The Venus Temple
The Battle Mural
Zapotec civilization around Oaxaca up to the northern high plains. Such a position naturally created conflict with its envious neighbors. Warfare during this period was fierce.
Military cults associated with Jaguars and Eagles appear in several Mesoamerican civilizations, including the Toltec Empire based in Tollan (Tula), and the Itzá rulers of Chichen Itzá. These cults reached their peak in the Aztec Empire where they were the elite units who led the fight against Hernán Cortéz.
Obsidian is volcanic glass, a substance that can be shaped into very sharp tools or weapons. The cutting edge on some obsidian weapons has been found to be many times sharper than modern steel surgical instruments.
The Bird and Jaguar Priests
Quezalcoatl, the famous "feathered serpent", a deity whose origin goes back at least as far as the earliest period of Teotihuacan, around 100 BC. The "business end" of the device held in the priest's arms is the head of another snake, which seems about to devour the head of the feathered serpent. Note also the feet of the priest, represented as the talons of a bird. My interpretation of this scene is that the priest is using the device to intimidate the snake on which he stands, or perhaps as a tool to direct it. This may be intended to emphasize the ability of the priest to make the god do what he wants. Of course, this is only my speculation. I invite anyone who has information about the meaning of this image to leave a comment. Notice the plants and animals along the border below the feathered serpent. There are at least 27 different plants and animals represented in this and the other murals around Cacaxtla.
Jaguars were viewed as powerful symbols throughout Mesoamerica all the way back to the Olmecs. Interestingly, drops of water appear to be cascading from the device down onto the head of the jaguar. Water was a very important element in prehispanic life and, as such, carried very powerful symbolic meanings. Like the Bird Priest, the Jaguar Priest has the feet of an animal, in this case the claws of a jaguar.
This completes Part 15 of my series on Puebla and is the end of the series itself. My next posting will be entirely different: a whimsical, photo-walk around Ajijic, the Mexican village where I live. I think you'll enjoy the change. If you have any comments on this or any of my other postings, please leave it in the Comments section below or email me directly.
If you leave a question in the Comments section PLEASE leave your email address so I can respond.
Hasta luego, Jim