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Ceramics and the Spanish conquest : response and continuity of indigenous pottery technology in central Mexico /
by Gilda Hernández Sánchez.
imprint
Boston : Brill, c2012.
description
xvi, 251 p. : ill., map ; 25 cm.
ISBN
9004204407 (Cloth), 9789004204409 (Cloth)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
series title
imprint
Boston : Brill, c2012.
isbn
9004204407 (Cloth)
9789004204409 (Cloth)
catalogue key
8179480
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Introduction or Preface
IntroductionThe Spanish colonization dramatically interrupted the autonomous development of the ancient and diverse Mesoamerican civilization. Aztecs, Mixtecs, Mayas and numerous other indigenous peoples were abruptly transformed in subjugated of a foreign, distant and exploitative state. The colonial rule imposed a new language, new religion and new legal system, and all this had a profound impact on the native cultures. Nevertheless, the Mesoamerican world learnt to live with the conquest. The colonization was not only a time of crisis, but also a creative process in which indigenous peoples were looking for new ways to survive, and therefore they reacted and adapted in a variety of manners to the changing circumstances. Thus, the colonization resulted in a complex and enduring interaction between the indigenous and European worlds, and this gave way to new social systems, technologies and artistic expressions. In this process both worlds were active, and influenced each other over centuries till today.The active role of Mesoamerican peoples in the creation of the colonial society has been evidenced in recent historical reconstructions of that period. For example, we know that they appropriated Spanish-based writing for their own purposes (Hanks 2010; Lockhart1991:2-22). They became willing participants in the new religious practice but interpreted and incorporated the catholic faith into their own culture in a way that obligated colonizers to interact with the new etic code (Burkhart 1989; Gruzinski 1993; Jansen and Pérez Jiménez 2009:477; Klor de Alva 1993). They constructed and decorated an impressive amount of churches, convents and other religious buildings, creating their own regional version of the European Renaissance (Edgerton 2001). They maintained pre-conquest forms of organization in colonial times, in particular the altepetl in central Mexico, in a way that they became basic units of the Spanish colonial administration (Lockhart 1992:14; 1999:98-119; Restall 1997:306-319). In few words, as James Lockhart (1992:434) convincely shows, the indigenous culture was as important as the Spanish culture in determining the form and development of the colonial society.Without neglecting the dramatic effects of the conquest, all these studies show that the colonial period cannot be characterized as a time of decay, weakening and loss of the indigenous culture. Certainly many pre-conquest cultural traits were lost in the process of adjustment to the new situation. However many other elements were maintained as in ancient times while others were transformed, giving way to new cultural forms. Furthermore, the pre-conquest world not only survived during the colonial time but also after it. Since decades scholars have documented that five hundred years after the conquest ancient cultural elements are still identifiable in several of aspects of life in present-day indigenous communities in Mexico and Guatemala (e.g., Ichon 1973; Jansen and Pérez Jiménez 2009; Lupo 2001; Reyes and Christensen 1976; Schultze-Jena 1933; Tedlock 1992). Nevertheless, pre-conquest elements are today intertwined with colonial and contemporary cultural developments. As I will try to show in this work, the present-day indigenous world can be seen as the result of complex processes of continuity and change, in which different dimensions of culture have had different developments and roles across time.Our knowledge about the role of the indigenous culture during the colonial period, and its continuity/change, has been mainly based on the vast corpus of chronicles and other historical documents from that time. Spanish written texts have been fundamental sources in our understanding of that period (e.g., Farris 1984; Gibson 1964; Gruzinski 1989; 1993), while research based on indigenous documentation has provided a new, and much more inclusive and correct, perspective of the colonial life (e.g., Cline 1986; Lockhart 1992, 1993; Restall 1997; Restall et al. 2005; Schroeder 1989; Terraciano 2001). Although both Spanish and indigenous documents show a partial vision of the past, documents have been, and will continue to be, essential for the historical reconstruction of that time. The extant corpus of Mesoamerican documentation is so wide and varied that it offers important insights into different aspects of the colonial culture. In addition, written texts of indigenous intellectuals and scribes not only show the native perception of the conquest but also values, conflicts and strategies of, at least, part of the colonial native society.In contrast, material culture has been relatively little considered to elucidate that time, even though it might offer a more representative perspective of the history. Things, buildings, and material remains in general, provide a wider panorama in different aspects of ancient societies, including those details of the daily life that are obviated in documents. Also material culture offers a new prisma to see the active place of the indigenous culture in the creation of the colonial society. Artefacts permit to explore how different participants in the new society acted; that is, what they produced, used or decide to not produce or use; how they behaved in domestic contexts and other private spheres seldom mentioned in documents, and at what extent they incorporated or reelaborated intrusive artistic styles (e.g., Gasco 2005a; Jordan and Schrire 2002; Lightfoot et al. 1998; van Dommelen 2005). In addition, artifacts have a chronological dimension that permits to document continuity or change during long spans of time.With this in mind, my aim in this work is to suggest other perspectives to understand the role of the indigenous world in the conformation of the colonial society, and the complex processes of cultural continuity and change after the conquest. The focus is the material culture, in particular the indigenous ceramic technology. Ceramics is the category of material most abundant archeologically. In ancient Mesoamerica they were used in domestic contexts for cooking, serving, storing and transporting, and also played a major role in ritual activities as offerings, ritual equipment and even divine objects (Whitehouse 1996:13). They were also used as service ware for communal feasting; that is, ritualised events in which food is the principal medium of expression (Bauer 2001: 46-84; Dietler 1996: 89; Smith et al. 2003). The manufacture, morphology and decoration of ceramics as well as the context in which these artifacts are found, reflect the potters' conception about this craft, the available technology, and their use (Gosselain 2000; Stark 1998; van As 2004; van As et al. 2004). It also furnishes unique insights into cultural interaction and the process of development across time.After the conquest, native ceramics retained their importance. Certain methods of manufacture, forms and decoration patterns disappeared; others were transformed as a result of newly introduced techniques, ideas and consumption patterns, as previous studies show (e.g., Charlton et al. 2005, 2007; Fournier 1996; Gasco 2005a; López Cervantes 1976). Still others remained virtually the same. At present many towns produce pottery that is closely related to that of pre-colonial times in technology, form or function (e.g., Arnold 2008; Druc 2000; Engelbrecht 1987; Hernández 2007; Kaplan 1994; Lackey 1981; Papousek 1981; Rendón 1950). Consequently, in this complex and varied socio-historical panorama, I believe that ceramics are a rich and viable medium to explore and explain the effects of technological, social, economic and cultural changes as well as the mechanisms of the processes of continuity and transformation of the indigenous culture.During the first colonial decades the production or trade of native ceramics did not attract the colonizers (Gibson 1964:335), as they were looking for other means to make money. Ceramic-making was apparently a common activity tha
First Chapter
Introduction The Spanish colonization dramatically interrupted the autonomous development of the ancient and diverse Mesoamerican civilization. Aztecs, Mixtecs, Mayas and numerous other indigenous peoples were abruptly transformed in subjugated of a foreign, distant and exploitative state. The colonial rule imposed a new language, new religion and new legal system, and all this had a profound impact on the native cultures. Nevertheless, the Mesoamerican world learnt to live with the conquest. The colonization was not only a time of crisis, but also a creative process in which indigenous peoples were looking for new ways to survive, and therefore they reacted and adapted in a variety of manners to the changing circumstances. Thus, the colonization resulted in a complex and enduring interaction between the indigenous and European worlds, and this gave way to new social systems, technologies and artistic expressions. In this process both worlds were active, and influenced each other over centuries till today. The active role of Mesoamerican peoples in the creation of the colonial society has been evidenced in recent historical reconstructions of that period. For example, we know that they appropriated Spanish-based writing for their own purposes (Hanks 2010; Lockhart1991:2-22). They became willing participants in the new religious practice but interpreted and incorporated the catholic faith into their own culture in a way that obligated colonizers to interact with the new etic code (Burkhart 1989; Gruzinski 1993; Jansen and Pérez Jiménez 2009:477; Klor de Alva 1993). They constructed and decorated an impressive amount of churches, convents and other religious buildings, creating their own regional version of the European Renaissance (Edgerton 2001). They maintained pre-conquest forms of organization in colonial times, in particular the altepetl in central Mexico, in a way that they became basic units of the Spanish colonial administration (Lockhart 1992:14; 1999:98-119; Restall 1997:306-319). In few words, as James Lockhart (1992:434) convincely shows, the indigenous culture was as important as the Spanish culture in determining the form and development of the colonial society. Without neglecting the dramatic effects of the conquest, all these studies show that the colonial period cannot be characterized as a time of decay, weakening and loss of the indigenous culture. Certainly many pre-conquest cultural traits were lost in the process of adjustment to the new situation. However many other elements were maintained as in ancient times while others were transformed, giving way to new cultural forms. Furthermore, the pre-conquest world not only survived during the colonial time but also after it. Since decades scholars have documented that five hundred years after the conquest ancient cultural elements are still identifiable in several of aspects of life in present-day indigenous communities in Mexico and Guatemala (e.g., Ichon 1973; Jansen and Pérez Jiménez 2009; Lupo 2001; Reyes and Christensen 1976; Schultze-Jena 1933; Tedlock 1992). Nevertheless, pre-conquest elements are today intertwined with colonial and contemporary cultural developments. As I will try to show in this work, the present-day indigenous world can be seen as the result of complex processes of continuity and change, in which different dimensions of culture have had different developments and roles across time. Our knowledge about the role of the indigenous culture during the colonial period, and its continuity/change, has been mainly based on the vast corpus of chronicles and other historical documents from that time. Spanish written texts have been fundamental sources in our understanding of that period (e.g., Farris 1984; Gibson 1964; Gruzinski 1989; 1993), while research based on indigenous documentation has provided a new, and much more inclusive and correct, perspective of the colonial life (e.g., Cline 1986; Lockhart 1992, 1993; Restall 1997; Restall et al. 2005; Schroeder 1989; Terraciano 2001). Although both Spanish and indigenous documents show a partial vision of the past, documents have been, and will continue to be, essential for the historical reconstruction of that time. The extant corpus of Mesoamerican documentation is so wide and varied that it offers important insights into different aspects of the colonial culture. In addition, written texts of indigenous intellectuals and scribes not only show the native perception of the conquest but also values, conflicts and strategies of, at least, part of the colonial native society. In contrast, material culture has been relatively little considered to elucidate that time, even though it might offer a more representative perspective of the history. Things, buildings, and material remains in general, provide a wider panorama in different aspects of ancient societies, including those details of the daily life that are obviated in documents. Also material culture offers a new prisma to see the active place of the indigenous culture in the creation of the colonial society. Artefacts permit to explore how different participants in the new society acted; that is, what they produced, used or decide to not produce or use; how they behaved in domestic contexts and other private spheres seldom mentioned in documents, and at what extent they incorporated or reelaborated intrusive artistic styles (e.g., Gasco 2005a; Jordan and Schrire 2002; Lightfoot et al. 1998; van Dommelen 2005). In addition, artifacts have a chronological dimension that permits to document continuity or change during long spans of time. With this in mind, my aim in this work is to suggest other perspectives to understand the role of the indigenous world in the conformation of the colonial society, and the complex processes of cultural continuity and change after the conquest. The focus is the material culture, in particular the indigenous ceramic technology. Ceramics is the category of material most abundant archeologically. In ancient Mesoamerica they were used in domestic contexts for cooking, serving, storing and transporting, and also played a major role in ritual activities as offerings, ritual equipment and even divine objects (Whitehouse 1996:13). They were also used as service ware for communal feasting; that is, ritualised events in which food is the principal medium of expression (Bauer 2001: 46-84; Dietler 1996: 89; Smith et al. 2003). The manufacture, morphology and decoration of ceramics as well as the context in which these artifacts are found, reflect the potters’ conception about this craft, the available technology, and their use (Gosselain 2000; Stark 1998; van As 2004; van As et al. 2004). It also furnishes unique insights into cultural interaction and the process of development across time. After the conquest, native ceramics retained their importance. Certain methods of manufacture, forms and decoration patterns disappeared; others were transformed as a result of newly introduced techniques, ideas and consumption patterns, as previous studies show (e.g., Charlton et al. 2005, 2007; Fournier 1996; Gasco 2005a; López Cervantes 1976). Still others remained virtually the same. At present many towns produce pottery that is closely related to that of pre-colonial times in technology, form or function (e.g., Arnold 2008; Druc 2000; Engelbrecht 1987; Hernández 2007; Kaplan 1994; Lackey 1981; Papousek 1981; Rendón 1950). Consequently, in this complex and varied socio-historical panorama, I believe that ceramics are a rich and viable medium to explore and explain the effects of technological, social, economic and cultural changes as well as the mechanisms of the processes of continuity and transformation of the indigenous culture. During the first colonial decades the production or trade of native ceramics did not attract the colonizers (Gibson 1964:335), as they were looking for other means to make money. Ceramic-making was apparently a common activity that did not promise high profit, as the archaeological record shows that the products were mostly for quotidian and simple uses (e.g., Charlton et al. 2007; Fournier 1996). Therefore colonial politics did not openly interfere in the development of this industry, as Charles Gibson (1964:335) has infered from documentary data. Nevertheless, the enormous impact of the conquest on essential aspects of indigenous life such as land tenure, religion, language and the system of administration apparently had general effects on ceramic-making, as it will be shown later. Thus, this study focuses on an aspect of culture that was not central in the process of colonization, but does reflect the effects of the conquest on the daily life as well as the creative role of the indigenous society. In that way ceramics offer another perspective of the situation during the colonial era. In addition, the indigenous ceramic technology coexisted with the Spanish ceramic technology introduced by the colonizers in the first decades of the early colonial period (e.g., Charlton et al. 2007; Gámez 2003; Goggin 1968; Gómez and Fernández 2007; González 1988; Hernández et al. 1988; Lister and Lister 1978, 1982, 1987). We still do not exactly know when the Spanish ceramic technology arrived to Mexico, as this industry is scarcely mentioned in early colonial documentation, and ceramic remains do not offer fine chronological details. As it will be discussed later, an early document of Alonso Figueroa suggests that by 1529 he was experimenting in the production of glazed ceramics in Mexico (the glazing technique was a clear Spanish introduction, as it was not used in pre-conquest Mesoamerica). However, as he says, wares were still imported from Spain (López Cervantes 1976:15). A few later sources, the Florentine Codex (Sahagún 1961, X: 839) [apparently prepared as early as 1547 and completed in 1569 (D’Olwer and Cline 1973:193)], the Historia Eclesiástica Indiana (Mendieta 1980 [1571-1596]: 404) and a letter of Viceroy Lorenzo Suárez de Peralta dated in 1583 (Cervantes 1939: I, 18); show that by 1570s-1580s the production of glazed wares was already established in the colony. Mendieta (1980:404) also mentions that a pottery master from Spain established in the colony. We can infer that he, or other Spanish potters, started a workshop for Spanish-style ceramics, such as Majolica ware, and introduced the potters’ wheel. Meanwhile indigenous potters continued producing their typical ceramics in their own workshops using pre-colonial methods, as manufacture marks in archaeological ceramics show. The interaction between both traditions was reflected in the ceramic vessels. Thus, these materials are also useful media to explore the encounter between different technologies and artistic styles. The regional focus of this study is central Mexico; in particular the area of the Nahua (Aztec) peoples (Map 1). Central Mexico was the political and cultural core area both in pre-colonial and in colonial times, thus, colonization was very pervasive there. As most of the extant archeological collections and documents are from the valley of Mexico, a major part of this study is focused on that region. However, extant data from the valley of Puebla-Tlaxcala, the valley of Toluca and the valley of Morelos are also considered. This study is based on the synthesis and integration of previous information, the non-systematic consulting of several extant and available collections of ceramics from that region as well as fieldwork research in present-day pottery towns. The temporal focus of this study is divided into three sections: the late pre-colonial period, the early colonial period and the present-day. The late pre-colonial period, in particular the late Aztec era, is included in order to show how the native ceramic tradition changed, or not, after the conquest. In this part the center of attention is ceramic-making in the valley of Mexico, although the situation in neighbor valleys is also briefly explored. The main reason is that more research has been done in the valley of Mexico (e.g., Blanton and Parsons 1971; Cervantes and Fournier 1995; Cervantes et al. 2007; Charlton et al. 2008; Garraty 2006a, 2006b; González 1988; Hodge and Minc 1990; Hodge et al. 1992; Matos Moctezuma 1982; Minc et al. 1994; Nichols et al. 2002; Noguera 1934, 1969; Parsons 1966; Parsons et al. 1982, 2008; Sanders et al. 1970, 1979; Sejourné 1970, 1983; Vega 1975; Whalen and Parsons 1982). The study of indigenous ceramics in the early colonial period is almost completely focused in that region because there have been several studies of the material culture of early colonial contexts (e.g., Charlton et al. 1995, 2005, 2007; Fournier 1990, 1997; Matos Moctezuma 1982, 1999; Rodríguez Alegría 2005); while little archeological research has been conducted and published in other valleys of central Mexico (exceptions are Müller 1973, 1981; and the non-published INAH reports: Charlton et al. 1987; Hernández 2000a, 2000b; Hernández and Reynoso 1999). The late colonial period is not considered here because the main purpose of this part of the research is to explore how the native ceramic technology reacted to the new colonial society and to the encounter with other ceramic technology in the first hundred years after the conquest. That is, in the period during which - despite the conquest - little changed in the indigenous communities of central Mexico (Lockhart 1992:42). In addition, our knowledge of indigenous ceramics of the late colonial period is still limited, as archeological contexts of that time are mixed or cannot be separated into short intervals of time (e.g., Charlton 1970, 1976, 1977; Müller 1979). The study of indigenous-style ceramics from the present-day is based in fieldwork research in several pottery towns of central Mexico, in particular in those places specialized in the manufacture of lead glazed vessels in which this industry is flourishing and knowledge continues to be transmitted to younger generations. A number of towns were visited; some of them are the most important ceramic producers of central Mexico and others are in the process of decline. Although in these towns ceramics do not look as in the pre-Hispanic past, as we will see later, parts of the method of manufacture and organization of production are still intimately attached to the Mesoamerican world. This study is concentrated on these three time periods although it is clear that between the early colonial era and the present there is a large information gap of three hundred years. We have little knowledge of the indigenous-ceramic technology during that span of time (e.g., Charlton 1970, 1976, 1977, Hernández 2000a, 2000b; Hernández and Reynoso 1999; Müller 1979, 1981; Sáenz 2004). For this reason in some cases we do not know how old, or new, certain parts of the present process of manufacture or certain attributes of contemporary vessels are. In addition, the three time periods here considered have different sources of information and methods of study. The examination of the late pre-colonial period is entirely based on the analysis of archeological ceramic fragments. Previous research is wide and the extant collections of materials are abundant. In particular in the valley of Mexico there has been systematic and extensive documentation of the style, form and temporal allocation of ceramics (Blanton and Parsons 1971; Parsons et al. 2008; Parsons et al. 1982; Sanders et al. 1970, 1979). Also high-tech methods, such as compositional analysis, have been conducted in order to identify the distribution and exchange of those objects (e.g., Charlton et al. 2008; Garraty 2006a, 2006b; Hodge and Minc 1990; Hodge et al. 1992; Minc et al. 1994; Nichols et al. 2002). The investigation of the early colonial period is also based on archeological ceramics but much fewer studies have been carried out. There are few extant archeological collections,
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
The Spanish colonization interrupted the autonomous development of ancient Mesoamerican culture. Nevertheless, indigenous societies learnt to live with the conquest. This work presents insights into the process of cultural continuity and change in the indigenous peoples' varied responses and adaptations to the changing circumstances.
Description for Reader
All those interested in sixteenth century colonialism, the colonial period in Middle America, material culture, ancient and present-day ceramics, as well as in cultural continuity and change.
Long Description
The Spanish colonization dramatically interrupted the autonomous development of ancient Mesoamerican culture. Nevertheless, indigenous societies learnt to live with the conquest. It was not only a time of crisis, but also an extraordinarily creative time period in which material culture reflected indigenous peoples' varied responses and adaptations to the changing circumstances. This work presents insights into the process of cultural continuity and change in the indigenous world by focusing on pottery technology in the Nahua (Aztec) region of Central Mexico. The late pre-colonial, early colonial and present-day characteristics of this industry are explored in order to come to a renewed understanding of its long-term development. with a contribution by Iliana Yunuen Caloca Rhi

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