NEH logo
[Return to Query]

Products for Grant FT-58658-11

The Toltec Arrangement: A Study of an Early Mesoamerican City
William Ringle, Davidson College

Grant details:

Plazas and Patios of the Feathered Serpent (Book Section)
Title: Plazas and Patios of the Feathered Serpent
Author: William Ringle
Editor: Kenichiro Tsukamoto
Editor: Takeshi Inomata/
Abstract: Rites of investiture are critical opportunities for demonstrating, or at least simulating, the legitimate and orderly transfer of power. Sanctioned by precedent and often by a state religion, they are moments of peak political drama for which a substantial audience is required. Although such rituals might have a hidden, esoteric component, it is almost inconceivable that they could dispense with revealed stages in which the newly invested lord emerges to the acclaim of his subjects. It is logical, therefore, that plazas be a central focus in the search for arenas of investiture in the cityscapes of ancient Mesoamerica. Crowd capacity, restrictions of entry and visibility, and associated architecture are all important considerations, but without associated iconographic or textual evidence, definitive identification is often difficult. This paper examines investiture rituals for which we do have textual information, primarilyfrom the Basin of Mexico, Tlaxcala, and Puebla, and then argues for their application to sites falling within the broader “Toltec” tradition. (By this is meant cities following a political ideology first defined at Teotihuacan and then widely disseminated after its fall.) One lesson of these texts is that the investitures of paramounts and of their lords (tetecuhtin among Nahua groups) had many points in common and apparently used many of the same facilities, thus justifying their architectural investment and explaining associated iconography. Sub-royal investiture is particularly interesting in that rites frequently reaffirm not only the ties of vassal to paramount, but also the broader civic ties linking barrio residents (e.g., calpoleh) to their immediate lord (e.g., tecuhtli) and to the polity as a whole (e.g., altepetl). Such rites were often carried out at various locales, potentially providing at least a partial explanation for the distribution and articulation of plaza space throughout a site.
Year: 2012
Book Title: Mesoamerican Plazas