Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents: The Public Sculpture by Rex Koontz

By Rex Koontz

El Tajín, an old Mesoamerican capital in Veracruz, Mexico, has lengthy been renowned for its wonderful pyramids and ballcourts embellished with broad sculptural courses. but the city's singularity because the merely heart within the quarter with any such wealth of sculpture and wonderful structure has hindered makes an attempt to put it extra firmly within the context of Mesoamerican heritage. In Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents, Rex Koontz undertakes the 1st large remedy of El Tajín's iconography in over thirty years, permitting us to view its imagery within the broader Mesoamerican context of emerging capitals and new elites in the course of a interval of primary old transformations.

Koontz specializes in 3 significant architectural features—the Pyramid of the Niches/Central Plaza ensemble, the South Ballcourt, and the Mound of the development Columns complex—and investigates the meanings in their sculpture and the way those meanings may were skilled by means of particular audiences. Koontz reveals that the iconography of El Tajín unearths a lot approximately how motifs and elite rites growing to be out of the vintage interval have been transmitted to later Mesoamerican peoples because the cultures headquartered on Teotihuacan and the Maya turned the myriad city-states of the Early Postclassic period.

By reexamining the iconography of sculptures lengthy within the list, in addition to introducing vital new monuments and contexts, Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents basically demonstrates El Tajín's a variety of iconographic connections with different components of Mesoamerica, whereas additionally exploring its roots in an indigenous Gulf lowlands tradition whose outlines are just now rising. even as, it starts to discover a principally neglected nearby inventive tradition of which Tajín is the crowning success.

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Example text

On the Central Plaza side of Structure 5 is the single panel illustrating ballcourt sacrifice, shown as taking place in the ballcourt itself (Fig. 3). In addition to this iconographic relationship, there are complex and fundamental relations between the Central Plaza and South Ballcourt programs. As I will argue below, the South Ballcourt program relates directly to the rites of legitimacy, war, and statecraft outlined for the Central Plaza, continuing and amplifying themes of warfare, ballcourt sacrifice, and the legitimate transfer of power.

Both the Feathered Serpent and the headdress emerge from petaled mirror disks, the latter very similar to those in the Classic Veracruz tradition, including the later examples at Tajín. The precise identities involved in this Teotihuacan cult (feathered serpent, mosaic headdress, and mirror) are still subject to debate (López Austin et al. 1991; Taube a b c d F i g ur e 2 . 11 . Headdresses with central disk and flanking serpent: a, detail of a Classic Veracruz panel (drawing by Daniela Koontz); b, detail of headdress in Room 10, Palace of the Jaguars, Teotihuacan (drawing by Daniela Koontz after Miller 1973: Fig.

We will return to the problem of Postclassic analogies later, but what we will explore below is the possibility of a similar narrative structure regimenting both the Tajín and Mexica standard rites and their accompanying narratives. Let us first examine the narrative context in which the standard rites were set for the later Mexica. The story forms part of the Mexica account of their own rise to power, told as a migration story. The Snake Mountain episode, and the closely related sojourn at Tollan, is contained in the account of their peregrinations throughout northern Mesoamerica and the eventual founding of their capital, Tenochtitlan.

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