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131 7 Mixteca-PueblaPolychromesandtheCodices Michael D. Lind DOI: 10.5876/9781607323297.c007 Mixteca-Puebla Polychromes At the time of the Spanish conquest, at least four different types of polychrome pottery were being produced and used in Central Mesoamerica, from the Valley of Mexico to the Valley of Oaxaca (figure 7.1). Collectively these polychromes are referred to as Mixteca-Puebla polychrome, and they include Cholula polychrome, Mixteca polychrome, Acatlán polychrome, and Chinantla polychrome (Lind 1967; Moser 1969). There are actually eight types of Cholula polychrome that occur during different phases or time periods at Cholula, beginning in 900 CE and ending around 1650 CE (table 7.1). The polychromes that date between 900 and 1150 CE include Marta, Estela, and Cristina. Those that date between 1150 and 1350 CE include Albina and Silvia (Lind 1994:81). When archaeologists speak of Cholula polychrome, they are generally referring to Catalina and Nila polychromes, which date from 1350 to 1550 CE and were still being produced around the time of the Spanish conquest. Nila polychrome is sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s” polychrome because of the simplicity of its decoration and the frequency of its occurrence in association with households of commoners. Catalina is Cholula’s elite polychrome (figure 7.2). It manifests very elaborate decorations, was a relatively scarce commodity, and occurs in association with elite households. Polychrome in the Cholula Catalina style (not necessarily all of which was made in Cholula, but which follows the ceramic canons of Cholula) is found distributed throughout the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley, the Tepeaca region, and 132 Michael D. Lind Figure 7.1. The distribution of Mixteca-Puebla polychromes. the Valley of Mexico. It is primarily associated with Nahua speakers. The Spanish conqueror Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1962:155) remarked upon the beauty of this polychromeandstatedthattheAztecemperorMoctezumadinedfrompolychrome serving dishes produced in Cholula. Todate,ithasbeenpossibletoidentifytwodifferenttypesofMixtecapolychrome that were made at different time periods, one before and one after the Spanish conquest (Lind 1987:14). When archaeologists speak of Mixteca polychrome, they are usually referring to Pilitas polychrome, which was being produced before the Spanish conquest and dates between 1350 and 1550 CE (figure 7.3). Mixteca polychrome of the Pilitas type (not all of which was produced in the Mixteca, but which follows the ceramic canons of the Mixteca) is found distributed throughout the southern part of the Mixteca Baja beginning at Huajuapan de León and extending Mixteca-Puebla Polychromes and the Codices 133 throughout the Mixteca Alta, Cuicatlán Cañada, Mixteca de la Costa, and Valley of Oaxaca. Mixteca polychrome is primarily, but not exclusively, associated with Mixtec speakers. Acatlán and Chinantla polychromes are easily distinguished from one another and from the Cholula and Mixteca polychromes and will not concern us further here. However, the Cholula Catalina and Mixteca Pilitas polychromes, which are the focus of this study and which are the polychromes archaeologists generally Table 7.1 Chronological chart of Mixteca-Puebla polychromes Absolute Dates(CE) Cholula Mixteca / Valley of Oaxaca Acatlán Chinantla Ceramic phases and Diagnostic Polychrome types 1550–1650 Convento phase1 Iglesia Polychrome Convento phase2 Iglesia Polychrome Colonial? Convento phase3 Iglesia Polychrome 1350–1550 Mártir phase4 Catalina / Nila Polychromes Natividad / Chila phases5 Pilitas Polychrome Late Postclassic6 Acatlán Polychrome Late Postclassic Chinantla Polychrome 1150–1350 Tecama phase7 Albina / Silvia Polychromes Natividad / Chila phases? Middle Postclassic? Middle Postclassic? 900–1150 Aquiáhuac phase8 Marta Polychrome Estela Polychrome Cristina Polychrome Natividad / Liobaa phases? Early Postclassic? Early Postclassic? Figure 7.2. Cholula Mártir-phase polychrome: Catalina tripod bowls. (MCC; photo courtesy of Gilda Hernández; CRP)9 134 think of as Mixteca-Puebla, are very similar, at least superficially. Both have a shiny orange painted ground that was placed over a white painted undercoating. Design motifs were executed on this ground in red, black, and white, with additional colors occurring less frequently. They share a large number of design motifs, including those that most frequently decorate them: feathers, grecas, flowers, cloud or smoke motifs, and stylized bird or serpent heads (Lind 1994:Table 7.4). Because of their similarity, Cholula Catalina and Mixteca Pilitas polychromes have been referred to indiscriminately as “Mixtec” or “Cholula” polychrome. The literature is full of careless references and mislabeling of illustrations as “Cholula” or “Mixtec” polychrome. However, a careful comparison of vessel shapes, supports, and design motifs provides for a clear distinction between them, although it does take some expertise to distinguish them (Lind 1994:79–99). One factor that has exacerbated the...


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