Time and the Ancestors

Aztec and Mixtec Ritual Art


In Time and the Ancestors: Aztec and Mixtec Ritual Art, Maarten Jansen and Aurora Pérez present new interpretations of enigmatic masterpieces from ancient Mexico. Combining iconographical analysis with the study of archaeological contexts, historical sources and living cultural traditions, they shed light on central symbols and values of the religious heritage of indigenous peoples, paying special attention to precolonial perceptions of time and the importance of ancestor worship. They decipher the meaning of the treasure deposited in Tomb 7 at Monte Albán (Oaxaca) and of artworks such as the Roll of the New Fire (Selden Roll), the Aztec religious sculptures and, last but not least, the mysterious chapter of temple scenes from the Book of Night and Wind (Codex Borgia).
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Maarten E.R.G.N. Jansen (Ph.D. Leiden 1983) is Professor of Heritage of Indigenous Peoples at Leiden University, The Netherlands. He is author of many studies about ancient Mexican art and history, including The Mixtec Pictorial Manuscripts (Brill 2011).

Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez, an advocate of indigenous rights and researcher in a European Research Council project about Mesoamerican religious heritage, has published the textbook Sahin Sau, Curso de la Lengua Mixteca (Oaxaca 2008) and co-authored studies on Mixtec history.

List of Illustrations

Introduction: Temporality and coevalness
1. Mesoamerica: historical development
2. Ancient scriptures
3. The main cycles of the calendar
4. The first day-keepers
5. Denial of coevalness
6. Methodological concerns
7. Recapitulation and concluding remarks


Chapter 1: Tomb 7 at Monte Albán
1. A deposition of two periods
2. The human remains in Tomb 7
3. The ancient literary context
4. Calendar dates in Tomb 7
5. Connections with Ñuu Dzaui history
6. Connections with Beni Zaa history
7. Female agency
8. Revisiting Tomb 7
9. Approaching the relics
10. Recapitulation and concluding remarks

Chapter 2: Life - Death - Life
1. Tale of a grandmother
2. Nahua and Maya parallels
3. The symbolic dimension
4. Cihuacoatl and Lady 9 Grass
5. Mortuary bundles
6. Divine ancestors
7. Communication with the dead
8. The golden ornament Number 26
9. The subterraneous sanctuary
10. The internal organisation of Tomb 7
11. Recapitulation and concluding remarks

Chapter 3: Hymns of jaguars and eagles
1. Flower, song
2. The tree of the dynasty
3. Treebirth at Apoala
4. The war against the stone men
5. First sunrise and the cycle of time
6. The pulque ritual
7. The realm of the dead
8. Lady 4 Rabbit ‘Quetzal’
9. The marital alliance
10. Recapitulation and concluding remarks

Chapter 4: Memory and oracle
1. Chalcatzingo: the Preclassic template
2. Occasions for precious offerings
3. The ballcourt pendant
4. The sacred flint
5. The Temple of Jewels
6. Identifying Monte Albán in the codices
7. Lady 6 Monkey at Monte Albán
8. The funerary ceremony for Lord 12 Movement
9. Recapitulation and concluding remarks


Chapter 5: The foundation of a dynasty
1. Pictorial manuscripts from the Coixtlahuaca Valley
2. The couple in heaven
3. Chicomoztoc
4. Religious peregrination
5. The sacred mountain
6. Primordial conquest
7. Lady 13 Alligator, the peacemaker
8. Atonal, first ruler of Coixtlahuaca
9. Lord 8 Deer and Quetzalcoatl
10. Recapitulation and concluding remarks

Chapter 6: Fifth sun rising
1. The inauguration of the Templo Mayor
2. Cihuacoatl: goddess and priest
3. The Stone of Tizoc
4. The Calendar Stone
5. Moctezuma’s altar
6. The binding of 52 years
7. The ceremonial landscape of Mount Huixachtlan
8. Moctezuma and Ce Acatl
9. Recapitulation and concluding remarks

Chapter 7: The Sanctuary of Night and Wind
1. Historical background of Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia)
2. Studies of Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia)
3. Point of departure for a new reading
4. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), page 29: vision
5. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), page 30: bloodletting for trees
6. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), page 31: transformation of death into life
7. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), page 32: preparing the knife
8. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), pages 33-34: the Temple of Heaven
9. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), page 35-38: opening the sacred bundle
10. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), pages 39-40: the Night Sun
11. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), page 41-42: sacrifice
12. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), page 43: sustenance
13. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), page 44: rulership
14. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), page 45: Venus
15. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), page 46: fire-making
16. Codex Yoalli Ehecatl (Borgia), page 47: men and women
17. Recapitulation and concluding remarks

Synthesis: Heritage and spirit connection
1. Root symbolism
2. Tomb 7: a dynastic shrine
3. The continuous presence of Cihuacoatl
4. Intercultural time and decolonising perspective
5. Final image

Scholars and students working on the archaeology, art, history and anthropology of Mexico, as well as the general public interested in Mexican indigenous culture.
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