Classic Veracruz culture (or Gulf Coast Classic culture) refers to a cultural area in the north and central areas of the present-day Mexican state of Veracruz, a culture that existed from roughly 100 to 1000 CE, or during the Classic era.
El Tajin was the major center of Classic Veracruz culture; other notable settlements include Higueras, Zapotal, Cerro de las Mesas, Nopiloa, and Remojadas, the latter two important ceramics centers. The culture spanned the Gulf Coast between the Pánuco River on the north and the Papaloapan River on the south.
The Classic Veracruz culture is sometimes associated with the Totonacs, who were occupying this territory at the time of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico. However, there is little or no evidence that the Totonacs were the originators of the Classic era culture.
Burials, monumental sculpture, relief carvings, and the distribution of architecture within the regional centers all point to a stratification of Classic Veracruz society, including the presence of an elite rank as well as craft specialization. Elite hereditary rulers held sway over these small- to medium-sized regional centers, none over 2000 km², maintaining their rule through political and religious control of far-flung trade networks and legitimizing it through typical Mesoamerican rites such as bloodletting, human sacrifice, warfare, and use of exotic goods. Much or most of the population, however, lived in isolated homesteads, hamlets, or villages.
Like the Epi-Olmec and Olmec cultures before it, Classic Veracruz culture was based on swidden, or slash-and-burn, agriculture, with maize an important component of the diet, supplemented with domestic dog, wild deer and other mammals, and fish and shellfish. Cotton was also an important crop.
Little is known concerning Classic Veracruz religion and inferences have to be made from better-known Mesoamerican religions such as those of the Aztec, Mixtec, and Maya. Only some of the many deity figures known from these religions have been recognized with any certainty. Large ceramic figures show a stooped, very old man representing the Mesoamerican fire god. Equally large ceramic statues show female earth goddesses with snake girdles connected to the site of El Zapotal. Based on their closed eyes and wide open mouths, and also on the nearby shrine of a death god and on the surrounding burials, the latter have been identified as deified women who died in child birth, more or less corresponding to the much later Aztec cihuateteo ('female gods') also known from the Codex Borgia. Otherwise similar ceramic statues of earth goddesses, however, standing or seated, do not have dead faces and should therefore not be compared to the Aztec cihuateteo. The ball court reliefs of El Tajin prominently depict a death god, a rain god and what may be a sun god and are important for their narrative quality perhaps related to the origin of pulque. Hachas commonly show the head of an aged god probably connected to earth and water. An earth monster was likely inherited from the Olmecs. Many ceremonially clad ceramic figurines have been found that testify to the importance of public ritual, while the ceramic figurines of children with smiling and laughing faces (the so-called sonrientes) seem to represent ritual performers; they may point to a cult similar to that of the much later Aztec deity Xochipilli. However, hardly anything is known about the interrelations of the deities mentioned above, their role in the religious feasts, and the possible connection of these feasts to the calendar (like the monthly feasts of the Aztec and Maya).
The Classic Veracruz culture was seemingly obsessed with the ballgame. Every cultural center had at least one ballcourt, while up to 18 ballcourts have been found at El Tajin. It was during Late Classic here in north-central Veracruz that the ballgame reached its height.
The ballgame rituals appear throughout Classic Veracruz monumental art. The walls of largest ballcourt, the East Ballcourt at El Tajin are lined with carved murals showing human sacrifice in the context of the ballgame (see photo above). The culmination of these murals is a tableau showing the rain god, who pierces his penis (an act of bloodletting) to replenish a vat of the alcoholic, ritual drink pulque, the apparent desired end result of the ballgame ritual sacrifice.
A defining characteristic of the Classic Veracruz culture is the presence of stone ballgame gear: yokes, hachas, and palmas. Yokes are U-shaped stones worn about the waist of a ballplayer, while the hachas and palmas sit upon the yoke. Archaeologists generally suppose that the stone yokes are ritual versions of leather, cotton, and/or wood yokes, although no such perishable artifacts have yet been unearthed. While the yokes and hachas have been found from Teotihuacan to Guatemala, the palmas seem peculiar to what is today northern Veracruz.
The art of Classic Veracruz is rendered with extensive and convoluted banded scrolls that can be seen both on monumental architecture and on portable art, including ceramics and even carved bones. At least one researcher has suggested that the heads and other features formed by the scrolls are a Classic Veracruz form of pictographic writing. This scrollwork may have grown out of similar styles found in Chiapa de Corzo and Kaminaljuyu.
In addition to the scrollwork, the architecture is known for its remarkable ornamentation, such as that seen on the Pyramid of Niches at El Tajin. This ornamentation produces dramatic contrasts of light and shadow, what art historian George Kubler called a "bold chiaroscuro".
While Classic Veracruz culture shows influences from Teotihuacan and the Maya, neither of these cultures are its direct antecedents. Instead, the seeds of this culture seems to have come at least in part from the Epi-Olmec culture centers, such as Cerro de las Mesas and La Mojarra.
Until the early 1950s, the Classic Veracruz ceramics were few, little understood, and generally without provenance. Since then, the recovery of thousands of figurines and pottery pieces from sites such as Remojadas, Los Cerros, Dicha Tuerta, and Tenenexpan, some initially by looters, has expanded our understanding and filled many museum shelves. Artist and art historian Miguel Covarrubias described Classic Veracruz ceramics as "powerful and expressive, endowed with a charm and sensibility unprecedented in other, more formal cultures".
Remojadas style figurines, perhaps the most easily recognizable, are usually hand-modeled, and often adorned with appliqués. Of particular note are the Sonrientes (smiling faces) figurines, with triangular-shaped heads and outstretched arms. Nopiloa figurines are usually less ornate, without appliqués, and often molded.
The Classic Veracruz culture produced some of the few wheeled Mesoamerican figurines and is also noted for the use of bitumen for highlighting.
Native American pottery is an art form with at least a 7500-year history in the Americas. Pottery is fired ceramics with clay as a component. Ceramics are used for utilitarian cooking vessels, serving and storage vessels, pipes, funerary urns, censers, musical instruments, ceremonial items, masks, toys, sculptures, and a myriad of other art forms.
Due to their resilience, ceramics have been key to learning more about pre-Columbian indigenous cultures.Cerro de las Mesas
Cerro de las Mesas, meaning "hill of the altars" in Spanish, is an archaeological site in the Mexican state of Veracruz, in the Mixtequilla area of the Papaloapan River basin. It was a prominent regional center from 600 BCE to 900 CE, and a regional capital from 300 CE to 600 CE.Located about 50 km (31 mi) due south of Veracruz City, Cerro de las Mesas is on the west edge of what had been the Olmec heartland. Rising to prominence after the decline of the Olmec civilization's culture, some researchers consider Cerro de las Mesas, along with similar sites like La Mojarra and Tres Zapotes, to be a center of epi-Olmec culture, a successor culture to the Olmecs, and one that itself gave way to Classic Veracruz culture in the 3rd century CE.
The site contains a man-made lagoon as well as hundreds of artificial mounds, usually in groups, often clustered with a long and a conical mound. These mound groups were likely built during the epi-Olmec period, 400 BCE to 300 CE. It was also during this period that the influence of Teotihuacan appears in the archaeological record.
Sometime later, during the Classic period, a cache of some 800 jade items, some dating from Olmec civilization hundreds of years earlier, were buried at the base of the large mound of the central group.Cerro de las Mesas is home to many stele — artistic stone slabs — several of which contain portrait carvings. Four of these stele — numbers 5, 6, 8, and 15 — contain what are likely to be pieces of Epi-Olmec or Isthmian script.Decapitation
Decapitation is the complete separation of the head from the body. Such an injury is always fatal to humans and animals, since it deprives all other organs of the involuntary functions that are needed for the body to function, while the brain is deprived of oxygenated blood and blood pressure.
The term beheading refers to the act of deliberately decapitating a person, either as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished with an axe, sword, knife, or by mechanical means such as a guillotine. An executioner who carries out executions by beheading is called a headsman. Accidental decapitation can be the result of an explosion, car or industrial accident, improperly administered execution by hanging or other violent injury. Suicide by decapitation is rare but not unknown. The national laws of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Qatar permit beheading, but in practice, Saudi Arabia is the only country that continues to behead its offenders regularly as a punishment for crime.Less commonly, decapitation can also refer to the removal of the head from a body that is already dead. This might be done to take the head as a trophy, for public display, to make the deceased more difficult to identify, for cryonics, or for other, more esoteric reasons.El Tajín
El Tajín is a pre-Columbian archeological site in southern Mexico and is one of the largest and most important cities of the Classic era of Mesoamerica. A part of the Classic Veracruz culture, El Tajín flourished from 600 to 1200 CE and during this time numerous temples, palaces, ballcourts, and pyramids were built. From the time the city fell, in 1230, to 1785, no European seems to have known of its existence, until a government inspector chanced upon the Pyramid of the Niches.El Tajín was named a World Heritage site in 1992, due to its cultural importance and its architecture. This architecture includes the use of decorative niches and cement in forms unknown in the rest of Mesoamerica. Its best-known monument is the Pyramid of the Niches, but other important monuments include the Arroyo Group, the North and South Ballcourts and the palaces of Tajín Chico. In total there have been 20 ballcourts discovered at this site, (the last 3 being discovered in March 2013). Since the 1970s, El Tajin has been the most important archeological site in Veracruz for tourists, attracting 386,406 visitors in 2017.It is also the site of the annual Cumbre Tajin Festival, which occurs each March featuring indigenous and foreign cultural events as well as concerts by popular musicians.Epi-Olmec culture
The Epi-Olmec culture was a cultural area in the central region of the present-day Mexican state of Veracruz. Concentrated in the Papaloapan River basin, a culture that existed during the Late Formative period, from roughly 300 BCE to roughly 250 CE. Epi-Olmec was a successor culture to the Olmec, hence the prefix "epi-" or "post-". Although Epi-Olmec did not attain the far-reaching achievements of that earlier culture, it did realize, with its sophisticated calendrics and writing system, a level of cultural complexity unknown to the Olmecs.Tres Zapotes and eventually Cerro de las Mesas were the largest Epi-Olmec centers though neither would reach the size and importance of the great Olmec cities before them nor El Tajín after them. Other Epi-Olmec sites of note include El Mesón, Lerdo de Tejada, La Mojarra, Bezuapan, and Chuniapan de Abajo.Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica, and within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas. In the 16th century, European diseases like smallpox and measles caused the deaths of upwards of 90% of the indigenous people. It is one of five areas in the world where ancient civilization arose independently, and the second in the Americas along with Norte Chico (Caral-Supe) in present-day Peru, in the northern coastal region.
As a cultural area, Mesoamerica is defined by a mosaic of cultural traits developed and shared by its indigenous cultures. Beginning as early as 7000 BCE, the domestication of cacao, maize, beans, tomato, avocado, vanilla, squash and chili, as well as the turkey and dog, caused a transition from paleo-Indian hunter-gatherer tribal grouping to the organization of sedentary agricultural villages. In the subsequent Formative period, agriculture and cultural traits such as a complex mythological and religious tradition, a vigesimal numeric system, a complex calendric system, a tradition of ball playing, and a distinct architectural style, were diffused through the area. Also in this period, villages began to become socially stratified and develop into chiefdoms with the development of large ceremonial centers, interconnected by a network of trade routes for the exchange of luxury goods, such as obsidian, jade, cacao, cinnabar, Spondylus shells, hematite, and ceramics. While Mesoamerican civilization did know of the wheel and basic metallurgy, neither of these technologies became culturally important.Among the earliest complex civilizations was the Olmec culture, which inhabited the Gulf Coast of Mexico and extended inland and southwards across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Frequent contact and cultural interchange between the early Olmec and other cultures in Chiapas, Guatemala and Oaxaca laid the basis for the Mesoamerican cultural area. All this was facilitated by considerable regional communications in ancient Mesoamerica, especially along the Pacific coast.
This formative period saw the spread of distinct religious and symbolic traditions, as well as artistic and architectural complexes. In the subsequent Preclassic period, complex urban polities began to develop among the Maya, with the rise of centers such as El Mirador, Calakmul and Tikal, and the Zapotec at Monte Albán. During this period, the first true Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in the Epi-Olmec and the Zapotec cultures, and the Mesoamerican writing tradition reached its height in the Classic Maya hieroglyphic script.
Mesoamerica is one of only three regions of the world where writing is known to have independently developed (the others being ancient Sumer and China). In Central Mexico, the height of the Classic period saw the ascendancy of the city of Teotihuacan, which formed a military and commercial empire whose political influence stretched south into the Maya area and northward. Upon the collapse of Teotihuacán around 600 AD, competition between several important political centers in central Mexico, such as Xochicalco and Cholula, ensued. At this time during the Epi-Classic period, the Nahua peoples began moving south into Mesoamerica from the North, and became politically and culturally dominant in central Mexico, as they displaced speakers of Oto-Manguean languages. During the early post-Classic period, Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture, Oaxaca by the Mixtec, and the lowland Maya area had important centers at Chichén Itzá and Mayapán. Towards the end of the post-Classic period, the Aztecs of Central Mexico built a tributary empire covering most of central Mesoamerica.The distinct Mesoamerican cultural tradition ended with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Over the next centuries, Mesoamerican indigenous cultures were gradually subjected to Spanish colonial rule. Aspects of the Mesoamerican cultural heritage still survive among the indigenous peoples who inhabit Mesoamerica, many of whom continue to speak their ancestral languages, and maintain many practices harking back to their Mesoamerican roots.Mesoamerican architecture
Mesoamerican architecture is the set of architectural traditions produced by pre-Columbian cultures and civilizations of Mesoamerica, traditions which are best known in the form of public, ceremonial and urban monumental buildings and structures. The distinctive features of Mesoamerican architecture encompass a number of different regional and historical styles, which however are significantly interrelated. These styles developed throughout the different phases of Mesoamerican history as a result of the intensive cultural exchange between the different cultures of the Mesoamerican culture area through thousands of years. Mesoamerican architecture is mostly noted for its pyramids which are the largest such structures (outside of Ancient Egypt and the Chola Empire).
One interesting and widely researched topic is the relation between cosmovision, religion, geography, and architecture in Mesoamerica. Much seems to suggest that many traits of Mesoamerican architecture were governed by religious and mythological ideas. For example, the layout of most Mesoamerican cities seem to be influenced by the cardinal directions and their mythological and symbolic meanings in Mesoamerican culture.
Another part of Mesoamerican architecture is its iconography. The monumental architecture of Mesoamerica was decorated with images of religious and cultural significance, and also in many cases with writing in some of the Mesoamerican writing systems. Iconographic decorations and texts on buildings are important contributors to the overall current knowledge of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican society, history and religion.Mesoamerican ballcourt
A Mesoamerican ballcourt is a large masonry structure of a type used in Mesoamerica for over 2,700 years to play the Mesoamerican ballgame, particularly the hip-ball version of the ballgame. More than 1,300 ballcourts have been identified, 60% in the last 20 years alone. Although there is a tremendous variation in size, in general all ballcourts are the same shape: a long narrow alley flanked by two walls with horizontal, vertical, and sloping faces. Although the alleys in early ballcourts were open-ended, later ballcourts had enclosed end-zones, giving the structure an -shape when viewed from above.
Ballcourts were also used for functions other than, or in addition to, ballgames. Ceramics from western Mexico show ballcourts being used for other sporting endeavours, including what appears to be a wrestling match. It is also known from archaeological excavations that ballcourts were the sites of sumptuous feasts, although whether these were conducted in the context of the ballgame or as another event entirely is not as yet known. The siting of the most prominent ballcourts within the sacred precincts of cities and towns, as well as the votive deposits found buried there, demonstrates that the ballcourt were places of spectacle and ritual.Mesoamerican ballgame
The Mesoamerican ballgame was a sport with ritual associations played since 1400 BC by the pre-Columbian people of Ancient Mesoamerica. The sport had different versions in different places during the millennia, and a newer more modern version of the game, ulama, is still played in a few places by the indigenous population.The rules of the game are not known, but judging from its descendant, ulama, they were probably similar to racquetball, where the aim is to keep the ball in play. The stone ballcourt goals are a late addition to the game.
In the most common theory of the game, the players struck the ball with their hips, although some versions allowed the use of forearms, rackets, bats, or handstones. The ball was made of solid rubber and weighed as much as 4 kg (9 lbs), and sizes differed greatly over time or according to the version played.
The game had important ritual aspects, and major formal ballgames were held as ritual events. Late in the history of the game, some cultures occasionally seem to have combined competitions with religious human sacrifice. The sport was also played casually for recreation by children and may have been played by women as well.Pre-Columbian ballcourts have been found throughout Mesoamerica, as for example at Copán, as far south as modern Nicaragua, and possibly as far north as what is now the U.S. state of Arizona. These ballcourts vary considerably in size, but all have long narrow alleys with slanted side-walls against which the balls could bounce.Mesoamerican chronology
Mesoamerican chronology divides the history of prehispanic Mesoamerica into several periods: the Paleo-Indian (first human habitation–3500 BCE), the Archaic (before 2600 BCE), the Preclassic or Formative (2500 BCE–250 CE), the Classic (250–900CE), and the Postclassic (900–1521 CE), Colonial (1521–1821), and Postcolonial (1821–present). The periodization of Mesoamerica is based on archaeological, ethnohistorical, and modern cultural anthropology research. The endeavor to create cultural histories of Mesoamerica dates to the early twentieth century, with ongoing work by archeologists, ethnohistorians, historians, and cultural anthropologists.Remojadas
Remojadas (Spanish pronunciation: [remoˈxaðas]) is a name applied to a culture, an archaeological site, as well as an artistic style that flourished on Mexico's Veracruz Gulf Coast from perhaps 100 BCE to 800 CE. The Remojadas culture is considered part of the larger Classic Veracruz culture. Further research into the Remojadas culture is "much needed". The archaeological site has remained largely unexplored since the initial investigations by Alfonso Medellin Zenil in 1949 and 1950.Sculpture
Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. It is one of the plastic arts. Durable sculptural processes originally used carving (the removal of material) and modelling (the addition of material, as clay), in stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials but, since Modernism, there has been an almost complete freedom of materials and process. A wide variety of materials may be worked by removal such as carving, assembled by welding or modelling, or molded or cast.
Sculpture in stone survives far better than works of art in perishable materials, and often represents the majority of the surviving works (other than pottery) from ancient cultures, though conversely traditions of sculpture in wood may have vanished almost entirely. However, most ancient sculpture was brightly painted, and this has been lost.Sculpture has been central in religious devotion in many cultures, and until recent centuries large sculptures, too expensive for private individuals to create, were usually an expression of religion or politics. Those cultures whose sculptures have survived in quantities include the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean, India and China, as well as many in Central and South America and Africa.
The Western tradition of sculpture began in ancient Greece, and Greece is widely seen as producing great masterpieces in the classical period. During the Middle Ages, Gothic sculpture represented the agonies and passions of the Christian faith. The revival of classical models in the Renaissance produced famous sculptures such as Michelangelo's David. Modernist sculpture moved away from traditional processes and the emphasis on the depiction of the human body, with the making of constructed sculpture, and the presentation of found objects as finished art works.Swing (seat)
A swing is a hanging seat, often found at playgrounds for children, at a circus for acrobats, or on a porch for relaxing, although they may also be items of indoor furniture, such as Latin American hammock or the Indian oonjal. The seat of a swing may be suspended from chains or ropes. Once a swing is in motion, it continues to oscillate like a pendulum until external interference or drag brings it to a halt. Swing sets are very popular with children.
On playgrounds, several swings are often suspended from the same metal or wooden frame, known as a swing set, allowing more than one child to play at a time. Such swings come in a variety of sizes and shapes. For infants and toddlers, swings with leg holes support the child in an upright position while a parent or sibling pushes the child to get a swinging motion. Some swing sets include play items other than swings, such as a rope ladder or sliding pole.
For older children, swings are sometimes made of a flexible canvas seat, of a rubberized ventilated tire tread, of plastic, or of wood. A common backyard sight is a wooden plank suspended on both sides by ropes from a tree branch.Totonacapan
Totonacapan refers to the historical extension where the Totonac people of Mexico dominated, as well as to a region in the modern states of Veracruz and Puebla. The historical territory was much larger than the currently named region, extending from the Cazones River in the north to the Papaloapan River in the south and then west from the Gulf of Mexico into what is now the Sierra Norte de Puebla region and into parts of Hidalgo. When the Spanish arrived, the Totonac ethnicity dominated this large region, although they themselves were dominated by the Aztec Empire. For this reason, they allied with Hernán Cortés against Tenochtitlán. However, over the colonial period, the Totonac population and territory shrank, especially after 1750 when mestizos began infiltrating Totonacapan, taking political and economic power. This continued into the 19th and 20th centuries, prompting the division of most of historical Totonacpan between the states of Puebla and Veracruz. Today, the term refers only to a region in the north of Veracruz were Totonac culture is still important. This region is home to the El Tajín and Cempoala archeological sites as well as Papantla, which is noted for its performance of the Danza de los Voladores.Tres Zapotes
Tres Zapotes is a Mesoamerican archaeological site located in the south-central Gulf Lowlands of Mexico in the Papaloapan River plain. Tres Zapotes is sometimes referred to as the third major Olmec capital (after San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán and La Venta), but the Olmec phase is only a portion of the site's history, which continued through the Epi-Olmec and Classic Veracruz cultural periods.
The 2000-year existence of Tres Zapotes as a cultural center is unusual, if not unique, in Mesoamerica.Visual arts by indigenous peoples of the Americas
Visual arts by indigenous peoples of the Americas encompasses the visual artistic traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas from ancient times to the present. These include works from South America, Mesoamerica, North America including Greenland, as well as Siberian Yup'ik peoples who have great cultural overlap with Native Alaskan Yup'iks.