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Calixtlahuaca: A Brief Guide to the Site - page 3 / 16





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and the reason that they gave was to say that thus as the Air moves and surrounds all, thus the house had to be, so that in its form it might reveal its meaning. (Torquemada 1975-83: v.3, p.86) Translation by Pollock (1936:8-9).

One of García Payón’s most spectacular finds was a life-size sculpture of Ehecatl that had been placed as an offering in the platform on the south side of the stairway of structure 3. This sculpture (fig. 6), considered one of the finest pieces of Aztec art, shows the duck-bill mask that was the sign of Ehecatl. This is either a depiction of the deity himself, or else of a priest who has turned himself into the deity by donning the sacred mask. This sculpture today is in the Museo de Antropología in Toluca.

Another fine example of Aztec sculptural art is a sacrificial stone excavated adjacent to the base of the structure 3 stairway on the north side (fig. 7). One of two such monuments, García Payón encountered the altar upside down, suggesting that it had been thrown down from the top of the stairs (where such altars normally sat), probably during the Spanish conquest. This sculpture can be found in the Teotenango museum today. The other very similar alter currently resides in the village church of San Francisco Calixtlahuaca.

Although a number of circular temples have been excavated at Aztec sites throughout central Mexico, structure 3 at Calixtlahuaca is notable for its complete excavation and for the offering of the Ehecatl sculpture. Only one other example of a circular temple with such an offering is known; this is the small circular shrine excavated in the Pino Suárez metro station in Mexico City.

Structure 1

Structure 1 is a small single-stair pyramid located about 400 meters east of structure 3. Visitors must navigate a winding modern street to reach structure 1. There are few signs and it is helpful to ask the site guards or local inhabitants how to get there.

Structure 1 was excavated by García Payón, and has been partially restored by several archaeological projects over the years. It is notable for its masonry technique of flat stones set without mortar; this is visible in a small area at the base of the east side. There is normally a guard stationed at structure 1 who can point out the original

stonework; most of the walls are modern reconstructions. Although the size and form of the structure are probably faithful to the original, only the small area of original stonework can be considered accurate.

This structure is of less interest than most others at the site

Group B (structures 4, 7, and 20)

Group B is a complex of three temples or shrines located about 200 meters from structure 3. Visitors should walk uphill and around the hillslope to the southwest from structure 3. There are few signs, but the buildings are quite obvious as one approaches.

The three structures are arranged around a formal paved patio supported on a large stone terrace (fig. 8). Structure 4, the largest structure, is on the west side of the group. This is one of the best preserved examples of the single-temple pyramid, the most common form of temple in Aztec cities. The top has not been reconstructed. The temple on top had collapsed (as at most ancient Mesoamerican pyramids), and we do not know what it looked like. García Payón reported finding several ceramic images Tlaloc, the rain god, in and around this structure.

Structure 7 is a low platform on the north side of the group. Its use and significance are not known.

Structure 20, referred to by García Payón as the “cruciform structure,” is utterly unique in the canons of ancient Mesoamerican architecture. It is a cross-shaped platform whose exterior walls were decorated by tenoned cones and human skulls of stone. It is not clear whether the open channels within the platform were like this when it was in use, or whether they are due to García Payón’s reconstruction of the structure. Although several scholars, including García Payón, have suggested that this may have been a tzompantli, or skull rack, my own interpretation is that it is more likely related to a specialized type of Aztec altar known as the Tzitzimimi platform. These were altars decorated with images of human skulls and bones (sculpted or painted) that were involved in female- related rites of fertility and curing involving veneration of the Tzitzimime deities.

The structures of Group B share the same compass orientation as structure 3, even though one


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