines, including the most fundamental ones in Cuzco, were generated by
connecting a part of one ceque line to a part of another, these parts
being the huacas or sacred places in the local environment which served
to delineate the ceques.
Archaeoastronomy has sometimes been overlooked as a serious scholarly pursuit and
labeled alignment hunting (Aveni 1986). However, many of the limitations of
archaeoastronomy are similar to those experienced when working with the archaeological
record in general. Prehistoric archaeological evidence is inevitably fragmentary and
incomplete as well as mute; it is notoriously difficult to come to a firm conclusion about social
interpretations based on it (MacKie 2002:1). Limitations and data gaps are inevitable
because so little is known about the prehistoric roots of astronomy. Interpretation can be, in
many cases, speculative (Robbins 2000). As is for any social scientific pursuit, constructing
careful, well thought out hypotheses, accompanied by sound theory and appropriate and
justified means of testing are requirements in archaeoastronomy.
People have three primary relationships with their surroundings: a relationship with other
people, with the terrestrial environment (including fauna, flora, landscape and sea), and with
the celestial environment (including astronomical and meteorological phenomena) (Ruggles
and Saunders 1993). The celestial sphere is an untouched, untouchable and hence
immutable part of the environment (Ruggles and Saunders 1993:9). This unparalleled
characteristic is what gives archaeoastronomy a unique perspective when examining the
relationship that people have with their surroundings. Unlike people and environments of the
past, the raw resource of celestial phenomena is more or less directly accessible to
46


researchers. Modern astronomy and physics can reconstruct important components of the
night sky at any place and any time during the last several millennia, to within certain largely
determinable margins of error (Ruggles and Saunders 1993:9). This permanence,
predictability and universality of celestial phenomena, coupled with cultural context, can aid
archaeoastronomers in examining, for example, how the same celestial event might be
perceived differently by disparate cultures and regions; or how celestial phenomena are
manipulated to serve functional, ideological or political purposes.
While recognizing the importance of the rigorous collection of quantifiable data that can be
used to arrive at statistically significant conclusions about ones research, Western positivist
science, mathematics, and astronomy cannot, by themselves, provide a complete
understanding of ancient astronomies. The complex social, historical, cultural, ideological,
and political contexts that are relevant to the people who constructed the features must be
incorporated.
3.2 Symbolic Archaeology
Symbolic archaeology views cultural as dynamic and meaningfully constituted (Hodder 1982).
In other words, culture is an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in
symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which
men [sic] communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge and attitudes toward life
(Geertz 1973:89).
Symbols instill a sense of social identity, provide an emotional dimension to life and are
vehicles for meaningful action. Context-specific histories and meanings are not just
inconsequential noise. They lead to a more holistic and nuanced understanding of culture
(Hodder 1982).
[M]eaning and ideology are inextricably tied to daily practices...
[B]ecause of the importance of context in understanding meanings and
symbolism, archaeological inquiry is necessarily of an historical nature,
artifacts and their organization come to have specific cultural meanings
because of their use in particular historical contexts (Hodder 1982:10).
Methodologically, symbolic archaeology emphasizes a continuously reflexive approach,
recognizing the dialectic between present subject and past object, part and whole (Hodder
1991; Pluciennik 1999; Wylie 1993). Human behavior cannot be explained through universal
47


or cross-cultural laws or generalizations because each group exists within its own context-
specific sphere (Flannery 1973; Hodder 1982).
There are a number of ways that cultural material from the past can be interpreted (Whiteley
2002; Wylie 1993). A high degree of statistically consistent correlations between phenomena
does not automatically indicate cause and effect. There are often coincident symptoms,
which may or may not be related (Flannery 1973; Reyman 1978). Correlations must be used
in combination with histories and meanings appropriate and relevant to the subject. This is a
common problem in archaeoastronomy. Alignments to prominent celestial phenomena can
be found almost everywhere at the junction between the natural and built environment.
However, in the absence of supporting context for any particular alignment, one cannot
assume that the alignment was intentional.
In addition to context-specific histories and meaning, scientific, methodological rigor in the
verification of knowledge claims about the past is also very important within the symbolic
school. A guarded objectivity is essential to distinguish legitimate, verifiable claims from
tenuous, unsubstantiated claims. However, by its nature as a social science, archaeological
inquiry cannot adhere to strict positivist scientific methods that operate in a mechanistic,
deterministic, and primarily deductive mode. The symbolic approach couples
theoretical/methodological rigor and a critical analysis of the data with legitimate alternative
sources of information, where a wealth of additional data useful toward explanation exists
(Whiteley 2002). Multi-vocality, which encourages listening, understanding and
accommodating different voices rather than solely applying universal instruments of measure
(Hodder 1991:15) allows for a greater and more nuanced breadth of understanding.
3.2.1 Symbolism in Mesoamerica
The following discussions focus on public architecture across greater Mesoamerica and then
within the Teuchitlan Tradition as a symbolic tool that reflects the cosmology of the people
that build and use it. The construction and use of monumental, public, and/or ceremonial
architecture is a social activity that suggests something inherent about social identity and
cultural meanings. Architecture in Mesoamerica is one of the most powerful public symbols
used toward the expression of cultural principles, cosmology, and worldview (Kowalski 1999).
Whether at the monumental or household scale, it is not just a passive backdrop or container
for various daily activities and functions (Kostof 1985:19). It is the means by which a groups
48


identity and ideology are expressed and it serves as a symbolic reflection of worldview or
cosmological principles. Each building represents a collective social undertaking that
requires the cooperation of many people. An understanding of the total context of
architecture requires an examination of the complex links between the physical structure and
the social, economic, and technological systems of human history (Kostof 1985:7).
Buildings are rarely constructed solely for shelter.... While protection
from the actual environment may be necessary for physical survival,
humans do not live by shelter alone. Larger concerns about life and
death, world view, cosmic images, roles of the sexes, and the relation of
the human realm to that of the supernatural also affect building size,
shape, form, function, and location. Not only do individual buildings
reflect these concerns but so do village layouts, often visually depicting
the relations between the sexes, images of the cosmos, and human links
both to the ancestors and the supernatural realm (Wilson 1993:273).
Public, ceremonial structures in Mesoamerica served as stages where rituals, ceremonies,
and games (e.g. the Mesoamerican ballgame) were played out. By providing a defined
space with assigned and familiar characteristics, these structures played an integral part in
the events that reified and solidified the myths, origin stories, natural, and cosmic powers, all
of which perpetuated the survival of the people (Demarest 1992; Jones 1995; Stone
1992:111; Townsend 1992). Activities that occur at public, monumental structures are
meant to overwhelm (Houston 2006:143). They involve not only visual spectacles, but they
also present visitors with experiences of smell, sound, and movement (e.g., dance). All of
these sight, sound, smell, and movement can be manipulated at public events to create
the desired atmosphere, convey the desired message, and create the overall experience for
the participants. The participants include those who have organized the event often
members of the centralized elite, political authorities, and/or religious figures; the spectators -
often members of the local commonry, who are supplied with various products, such as food,
crafts, building materials, ideological and religious concepts, as well as a connection with the
gods, by the centralized elite; and as in the case of many Mesoamerican groups, other
(perceived) participants include supernatural entities.
The more successful an event is in reaching its participants, the stronger the message.
Houston (2006:144-145) divides the activities that occur in ritually-important public places into
two possible outcomes. The first outcome is uncertain, that is, the outcome of a ballgame
or a ritual battle. The second outcome is certain. He further subdivides certain outcomes
49


into a) directional; these are activities such as arrival processions, parading of deity effigies,
interment of caches and bodies, enthronement and accession, etc. and b) nondirectional;
these are weddings, deity summonings, puberty rituals, feasts of drunken abandon, stelae
and monument erection, etc. In addition, public activity, especially ceremony, is further
defined by its timing within the annual cycle, time of day/night the number and type of
participants (i.e., genders, ages, sociopolitical status), types of adornment and accessories,
including costume, and especially the environmental setting (Houston 2006).
The very essence of monumental, public architecture makes reference to phenomena much
bigger than the structures themselves. The plan and design of sites, their decoration or
adornment, and their impact on the surrounding environment, all allude to a groups origin
myths, culture heroes, legends, historical events, astronomical events, etc. In addition to a
sense of common social identity, distinctive architecture styles establish rules and convey
information about the social, political, ethnic or gender-based hierarchies in a society (Berio
1991; Kowalski 1999; Washburn 1983; Wobst 1977; 1999). In Mesoamerica, it is widely
recognized that the orientation and placement of architecture played an important role in the
observation of celestial activities for ritual purposes as well as for agricultural, calendrical,
and time management purposes. Structures themselves, in coordination with their natural
setting, served as points in a horizon reference system used to track the important dates of
the annual course of the sun and other celestial bodies in reference to the local horizon
(Broda 2000).
A system of codes was created within the living landscape. Isolated
buildings, architectural assemblages, and settlement patterns show
particular alignments; in some cases, these alignments were coordinated
with specific points of the landscape: with mountains or other natural
elements like springs or caves, as well as with artificial markers in the
form of petroglyphs, reliefs, or buildings constructed deliberately in these
places. These points on the horizon or the orientation of temples to the
rising or setting phenomena of the sun and certain stars were also
coordinated with cult practice. The same might be said for the rites and
observations carried out in subterranean chambers artificial caves in
the womb of the earth. The elaborate cult activities were kept in tune
with agricultural cycles due to the fact that the basic structure of the
festival calendar was the solar year and ritual functioned to regulate and
control social and economic life (Broda 2000:398).
In addition to patterns that are observed in the physical arrangement or orientation of public
architecture, in examining Mesoamerica as a whole, there are several common themes and
50


practices that appear repeatedly across the entire region. These are shared activities,
cosmological concepts, and symbols that define the principles of the Mesoamerican
worldview. They appear in a variety of ways and their forms do change slightly; however,
there is a curious consistency seen across Mesoamerican space and time.
Probably the most widely recognized is the Mesoamerican calendar, a powerful and
pervasive tool that occurs across millennia and vast areas. Peoples across all of ancient
Mesoamerica shared (and many continue to share) a basic native calendrical system (Rice
2004:57).
[D]espite its employment by nearly 100 ethnic groups speaking almost as
many different languages, it has retained... [its] unity over a period of
more than 2600 years. This is not just a matter of pattern similarity but of
precise mathematical accuracy in the measurement of time (Edmonson
1988:4).
Several explanations have been offered for the origin of the sacred 260-day calendar,
including the period of human gestation from last menstruation (Brotherston 1983; Earle and
Snow 1985; Tedlock 1985:232; Thompson 1960:98), the time of solar zenith passage at 15
north latitude (Malmstrom 1973); the duration of an agrarian year, from February through
late October (Girard 1962:328-342; Milbrath 1999:13-14; Sprajc 2000; Thompson 1930:41;
Tichy 1981:236-237); and cycles of visibility of the planet Venus (Aveni 1981; Flores 1989;
Tedlock 1985:40, 233-234; Justeson 1989:78). It likely first appeared in the Preclassic when
the practice of historical record-keeping began, seen in carved dates (Cuicuilco,
Chalcatzingo) and other writing in central and western Mexico, Oaxaca (San Jose Mogote,
Monte Alban), and the Gulf coastal lowlands (see Edmonson 1986, 1988:20-21; Justeson
1986, 1989:79; Pohl, Pope, and von Nagy 2002). Some argue that the Gulf Coast Olmec
calendar is ancestral to all other Mesoamerican calendars (Edmonson 1986:85). At the site
of Tres Zapotes, Stela C suggests that the Olmec created the first manifestation of the
Mesoamerican long-count, which was instrumental in the subsequent development of
Mesoamerican calendrical systems (Carrasco 1990:34-5). Malmstrom (1978) suggests the
260-day almanac began in 1358 B.C. around the Mexico-Guatemala border (see also Tichy
1981:237). More recent research argues that it originated around the 8th century B.C.
(Rodriguez Martinez et al. 2006).
51


There are other cultural elements that are seen repetitively throughout Mesoamerica. In
addition to the interlocking 260-day sacred calendar with the 365-day solar year count,
Other important features shared by many Mesoamerican societies
include hieroglyphic writing systems, bark-paper or deerskin screen-fold
manuscripts (often referred to as codices), extensive astronomical
knowledge based on horizon observation, a sacred ritual game played
with a rubber ball, warfare practiced to obtain sacrificial victims,
organized priesthoods, self-sacrifice and penances involving fasting,
sexual abstinence, and drawing blood from ones own ears, tongue, or
penis, and a complex pantheon of gods and goddesses personifying
natural forces and/or serving as patrons of various social classes and
professions (Kowalski 1999:3-4).
Also included are the feathered serpent and the jaguar, both of which were worshipped by a
number of Mesoamerican groups including the Olmec, Mixtec, Toltec, Maya (Kukulcan), and
Aztec (Quetzalcoatl). They appear in several Mesoamerican origin myths as animistic
deities, culture heroes, and actual rulers as early as the Early Formative and persist today as
important symbols in contemporary Mesoamerica.
There are three recurring cosmological concepts, however, that have served as principles in
the organization of space at sites across Mesoamerica. The first is the vertical tri-partite
worldview (Joyce 2000). The second is the axis-mundi, or world/sky tree. The third is the
horizontal quadripartition of space, the division of the earth and sky into quadrants based on
the four cardinal directions. These three Mesoamerican concepts appear in a variety of
ways, but in analogous form, throughout Mesoamerica. They all express quintessential
Mesoamerican ideas about how the universe is structured and the widespread
Mesoamerican consideration for sacred geography, landscape, and geometry (Brady and
Ashmore 1999; Carrasco 1990). A more detailed discussion of each follows because it is
suggested here and elsewhere (Beekman 2003a, 2003b) that these concepts may also be
symbolically represented through the monumental ceremonial architecture of the Teuchitlan
Tradition.
The Mesoamerican tri-partite cosmological concept can be visualized as space divided into
thirds on the vertical plane. It consists of an underworld, the physical, present domain, and
the heavens. Across Mesoamerica, it is manifested in the physical organization and
arrangement of space and is often best seen through site architecture and design. The tri-
partite worldview is a creation myth setting out the fundamental relationships between
52


humans and the sacred (Joyce 2000: 74). It refers to the union between the three vertical
levels of the universe: the underworld, associated with the dead and believed to be the path
of renewal for celestial bodies on their journey toward the next rising; the physical plane,
associated with humans, earthly inhabitants, and events; and the heavens, associated with
celestial and supernatural deities, and events (Beekman 1999, 2003a, 2003b; Carrasco
1990; Schaefer 1996; Witmore 1998). The physical expression of this layered universe
occurs at sites such as Tikal, Copan, Palenque, Monte Alban, Teotihuacan (Broda 2000;
Carrasco 1990; Freidel, Scheie, and Parker 1993; Millon 1993; Pasztory 1997; Scheie 1977;
Scheie and Mathews 1998; Sprajc 2000, 2001, 2005; Sugiyama 1993) and it is suggested
(Beekman 1999, 2003a, 2003b) that it is incorporated into the guachimonton architectural
form of the Teuchitlan Tradition. These and other Mesoamerican cities have organizational
features that allude to the Mesoamerican concept of a layered universe, turned on its side.
That is, instead of representing this worldview as it is conceptualized, vertically, the three
layers are demonstrated on the horizontal plane of the cities. These sites were gigantic
theaters used to display the Mesoamerican worldview. The site location, design, layout, and
organizational principles all played a part in expressing the cosmology of the builders. They
were deliberately planned to display important cosmological concepts; consciously utilizing
principles of astronomy, mathematics, the calendar, and sacred geography and geometry
(Ashmore 1989, 1991; Aveni 1992; Aveni, Calnek, and Hartung 1988; Beekman 1999, 2003a,
2003b; Brady and Ashmore 1999; Broda 2000; Carrasco 1990; Cohodas 1975; Crumley
1999; Freidel, Scheie, and Parker 1993; Joyce 2000; Kowalski 1999; Scheie 1977; Scheie
and Mathews 1998; Sugiyama 1993). At Teotihuacan, representations of feathered serpents,
shells (such as conch and spondylus) and water, all of which are symbols associated with the
earth, sacrifice, warfare, and the underworld, are found clustered at the south end of the city.
Whereas other representations, such as sky bands and rain cloud motifs, associated with the
sky, the heavens, rain, and lightning are clustered at the north end of the city (Ashmore 1991;
Sugiyama 1993). The main plazas, located in the center of the cities were public arenas
where thousands of people participated in rituals that invoked the sacred covenant (Joyce
2000:83).
Another important and widespread Mesoamerican cosmological concept is the quadripartite
division of the universe. This is another pervasive and widespread concept that occurs
frequently across ancient and modern Mesoamerica (Ashmore 1989, 1991; Carlson 1981;
Coe 1965; Coggins 1980; Eliade 1954; Marcus 1973; Marcus, Flannery, and Spores 1983;
53


Rice 2004; Tichy 1981) as well as throughout much of the rest of the world. It suggests a
reference to the four cardinal or intercardinal directions (Rice 2004). This theme has been
noted in religious theory worldwide, not just in Mesoamerica. The foundation of the new city
repeats the creation of the world; indeed, once the place has been ritually validated, a fence
is erected in the form of a circle or a square broken by four doors which correspond to the
four cardinal directions (Eliade 1979:335, cited in Rice 2004:21). It has been suggested that
the quadripartition of space may relate to the positions of celestial bodies at the solstices and
equinoxes (Aveni, Hartung, and Buckingham 1978; Coggins 1980; Rice 2004). The division
of space in this manner is a powerful tool in creating a desired perception. Among the Maya
(Figure 3.1), each of the four directions is associated with a different quality or characteristic
of a specific deity, and/or different colors.
Maya rain or lightning gods were known as Chaks: the eastern Chak
brought red and good rains (prevailing trade winds in Mesoamerica
typically bring rainy season storms from the east); the northern Chak,
white good rains (usually winter rains from cold fronts moving south
from North America); the western Chak, black poor rains; and the
southern Chak, yellow poor rains (meteorologically, rain rarely moves
into the lowlands from the west or south) (Rice 2004:21).
Figure 3.1 Maya Quadripartite Glyphs
(Coggins 1980). Copyright 1980, American Antiquity. All rights reserved.
54


Alongside and in combination with the tri-partite division of space, the quadripartite division of
the cosmos is also well represented at Teotihuacan (Carrasco 1990; Dow 1967). The city is
quartered by two primary causeways, the Street of the Dead and the East-West Avenue.
This deliberate plan is further evidenced by the fact that many natural features such as
tributaries and topographic irregularities were altered to accomplish the precise quartering of
the city. Another widespread phenomenon that reflects the quadripartite vision of the
Mesoamerican cosmos is the pecked-cross petroglyphs widely documented by Aveni and
others (Aveni 1997, 2000; Aveni, Hartung, and Buckingham 1978; Coggins 1980; Mansfield
1981; Worthy and Dickens 1983).
Aveni, Hartung, and Buckingham (1978) examined 29 reported locations of the pecked-cross
symbol. It is widespread and remarkably similar across pre-Columbian Mesoamerican sites
as well as in codices and historical documents (Figure 3.2). Most of these petroglyphs,
although difficult to date, are thought to date to the Early Classic, although some at
Tlalancaleca, Puebla, may be considerably earlier (ca. 500 to 100 B.C.) (Aveni, Hartung, and
Buckingham 1978:273). The pecked cross symbols are found most commonly in central
Mexico but have also been seen in the Maya lowlands at Uaxactun (Smith 1950), Seibal
(Aveni, Hartung, and Buckingham 1978), in Belize (Wanyerka 1999), as well as in North
America (Aveni, Hartung, and Buckingham 1978). In the majority of cases, cupules are
pecked into either floor surfaces within buildings or at rock outcroppings above sites, where
panoramic views of the surrounding landscape are available. The design varies, but typically
consists of two concentric circles intersected by a pecked cross, which exhibits ten cupules
between the center of the cross and the inner ring, four cupules between the inner and outer
ring and four cupules beyond the outer ring.
55


Figure 3.2 Pecked-Cross Circles
(Aveni, Hartung, and Buckingham 1978). Copyright 1978, Science. All rights reserved.
The orientation of the axes of the crosses, previously documented as aligned toward the
cardinal directions (Aveni, Hartung, and Buckingham 1978), are actually oriented to 17.5
east of north, based on revised measurement using a surveyors transit (Aveni, Hartung, and
Buckingham 1978). The numbers of cupules represented in the crosses appear to have a
direct relationship to the Mesoamerican ceremonial 260-day calendar. Aveni, Hartung, and
Buckingham (1978) arrived at three interwoven hypotheses for the pecked cross
petroglyphs across Mesoamerica. First, they may have served as calendrical devices based
on their consistency with numbers that occur most frequently in the Mesoamerican calendar.
In support of this hypothesis, Rice (2004) notes a resemblance between the pecked crosses
and Mayan calendrical diagrams. Second, they may have served as orientational devices as
the arms of the crosses cluster rather heavily around two directions, (Aveni, Hartung, and
Buckingham 1978:278) that is, the grid plan of Teotihuacan and toward solsticial
occurrences. Finally, based on postconquest written accounts, they also may have been
gameboards. Regardless of its exact function, the quartered circle or quartered square
theme is common in Mesoamerican art motifs and religious symbolism, as well as in large-
scale, monumental architecture and city planning.
56


The third cosmological concept is the axis-mundi, often also called a world tree, or sky-
tree. It is represented as a cosmic tree (as a Ceiba tree among the Maya) (Rice 2004;
Freidel, Scheie, and Parker 1993; Scheie 1977; Scheie and Mathews 1998) or a maize plant,
which is an essential component to a number of creation stories across Mesoamerica and the
world. In Mesoamerica, it is most closely associated with Mayan cosmology; however, its
symbolic implications can be seen elsewhere in Mesoamerica. In West Mexico, the axis-
mundi is a powerful symbolic concept among the contemporary Huichol (Liffman 2000;
Neurath 2000; Schaefer 1996; Weigand and Garcia de Weigand 2000) and may also be so
among the archaeological culture of the Teuchitlan Tradition (Kelley 1974; Beekman 1999,
2003a, 2003b). Figure 3.3 demonstrates two variations on a depiction of the axis-mundi -
one showing the Maya version and one from West Mexico although it is portrayed in
innumerable ways across cultures.
Figure 3.3 Two Different Depictions of the Axis Mundi
Within Mayan cosmology, at sites such as Palenque, Copan, and Tikal, the tree involves an
extremely complicated and interwoven set of symbols, which include the sacred covenant/tri-
partite division of the universe. The sky and heavens are represented by the uppermost
branches; the earthly plane is represented by the trunk/stalk; and the underworld is
represented by the roots. It is seen as a medium via which inhabitants (both supernatural
and earthly) of the underworld, the middle world, and the celestial sphere travel and
communicate (Carrasco 1990). The world tree also has symbolic ties to the Mesoamerican
57


quadripartition of space by representing the central axis of the world and the division of the
world into four/eight cardinal and intercardinal directions, the sections of which are upheld by
the branches (Carrasco 1990; Freidel, Scheie, and Parker 1993; Scheie 1977; Scheie and
Mathews 1998). Freidel, Scheie, and Parker (1993) have shown that depictions of the world
tree, with its outstretched branches, may represent something like constellations (the
observed patterning among stars and sections of the Milky Way), and the movements of the
celestial sphere around its axis at the north celestial pole (located in the area of the sky
around which celestial bodies appear to pivot). The world tree plays an important role in
Mesoamerican creation stories and embodies important suggestions of fertility, the cycles of
life and death, divinity and rulership, timekeeping, astronomy, and ancestor/deity worship,
among other things (Freidel, Scheie, and Parker 1993). It is associated with the very
beginnings of the universe, the primordial sea, and the sky and earth at the dawn of creation.
It is an extraordinarily intricate and potent symbol of the Mesoamerican worldview and ideas
about the origin and structure of the universe.
Because ancient Mesoamerican cosmology is animistic, elements of the surrounding
environment are believed to embody the spirits of deities and ancestors. Environmental
ingredients critical to the maintenance of the Mesoamerican way of life, include staple crops,
like maize and beans; the annual rains and water; animals; mountains; and the cycles of the
sun and the moon; all of which are ascribed supernatural characteristics. The human
relationship to these elements of the environment is perceived as synonymous with the
human relationship to the gods (Brady and Ashmore 1999; Carrasco 1990; Pasztory 1997).
In ancient Mesoamerica, both prior to and following the spread of agriculture, it was
imperative to understand the cycle of the seasons. While many signs have been used toward
interpreting the changing seasons, such as the migrations of animals and the changing tides
for example, it was the movements of the sun, the moon, and other celestial objects that
provided the precision and regularity necessary to accurately predict seasonal change
(Malmstrom 1997). The distinct dry and rainy seasons that define the year for people in
much of Mesoamerica provide opportunities and constraints toward food procurement
strategies.
Being the most fundamental of human requirements, food procurement and preparation
embodies strong symbolism in Mesoamerica and across the world. This symbolism extends
58


to the strategies utilized to acquire food, the physical and psychological contribution that
different individual foodstuffs make to daily life, preparation techniques, and especially the
timing involved in the gathering, hunting, planting, and harvesting of food. This symbolism is
so strong across Mesoamerica that it has been described as an oral civilization, with
particular emphasis placed on eating and devouring (Pasztory 1997). In important daily
practices such as the cultivation, preparation, and consumption of foodstuffs, Mesoamerican
staples, notably maize, are seen as a physical manifestation of the corn deity. Eating was a
basic metaphor in divine-human interaction (Pasztory 1997:216). When consuming corn, for
example, the act is seen as literally consuming a piece of the gods. Likewise, the gods are
reciprocally nourished via a variety of rituals and ceremonies, and sometimes through human
or animal sacrifice, another common theme seen throughout Mesoamerica. The mutual
relationship between humans and the supernatural via the physical, earthly realm places food
procurement and preparation in a principal position within Mesoamerican cosmology. Its
importance extends to the monitoring of seasonal change via celestial bodies, which directly
relates to the Mesoamerican calendar, and the long-term observation and documentation of
time.
The timing of food procurement, whether it be via hunting and gathering or via planting and
harvesting, was especially important considering the dramatically marked rainy and dry
seasons in Mesoamerica. The Mesoamerican calendar, in its numerous manifestations, has
been widely recognized as one of the most sophisticated and complex calendrical systems in
the world. The calendar necessarily involved the observation and understanding of
astronomical bodies.
Systematic measurement of time and the observation of the movement of astronomical
bodies in Mesoamerica has taken a number of intriguing forms. These include, but are not
limited to: 1) orientation or alignment of architectural structures (the whole structure itself or
alternatively, the windows of a structure or apertures between walls of structures); 2) erection
of gnomons; 3) the use of pecked-stone circles (Aveni 1997; Aveni, Hartung, and
Buckingham 1978; Mansfield 1981; Worthy and Dickens 1983); 4) notched sticks (Marshack
1985); and 5) seeing staffs (Headrick 2003).
Gnomons typically consist of a simple upright pillar or post, which is erected at a site where
astronomical observations are made. They have been used throughout history across the
59


world (Calvin 1998). In Mesoamerica, their function appears primarily to be related to the
suns passage through the zenith. They are one of the most effective way[s] to calibrate the
suns zenithal passage (Malmstrom 1997:49). Specifically, gnomons are built to not cast a
shadow on the days the sun is directly overhead (on the zenith) (Malmstrom 1997:135).
However, a gnomon may also be used on other important dates in the annual cycle (e.g.,
solstice or equinox), by observing the shadow that it does cast. Calendar sticks can be made
of wood, bone, on trees, or in a similar fashion, through the knotting of string. The notches or
knots are made to mark and keep track of calendrical cycling, such as lunar phases
(Marshack 1985). The seeing staffs are seen throughout Mesoamerica and are often
depicted as a rod carried as a symbol of office or authority with the presence of mirrors or
holes on them. Headrick (2003:23) suggests that such staffs were used to view or see
the supernatural realm. The staff, therefore, indicates that the ability to communicate with the
supernatural was a critical component of the elite justification of power. A petroglyph of a
figure holding an apparent seeing staff occurs at the nearby site of Alta Vista
(Chalchihuites) (Aveni, Hartung, and Kelley 1982; Kelley 1974), which is a site of
demonstrated astronomical importance.
Some examples of deliberate astronomical alignments of structures in Mesoamerica include:
Mound J at the site of Monte Alban, which is a building with a markedly pointed configuration
that is aligned to the rising point of Capella on the zenith (Aveni and Linsley 1972); the east-
west axis of the city of Teotihuacan, which points to the setting point of the Pleiades on the
zenith (Dow 1967); the Hall of Columns at the site of Alta Vista (Chalchihuites), that tracks
the 28-day lunar cycle and the solar zenith; pecked stone circles found throughout various
Mesoamerican sites that incorporate calendrical numbers (e.g., 13, 26, 52, 260) and that
have axes oriented toward solsticial and equinotical rising/setting points; the Caracol tower at
the site of Chichen Itza, whose windows were used to sight Venus at its most northern and
southern positions along the horizon across its eight-year cycle (Aveni, Gibbs, and Hartung
1975); and the deliberate placement of wall niches, doors, windows, and openings in the
roofs of the tuki, the ceremonial temple space of the Huichol, a contemporary West Mexican
population.
These are just a few examples of enduring and widespread symbolic themes and practices
that one sees repeated across the Mesoamerican archaeological record (several of which
persevere today), across wide expanses of both space and time. These concepts overlap in
60


complicated and intricate ways and are often seen used in combination with one another, as
can be seen through the tri-partite and quadripartite division of space and the world tree.
Their relationships to each other and to the greater Mesoamerican world-view are complex,
and subtle changes in their meaning certainly occur over space and time. However, it is
important to note that the essence (specifically formal characteristics) of these Mesoamerican
concepts is consistently repeated across several examples of Mesoamerican art,
architecture, site planning and design, ceremonial practices, oral history, and origin myths.
3.2.2 Symbolism in the Teuchitlan Tradition
So what can be said of the symbolism that is represented through the public architecture of
the Teuchitlan Tradition in West Mexico? Several authors have presented their ideas about
the presence of cosmological themes and the ritual activities that might have occurred at
these large, public architectural complexes (Beekman 1999, 2003a, 2003b; Butterwick 2004;
Meighan and Nicholson 1989; Townsend 1998; Weigand 1985a, 1991, 1996, 1999; Witmore
1998). A combination of Pan-Mesoamerican evidence, region-specific archaeological data,
and ethnographic research may shed light on the types of activities that occurred here, and
the cosmological, ideological and political information that the Teuchitlan Tradition public
architecture was built to convey. Weigand (1985a:90-1) has stated,
The geometric and structural forms of the architectural traditions within a
polity and/or society most closely markets ideology much more so than
ceramic motifs or vessel shapes. The culture, politics, ideology and
technology are embodied in architectural form. The five-element circular
compounds of the Teuchitlan tradition are pristine monuments, whose
physical and temporal continuities reinforce the special character played
in solidifying and identifying the society(s) involved.
In linking the cosmology of greater Mesoamerica to the architecture of the Teuchitlan
Tradition in central Jalisco, Witmore (1998) discusses the circle as a common motif used in
decorative objects, such as ceramics or jewelry. However, circular architecture as public
buildings is somewhat rare in Mesoamerica (Pollock 1936). When round structures did occur
they typically served minor roles in site plan and design when compared to the rectangular or
square architectural features. In this way, the circular ceremonial complexes of the
Teuchitlan Tradition are unique in comparison to other round structures in Mesoamerica
because of the obvious central role that they play within their respective sites.
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The circular structures from the Occidente, however, are fundamentally
different in this respect. Square or rectangular buildings, when they exist
at all, are located outside the main area of the precincts and were clearly
minor elements within the ceremonialism featured in the circles and
ballcourts. The circles are inward-looking, focused upon the activities
within the patios and, most especially, on the central pyramid (Weigand
1999:53).
It should be noted that while the overall arrangement of the guachimontones is circular and
several of the five basic architectural features that Weigand (1985a:67) identifies have
circular or ovoid forms, including the central altar/pyramid, the elevated patio, the banquette,
and the sub-surface shaft tombs/burial chambers, the surrounding platforms a conspicuous
element of the guachimontones are rectangular structures.
The detailed ceramic models that have been recovered from the region may support the
suggestion that the complexes served central, community-wide ceremonial, and/or
administrative functions. These diorama-like figurines, alongside pseudocloisonne ceramic
vessels appear to depict the community activities that occurred at the circles (Weigand 1999).
The form of the guachimontones is so specialized that only a few of the ethnographically and
ethnohistorically known ceremonies might have conceivably been performed within them
(Weigand 1999:52) (Figure 3.4). Activities may have included feasting, seasonal agricultural
ceremonies (such as the volador or Xocotl Huetzi) (Beekman 2003a, 2003b; Weigand 1996,
1999; Witmore 1998), local or regional competitions through ball games (Weigand 1991),
burial rituals (Beekman 1996b, 1998a; Weigand 1985a), marriage ceremonies (Beekman
2000), or other community activities. Many have noted the likeness between the scenes
depicted in the figurines from the Occidente and the volador ceremony commonly practiced in
Central Mexico (Beekman 1999, 2003a, 2003b; Bell 1971; Kelley 1974; von Winning and
Hammer 1972; Witmore 1998, Weigand 1999).
Over 1,000 years and hundreds of kilometers separate the ceremonial
circles and figurine voladores of the Occidente from the ethnohistorical
materials from central Mexico, so it is important to note that we are not
suggesting any direct ethnographic analogies. However, the
circle/volador complex in the Occidente must certainly be among the
prototypes and/or earlier variants of the ceremonialism documented so
extensively elsewhere in Mesoamerica (Weigand 1999:54).
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Figure 3.4 Two Ceramic Models of West Mexican Pole Ceremonies
Left: Ceremonial scene, Nayarit, 600 B.C.-A.D. 1000. Painted terra cotta. (Accession
number 5444.7265; Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK). Right: 1959.55.18. Pole scene, Nayarit.
Two houses and a prone figure on top of a pole (volador). (Yale University Art Gallery, New
Haven, CT) (Beekman 2003a:303).
The volador (flyer) is often represented as a bird-man in areas where the volador ceremony
continues to be practiced. The figurines from the Occidente also represent the volador
adorned with bird-like paraphernalia. The figurines typically depict the voladores as follows,
as described by Weigand (1999:54).
Most volador figurines, however, show humans (clearly males), and
these individuals usually have the following attributes: (1) elaborate,
swept-back feathered headdresses, or conical hats; (2) little clothing,
except for a loincloth, or penis shield, supported from a waistband; (3)
red, white, and black body paint in bold designs; (4) ear and nose
rings/plugs; (5) conch shells or fans held in the outstretched hands.
The volador ceremony may have proceeded in a manner described by various sources
below,
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In the ethnohistorically documented form of the volador, four young
males climb an 11-25 meter pole and leap off at a climactic moment of
the ceremony, allowing the ropes tying them to an apparatus at the top to
unwind as they spiral down. The four flyers (frequently dressed as birds)
hope to make 13 circuits around the pole before touching down, totaling
52, the number of years in a calendrical cycle (Beekman 2003a:300).
Beekman (2003a) has suggested another pole ritual practice in Mesoamerica that could be
represented at the guachimontones of the Teuchitlan Tradition. The Xocotl Huetzi is also
believed to reference celestial phenomena, seasonal harvest, fertility, and ancestor worship.
The ceremony,
involved the placement of either banners or an image in amaranth dough
of the fire deity Xiuhteuctli or the Otomi deity Otonteuctli. Dancing,
drinking, and feasting were part of the ceremony, which culminated in a
race among male youths to reach the top of the pole and capture the
image (Beekman 1999:3).
Across Mesoamerica, round architecture is often associated with the deity of Quetzalcoatl,
and some have suggested a link to Ehecatl (Pollock 1936; Marquina 1951; Nicholson 1971;
Weigand 1999). Accordingly, the circular, ceremonial architecture of the Teuchitlan Tradition
may also be associated with the presence of early variants of the symbol sets later identified
as belonging to Quetzalcoatl/Ehecatl (Weigand 1999:53).
Resemblances of bird-men are also painted on a number of ceramics that have been
discovered through excavation from the habitation areas of the Teuchitlan Tradition. The
decoration on these ceramics shows apparent depictions of a winged figure. It has been
suggested that this figure exhibits attributes usually associated with Ehecatl (Weigand 1999),
including bent-over posture, a long, pointed nose, wing and tail feathers, and birds claws;
however, others have disputed that suggestion (Beekman, personal communication 2006).
The symbolism from the ceramic dioramas, and possibly from painted ceramic vessels, taken
in concert may form a set of symbols that are related to the architectural circles (Weigand
1999:56) (Figure 3.5).
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(DRY SEASON)
Figure 3.5 The Ehecatl Codex from Teuchitlan, Jalisco
(Weigand 1999). Copyright 1999, Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
In addition to the feasible ceremonies that may have occurred at the guachimontones, it is
also possible that the pole that extended upward from atop the central altar of most of the
circles also served as some sort of gnomon for the purposes of astronomical observation.
Distinct shadows would be cast from such a tall, marked feature, and the shadows would
migrate based on the time of year and the movement of the sun along the ecliptic (i.e., its
apparent path across the dome of the sky overhead). For example, if the central pole erected
at the center of these circles served as an astronomical gnomon, it could effectively mark the
two passages of the sun through the zenith in this region, and not cast any shadow at noon
on those days. As previously mentioned, this is important because of the relationship of the
suns first passage through the zenith in this region of the Tropics (approximately May 22),
which is near the early June start of the rainy season.
It is suggested here and elsewhere (Beekman 1999; 2003a; 2003b) that some of the
symbolism seen repeated at the pan-Mesoamerican scale is also represented in some
variation at the guachimontones of the Teuchitlan Tradition. The common symbolic themes
of the tri-partite and quadripartite division of space, as well as the axis mundi parallel the
imagery and physical form of the guachimontones. The circles are composed of a central
pyramid/altar, which according to both archaeological and ceramic-model evidence, was also
the foundation for a tall pole extending upward from its center; four or more (always an even
number) equidistantly and symmetrically spaced platforms surrounding the central
pyramid/altar; and the presence of shaft tombs located below the superstructure. This
architectural arrangement mirrors these common Mesoamerican concepts discussed earlier.
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Witmore (1998:145) argues that cosmological principles were worked into the architectural
fabric of the circular complexes on a monumental scale.
Being a densely populated area with a rich and diverse resource base, concepts of
agricultural production, harvest, the calendar, and fertility must have been of central
importance to the Teuchitlan Tradition people. As noted above, architectural features in
Mesoamerica often manifest the social, political, and ideological concerns of a people (Aveni
1992, 2001; Beekman 1999, 2003a, 2003b; Broda 2000; Carrasco 1990; Freidel, Scheie, and
Parker 1993; Houston and Stuart 1996; Joyce 2000; Kowalski 1999; Scheie 1977; Scheie
and Mathews 1998; Sugiyama 1993; Townsend 1998; Weigand 1985a, 1999). As such, the
possibility has been suggested that the form of the guachimonton may symbolize one of the
primary staple foodstuff in Mesoamerica, maize, which constituted approximately 70-80% of
the diet (Beekman 2003b). Viewed from above, their physical form bears a resemblance to a
cross-section of a specific variety of maize known as Harinoso de Ocho, which, as its name
implies, is an eight-rowed maize, meaning that there are eight rows of kernels surrounding
the central cob. The Harinoso de Ocho variety of maize may actually have more than eight
rows of kernels, but the number of rows is always an even number because maize
chromosomes are paired. Considering this, there is an intriguing analogy between this
variety of maize and the form of the guachimontones, which consistently have an even
number of between four and twelve equidistantly spaced platforms arranged around the
central altar (Figure 3.6).
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A Kernel
C Core of cob
i larinoso de Ocho
B Patio
C Allar/Pyramid
Guachimonton
Figure 3.6 Comparison Between Harinoso de Ocho and the Guachimonton
viewed from above (Beekman 2003b:306). Copyright 2003, Ancient Mesoamerica. All rights
reserved.
Ethnographic research of contemporary peoples living in and around the region also supports
several of the suggestions that peoples in West Mexico symbolically displayed interpretations
of their surroundings, including celestial events overhead, through the organization of public
and/or sacred space, particularly architectural space. Several ceremonies among three
contemporary West Mexican peoples may have roots or ties to the ceremonies that likely
occurred at the guachimontdnes. The Huichol, Cora, and Tepecano all conduct ceremonies
which reference celestial phenomena, seasonal cycling, maize, planting, and harvesting
times in structures that appear to be reflective of the arrangement of the guachimontdnes
(Beekman 1999, 2003a, 2003b; Coyle 2000; Fikes 1985; Gutierrez de Angel 2000; Guzman
2000; Kindi 2000; Liffman 2000; Liffman and Coyle 2000; Neurath 2000; Schaefer 1996;
Schaefer and Furst 1996; Weigand and Garcia de Weigand 2000).
In the early 1900s, J. Alden Mason (1918) recorded an annual cycle of
rituals among the Tepecano Indians of northern Jalisco that are worth
final consideration. Many of these rituals took place in patios that turn
out to be ruined guachimontdnes (Beekman 2003a:312).
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In Schaefers (1996) review of the cosmology of the Huichol Indians of West Mexico, she
specifically notes the Huichol arrangement of architectural space as it relates to the cosmos.
Some interesting parallels exist between the cosmological worldview of the Huichol, reflected
in their ceremonial architecture, and the guachimontones of the Teuchitlan Tradition. The
Huichol circular ceremonial temple is called a tuki. The interior arrangement of the tuki is
organized with symbolic reference to the cosmos, ancient Huichol myth, the seasons
(specifically the rainy and dry seasons), the cardinal directions, the sun, the moon, and
sociopolitical organization among both the living and dead members of the community. The
physical form of the tuki also reflects both the Mesoamerican tri-partite and quadripartitioned
division of space. The rainy season occupies the left or south half and the dry season
occupies the right/north half. The moon occupies the back/west half and the sun occupies
the front/east half of the interior space (Figure 3.7). The roof is upheld by two tall pine logs
that represent two rain deities as well as the cosmic axis which unites the middle world with
the upper world.
Figure 3.7 Circular Floorplan of the Huichol Tuki
(Drawing by Nancy Moyer) (Schaefer 1996:352). Copyright 1996, University of New Mexico
Press. All rights reserved.
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Akin to the platforms that surround the central pyramid of the guachimontones, there are an
even number of equidistantly placed niches in the walls of the tuki, which are tied both to real
or imagined ancestor deities, as well as to several complementary themes in Huichol thought:
the rainy and dry season, the sun and the moon, male and female. These niches are also
associated with specific family lineages, an idea that has been proposed for the individual
platforms of the guachimontones (Beekman, in press, 1998a, 2003a, 2003c, 2005). There
are several holes in the floor of the tuki, which house sacred cargo (ritual offerings) ascribed
to particular deities/ancestors and connect ceremony participants to the underworld. The
outside world is connected through one primary east-facing entrance, which aligns with the
sunrise on the equinox, two east-facing windows, which align with the general rising positions
of the sun during the rainy and dry seasons, and two openings at the top of the tuki, located
near where the two pine logs support the thatch roof. The openings in the tuki at the roof and
windows mark, at different times of the year, the equinoctial rising of the sun, the passages of
the sun and moon during the rainy/dry season and during the winter and summer solstices,
and the opposing paths of the sun and the moon.
As has been shown, greater Mesoamerican evidence, region-specific archaeological data,
and ethnographic research are all valuable sources toward a greater understanding of the
symbolic themes and cosmological practices that are represented at the circular, ceremonial
architectural complexes of the Teuchitlan Tradition. Their form suggests consideration of
seasonality and the calendar, the availability of and festivities surrounding subsistence
resources and agriculture, the axis-mundi, or world tree, the conceptual quadripartite division
of the world into four cardinal (or intercardinal) directions, and the tri-partite division of the
world into three levels: the upper-, middle- and lowerworlds.
The powerful symbolism displayed through the public architecture is also interwoven with the
sociopolitical climate and the structural hierarchy. In addition to the management of people,
labor, agricultural production, defense, and trade, the Teuchitlan elite were most likely
increasingly involved in the management of symbols, religious concepts, and ideology.
Political leadership in Mesoamerica (and around the world) is inextricably linked to myth,
ritual, the calendar, kingship, and divine communication with the gods (Krupp 2000). As a
result, in addition to the Symbolic approach, a consideration of power relations is a necessary
component toward understanding the meaning and function of large-scale public architecture
in Mesoamerica.
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3.3 Political Economy
There are several important characteristics that define the Political Economic approach.
First, the definition of culture includes both the structure and the interaction that occurs within
the structure; the crossroads where structure and agency meet (Cobb 1993; Johnson 1989;
Roseberry 1988; Saitta 1989, 1992, 1994). Culture is the sum of human symbols,
motivations, learned behavior, customs, beliefs, institutions, capital, technology, worldviews,
and material culture and their relationship to the larger structures in which they reside.
Both of these theoretical schools Symbolic Archaeology and Political Economy arose in
reaction to the early Processualist school of the 1960s, which was very focused on cultural
material as a simple reflection of the adaptive behavior of human populations. Processualist
archaeology relied heavily on the comparative method, patterning, and probability in the
archaeological record to make cross-cultural generalizing principles. In this way, it embraced
a very positivist methodology. It sought to determine the external environmental stressors
that created change in the archaeological record, tested hypotheses using strict, quantifiable,
rules of scientific rigor, and used the results of these testable hypotheses to make broad
generalizations and predictions about culture (Binford 1962; Binford and Binford 1968).
Symbolic archaeology and Political Economy contend that while positivist science can be a
useful way of looking at things, it often fails to assign individualized meaning to raw data
(Saitta 1989). Rather, it is argued that truths are relative (Bender 1990; McCall 1999; Saitta
1989). Built environments, as well as perceptions about the natural environment are
culturally constituted (Bender 1990). As in the Symbolic camp, Political Economy takes the
position that material culture in the archaeological record embodies purposeful meanings
reflective of the systemic processes in which they were produced and maintained (McCall
1999; Saitta 1989, 1994). Multiple, diverse lines of scientific evidence, such as testable
hypotheses with quantifiable and replicable results, used alongside historical context and
ethnographic analogy, provide a greater understanding of complexity, stratification,
centralized authority, the management of ideology and meaning, and the relationship
between core and periphery groups (Roseberry 1988; Saitta 1989, 1992, 1994).
Generalizing or universal laws are insufficient to explain culture. [T]here is more shaping
society than the broad adaptive, systemic, and evolutionary macro forces (McGuire and
Saitta 1996:199).
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The Political Economist is concerned in broad terms with the evolution and history of power,
and specifically with issues surrounding the division of labor, dependency and domination,
inequality, resource distribution, modes of production (Roseberry 1988), trade and
commerce, product specialization (Cobb 1993), and how the manipulation of language,
symbols, and ideology play a part in the control of people and the distribution of power (Gal
1989). Research focuses on the relative (not comparative) relationships between periphery
groups such as commoners, the poor, craft workers, women, those involved in domestic labor
or reproduction, and their relationships with individuals that rank higher in social hierarchies,
such as the wealthy elite that often make up the core centralized authority (Roseberry 1988;
Saitta 1994). While structural processes impact individual events, individuals also,
intentionally or unintentionally, constantly create and recreate the structure with every action
(Sassaman 2000).
Methodologically, Political Economists are averse to using sweeping cross-cultural
generalizations or universal laws. Comparable phenomena are not necessarily similar or
related phenomena. It is often among the incomplete data or noise where one discovers
new, innovative ideas about the past (Saitta 1994).
In examining the relationships between individuals or groups that reside in different places
along the sociopolitical continuum, one finds that people are most knowledgeable of their own
groups and less so of neighboring groups. This notion is relevant when examining the types
of relationships be they ideological or political that exist between different groups. People
of lower status have a greater need to know about their powerful superiors, whereas those
in power have little need for knowledge of their social inferiors (Berreman 1972; Ohnersorgen
and Varien 1996; Stone and Howell 1994). People of common status tend to interact more
freely and intimately with one another, and less so with those outside their group, and identity
is expressed in this manner. To complicate things further, interests are always changing,
thus alliances are continuously shifting. During good and plentiful times, cooperation and
peaceful relations within and between groups is emphasized; however, in difficult or scarce
times, groups may break apart to seek out solutions or alternatives ways of solving existing
problems. This fusion-fission process occurs across social groupings depending on present
political, economic, and social circumstances (McGuire and Saitta 1996).
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Political identity and status may be expressed by various means, including, but not limited to
totemic roles, ethnic identity, kin relations, gender, or relationships within a sodality (Comaroff
1987; Emberling 1997). It was conveyed through affiliation with specific rituals or ideologies,
mortuary practices, or a specialty, such as ceramic or architectural style (Stone and Howell
1994). In contrast, expression of political status in complex state-level societies is conveyed
through ones relationship to the periphery, semi-periphery, or core (Shannon 1989). The
soundness of a complex, state-level social system depends on balances of power and
rewards rather than a consensus on the desirability of the system (Berreman 1972:96).
People or groups of lower status may not ever truly accept those in positions of power as
legitimate. Rather, the nature of the system and of the power relations which maintain it are
tacitly allowed when it serves the purpose of the majority of participants (Berreman 1972:97).
This delicate balance is maintained (or destroyed) by varying levels of power over and
power to, and power over necessarily comes from and involves power to (McGuire and
Saitta 1996:208).
While social interactions are indeed somewhat limited by environmental, geographical, and
technological factors, they are also socially mediated (Bender 1990). Clark and Blake
(1994:18) argue that self-interested aggrandizers, more than environmental constraints,
create stratification, centralized authority, and subordination. These individuals vie for social
and political prestige by developing a coalition of faithful followers and through the
management of meaning. The subsequent institutionalization of hierarchical social
stratification is due in large part to the unintended consequences resulting from the actions of
individual agents. Political leaders are able to emerge through control over subsistence
resources as well as control over non-subsistence related types of wealth: through coercive
power and through the control of sacred symbols, ideology, ritual practice, and cosmology
(Brumfiel and Earle 1987).
Control and manipulation of social symbols is an extremely potent source of power and has
strong implications for the rise of complexity. The archaeological record provides a great
deal of evidence for the increase of status and authority by means of ideological and ritual
mechanisms, or by social prestige factors such as age or gender, rather than simply through
the control of subsistence/material resources (Curet 1996; McIntosh 1999). Indeed, the use
and manipulation of ideology is possibly the most potent way of establishing power. It is a
form of hegemonic control where power is subtly integrated, through apparent consensus
72


rather than through violence or imposed through coercion (e.g., Gramsci). This form of
hegemonic rule may initially involve willing subject participation, as no polity can thrive long
with unwilling subjects. However, this process often results in the unintended consequence
of the institutionalization of said subordination (Clark and Blake 1994; Joyce 2000). Joyce
(2000:85-6) suggests that, social transformation... [is] apparently part of a broader structural
transition in Mesoamerica involving the negotiation of elite and commoner power relations
through the sacred covenant.
The undeniable aspects of the human experience include the relation of human beings to
nature, the social relations of human beings with one another, the human capacity to
transform nature to human use, and [human] symbolic capabilities (Wolf 1981:339). In
considering the deliberate organization of space for social purposes, it is worth exploring how
the structuring principles of ones surroundings affect the way in which people actively order,
transform, identify and memorialize their environment (Knapp and Ashmore 1999:20).
Human relationships to one another and to nature the surrounding landscape and
resources, the cycles of time, the transformation of space, shared beliefs about the nature of
things and social dynamics all are an integral part of Bourdieus habitus (Bourdieu 1977;
Jenkins 2002): an individuals (sub)consciousness about their actions and activities within the
environment. Habitus is both composed of practical/functional taxonomies (how people
organize their world) and the dynamic social and symbolic meaning ascribed to elements of
daily life (Bourdieu 1977; Jenkins 2002). Habitus is a useful concept in considering how
symbolic meaning is both structured and structuring through individual and group interaction
within the surrounding environment.
People create places which define space, and peoples identities are in turn defined by their
place. Places are both internalized by the meanings they have for individuals, and are places
for action where meaning is created through social interactions (Kealhoffer 1999:61).
Organization of space and definition of place is full of meaning and is both defined by and
itself defines power relations and sociopolitical structure. The surrounding landscape and the
manipulation/alteration of that landscape (e.g., via the incorporation of monumental, public
architecture) serves to define how people perceive the world, which extends to their ideas
about necessary fundamentals such as food, time, space, and the origin and nature of the
universe (Crumley 1999).
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People identify not only with the places where they live and work and
bury their dead, but also with notable features of their surroundings.
Springs, caves, mountains, and other ostensibly natural elements
connect the individual with the cosmic frame that gives life meaning
(Crumley 1999:270).
The surrounding environment natural and constructed is not just a backdrop; it is an
integral part of individual and group perception and identity (Barrett 1999; Kealhoffer 1999).
The evidence of the intentional or unintentional manipulation of physical space within the
archaeological record provides clues as to how people perceived the world (Crumley 1999).
A consideration of the conscious and subconscious set of symbols that people perceive in
their surroundings is critical toward an understanding of social and political organization.
Joyce (2000:86) states,
the founding of Monte Alban [was] an outcome of struggle over human,
material, and symbolic resources that structured power relations,
especially a set of fundamental sacred propositions embodied in
Mesoamerican creation myths. The outcome of this struggle included
profound changes in the social construction of agency involving
alteration in social categories such as commoner, elite, enemy,
community and faction.
3.3.1 Politics and Power in Mesoamerica
Political organization across Mesoamerica is especially connected to cosmology, calendrics,
agriculture, religion, ritual, and myth. It has strong spatial and territorial elements because of
political boundaries (Rice 2004).
The orientation and placement of structures, substructure mounds, and
other elements of site structure may also reflect the symbolic order of the
occupants or, at the least, may reflect the degree of planning or social
control exerted within the resident cultural system (Polhemus 1990:133-
134).
In this manner, calendrical cycling and agriculture played a critical role in Mesoamerican
politics. In addition to the prediction of important celestial events, the Mesoamerican
calendar also created a sacred mandate for elite decision-making (Justeson 1989:104). It
played an important role in determining the rotation and terms of office for political and
religious leaders (Rice 2004:57). [Cyclical structuring of secular or earthly affairs was
modeled on cosmological-calendrical cycles.
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Agricultural planning and regulation also plays a critical role in the maintenance of
Mesoamerican origin myths and sociopolitical organization. Extensive agricultural systems
that incorporated early examples of chinampa farming, as well as terracing, may be indicative
of strong sociopolitical organization. This type of massive building campaign necessarily
involved hierarchically-organized political and religious elite figures that are capable of
directing large labor forces (Stuart 2003:13). An important requirement for this type of large-
scale agricultural system is production by peasant/commoner groups for the purposes of
redistribution by a centralized elite population. This redistribution serves to augment the
power and influence of the centralized elite (Stuart 2003:11).
For a social system to operate, it is necessary that the people accept the social principles and
organize their activities around these principles (Drennan 1976).
It seems highly unlikely that the natives of highland Mesoamerica
accepted the social conventions granting higher status to a restricted set
of individuals (and requiring that their directives be obeyed) because
they realized that this was necessary in order to maintain a system of
economic symbiosis, which in turn enabled them to enjoy various
economic advantages of specialization. Maintaining such a social
system includes many relatively specific directives for behavior, the
relation of which to the overall maintenance of the social system is not
intuitively obvious to the participants. The belief systems generally
subsumed under the headings of religion or ideology, however, can
ensure the acceptance of social conventions, and thus the requisite
degree of predictability in the operation of a social system (Drennan
1976:347).
This acceptance of social principles through religious and cosmological ideology has been
referred to as sanctification (Rappaport 1969, 1971a, 1971b). Religion is an extremely
powerful tool that, when manipulated effectively, can convince large populations of people to
accept a potent ideology even when it competes with logic or best interests. Rappaport
(1971a) has identified three categories to explain how religion accomplishes this. These are:
1) ultimate sacred propositions; 2) ritual; and 3) religious experience. Ultimate sacred
propositions are a collection of values, principles or beliefs that are resolutely followed by the
faithful, regardless of whether they can be substantiated as legitimate. This system works in
a mutually sustaining and cyclical manner: the ultimate sacred propositions direct ritual,
which generates religious experience, which results in further support for the ultimate sacred
propositions. Ritual then serves as the point of articulation between religion and social
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