Anth 4220/5220  The Archaeology of Mexico and Central America

Spring 1999.  T Th 9:30-10:45,  Hale 260.  Payson Sheets, office Hale 160, office hours 1-2
pm Mon and Wed.

Prerequisite: Anth 2200, Introduction to Archaeology.

Week Dates    Topic  Readings:

1  12, 14 Jan  Intro, Geogr, Geol, Ecol.  Preface, Ch. 1 thru p. 6

2  19, 21 Jan  PaleoIndian, Archaic Pds   pp. 7 - 24

3  26, 28 Jan  Early-Mid Formative   Ch. 3

4  2, 4 Feb    PreClassic Maya    71-76, 108-140

5  9, 11 Feb   Maya agric, settlements    231-68

       Thursday 11 Feb: First Midterm Exam

6  16, 18 Feb Ideology, mythology   273-97, 321-31
    (“Popol Vuh” video thurs)

7  23, 25 Feb Politics, writing  Ch. 5
8  2, 4 Mar    Classic Pd Maya Warfare, Collapse   333-5

9  9, 11 Mar   Puebla: Tetimpa, Cholula, and Cacaxtla   205-213

10 16, 18 Mar  Teotihuacan Valley & City  77-94

       Thursday 18 Mar: Second Midterm Exam

11  20-28 Mar   Spring Vacation: Wahooo !!!

12 30 Mar, 1 Apr Teotihuacan expansion, empire  Ch. 6 to 189, 203-5

13  6, 8 Apr    The "Epiclassic" in Mexico  205-17, 223-31, 353-61

14 13, 15 Apr Chichen Itza, Tula, and the “Toltecs”  364-82, 383-409,

15 20, 22 Apr  Oaxaca: Monte Alban, Mitla  98-108, 218-23, 413-20

16 27, 29 Apr  Aztecs: Tenochtitlan & empire   438-79, Ch. 9

Final Exam:  Friday 7 May, 11:30 am - 2:30 pm.  same room
Excluded: 189-203, 217-18, 297-321, 331-33, 335-52, 361-4, 409-13, 425-


Midterms: Thursday 11 Feb and Thursday 18 Mar, each 100 points.
Final Exam: 200 points  Fri 7 May, same room,  11:30 am.
No makeup examinations.  It is your responsibility to attend and take the exams
at the scheduled time.


Termpapers are due no later than noon Thurs 29 Apr.  Ten percent of the total
will be deducted per day late.  The termpapers will be returned to you on the
day of the final examination.  I will be glad to help you on selection of topic,
reference materials, and the like.  Please note the attached list of primary
reference materials in Norlin that you may find useful. Do not forget to have an
Abstract at the beginning of your paper.

Undergraduate (4220):  Students will prepare an original paper consisting of 4 to
7 pages of typed double spaced text, normal fonts (this length is text only, and
does not include your list of References Cited and your illustrations as Figures).
The topic is of your own choosing, so long as it focuses on an aspect of Mexican
or Central American archaeology, from a social science perspective.  The text
can be largely descriptive, but it must have at least a page of your own ideas,
reactions, opinions, comparisons, or suggestions.  The anthropological style of
parenthetical referencing is mandatory.  If you are unfamilar with this, see the
attached style sheet.  Value: 100 points.

Graduate students (5220) will prepare a 10 to 15 page typed double spaced
graduate level termpaper.  It must be primarily theoretical in nature.  It could be
explanatory (e.g. the function of feline symbolism in Olmec art, or why and how
shamans travel long distances for symbols of power), processual (e.g. the factors
underlying the rise of the Teotihuacan empire), or hypothesis testing (e.g.
evaluating two competing explanations for the collapse of the Classic Maya).
Parenthetical referencing is to be used, of course.  Value: 200 points.


Muriel Porter Weaver  1993  The Aztecs, Maya, and their Predecessors.  3rd Ed.
NY: Academic press.
Notes on the "POPOL VUH"

 The Popol Vuh is the name of the document that expresses the creation beliefs of the Quiche Maya
of highland Guatemala, who live about 1/2 way between Guatemala City and the Mexican border.  All
Maya groups share the core elements of the creation of the universe and of the Maya people, so we will
take it as representative of all Maya.  Most Maya continue to ascribe to these beliefs, and this film is a
unique window into the Maya mind and world-view.  There is clear archaeological evidence that these
beliefs were well-developed as far back as the Classic Period, and they must have originated during the
Formative (Preclassic) Period or earlier.  It was handed down as oral history for many generations, and
was written in Quiche Maya, using Spanish letters as phonetic symbols, in 1550.  Apparently, hieroglyphic
versions existed in codices in the Maya Classic period, but none survived.  The two principal characters in
this Quiche epic, the Hero Twins, are depicted on Classic Period stelae and on numerous polychrome
painted pottery vessels.
 The original Classic period painted vessels that show events in this epic drama of the Hero Twins
are the basic designs for this animation.  The film took ten years to complete, because of the need for
accuracy, the time in research, and the need to do thousands of drawings used in the animation.
 Of all Native American creation myths, this is the most complete to survive to our time.  As an epic
poem it gives us an insight into the Maya view of their universe, ethics, values, obligations to kin, and
thought.  It shows the importance of tests (challenges, "tricks"), as how one handles those tests indicates if
they are prepared for an increase in status, for the next stage in life, or if they should move down a "notch."
 The universe began when the creator god (heart of sky) had made water.  They cried "earth" and
land appeared, then they made trees, rivers, animals, and other elements of nature.  Most things were mute,
(nothing was paying homage to the gods) so they created people out of clay.  That was not satisfactory
because they melted when they got wet.  So, they destroyed these early versions of people and made them
out of wood.  That was better, but they had little spirit and would not adore the gods, so they were
destroyed.  Even the pots and pans revolted against these wooden people because people msitreated the
pots and pans.  Some of these early wooden people escaped the destruction and these are now monkeys.
The third creation of people (initially males) was very successful because people were made of a thick
mixture of ground yellow and white corn, patted and sculpted to shape.  It was too successful, as people
could see to the end of the universe, so their vision was "misted" and females were created to occupy much
of their attention.  Finally, people were paying homage to the gods, but they were not overly capable and
"seeing" all of the universe, and the gods liked it.  So, the universe with people in it began really
functioning when the sun came up and there was light.
 The epic action part of the story concerns two sets of twins:  the older ones created before people
were created, and the younger "hero twins".  The father and uncle (1 Hunter and 7 Hunter, or Hun
Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu in Maya) of the hero twins were ball players, and they were invited to the
underworld (Xibalba) to play against two underworld gods (1 Death and 7 Death).  The latter tricked the
former and decapitated them.  The head of one was hung in a tree, and continued to live.  The maden
Little Blood visited the tree, and the head spat into her hand, making her pregnant.  That outraged her
father; she tricked him by substituting copal sap for her supposedly-removed heart.  She convinced the
hero twins’ grandmother that she was worthy. She gave birth to the hero twins.  (Note associations of
corn seeds and human skulls, death and rebirth.)  The twins grow up and learn to trick their older brothers.
Their grandmother did not want the hero twins to play that game, and she gets very upset when she learns
that the hero twins are going to play the same underword deities that decapitated 1 and 7 Hunter.  Two
corn plants are indicators of how they are doing.  The ball symbolizes the sun's passage, affected by various
forces including human activity.  A rat helps the hero twins get the ball game equipment, and is rewared
with access to food for all time.
 The hero twins are named Hunahpu and Xbalanque in Maya, or Hunter and Jaguar Deer in
English.  They face tests, tricks, & challenges in growing up, e.g. as they trick their jealous older brothers
(1 Howler and 1 Monkey) and thus show that they are worthy.  Consistently false pride and arrogance are
defeated by intellect and bravery.  They have many tests of  wit and courage in the underworld as they
battle various forces and play the ball game.  Animals are rewarded for helping the hero twins.  A mosquito
bites the underworld gods to learn their names for the twins; knowing the name diminishes the evil.  The
twins are imprisoned in a house of knives, a house of cold, a house of jaguars, and a house of bats.  While
sleeping in his blowgun, Hunter extends his head and is decapitated; but a temporary subsititute of a
pumpkin and a lost ball in the ballgame allows his real head to be reattached.   It is during the game, when
the pumpkin bursts, that the lords of Xibalba learn that the twins survived.   The lords build a fire and the
twins voluntarily jump into it; their bones are thrown into the river and the lords think they finally are
killed.  Not!  The twins' ultimate trick is to disguize themselves as beggars/magicians who can burn down
houses and rebuild them, decapitate and re-capitate individuals, and so forth.  They cleverly omit a couple
of key re-capitations at the end!  They became the sun and the moon, and the world began functioning

            Payson Sheets