The Place of Reeds is based on this historical city called Teotihuacan. Who the main inhabitants of Teotihuacan were is unknown, but the contenders are Nahua speakers (like the Aztecs), Totonacs or Otomis (Miller & Taube, 1993). Vogel (1995) adds Nahua-Chichimecs and Olmec-Chochopopolocas to the list of possibilities. Vogel says the most accepted theory is that the inhabitants were proto-Nahua.
Ethnic groups were present in numbers, notably the Zapotecs (Miller & Taube, 1993).
Trades, Professions and Skills
The activities of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan included agriculture, building, carving bones and shell, trade or exchange both with the distant area and in the city market, pottery, stone cutting, sculpture, painting and waving textiles for clothes (Vogel, 1995).
Pulque – the native alcoholic drink – was also produced at Teotihuacan (Miller & Taube, 1993). It even had its own god.
The inhabitants of Teotihuacan traded both with distant areas and in the city market (Vogel, 1995). Teotihuacan styles of pottery and architecture followed the trade routes, reaching as far as Tikal in Guatemala.
Individuals were believed to be able to transform themselves into animals; particularly powerful individuals could transform themselves into jaguar (Miller & Taube, 1993).
The Priestly class of Teotihuacan performed ceremonies and rites, organised work and were in control of politics, administration and the economy (Vogel, 1995).
Acrobats and Contortionists
Acrobats were depicted in art as early as Olmec times, and acrobats and contortionists were important ritual entertainers in various Classic Post-Classic cultures (Miller & Taube, 1993).
Some Olmec sculpture from before 800 BC seems to show inscriptions suggesting the Olmecs had mastered a glyphic system of writing (Gendrop, 1972). However, the Zapotecs are generally credited with inventing writing (Miller & Taube, 1993). The Maya refined the skill and introduced a phonetic alphabet.
Teotihuacan did not adopt either the Mayan (Miller & Taube, 1993) or Zapotecs scripts (Ancient Scripts: Mesoamerican Writing Systems). The Teotihuacan writing systems included two styles, one rectilinear and somewhat regularly-shaped glyphs similar to the Zapotecs and Mayas, and the other more free-form and iconic (“emblematic”). We have some understanding of the the language of Teotihuacan (Gendrop, 1972):
- A succession of human feet represented a road.
- Large volutes represent a word, a flowery speech or a song.
- Pale green is jade or anything particularly precious (e.g. a drop of rain)
- Indian red is blood.
Zapotecs and Monte Alban
Monte Alban – the major Zapotec centre has depictions of visitors from Teotihuacan, and in turn Teotihuacan had a Zapotec section of the city (Miller & Taube, 1993).
The people of Teotihuacan and the Maya were aware of each other (Miller & Taube, 1993). The Maya adopted several Teotihuacan cultural practices including the cult of war, its patrons and regalia, but didn’t adopt the female goddesses. Tikal may have been the first of these to adopt the ideology and technology of war from Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan did not adopt the more sophisticated Maya writing system.
The north eastern region was dominated by El Tajin (Miller & Taube, 1993). This centre was controlled by the Huaxtecs – a Mayan group.
Gendrop, P. (1972). Ancient Mexico. Editorial Trillas.
Miller, M., & Taube, K. (1993). An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. London: Thames & Hudson.
Vogel, S. (1995). Teotihuacan: History, Art and Monuments. Moncem Ediciones.