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Gender in Me So America

Gender in Me So America

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Published by: dropmeoff on Aug 26, 2010
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This is an extract from:
Gender in Pre-Hispanic America
© 2001 Dumbarton OaksTrustees for Harvard UniversityWashington, D.C.Printed in the United States of America
Published by
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and CollectionWashington, D.C.
www.doaks.org/etexts.html
Cecelia F. Klein, Editor 
 Jeffrey Quilter, General Editor 
 
255
The Concept of Feminine Places in Mesoamerica:The Case of Xochitécatl, Tlaxcala, Mexico
MARI CARMEN SERRA PUCHE
INSTITUTO DE INVESTIGACIONES ANTROPOLÓGICAS,UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL AUTÓNOMA DE MÉXICO
R
ecent advances in archaeology
, as well as its self-assessment as adiscourse created by and for a particular society, have without doubtbroadened not only the explanatory scope of our discipline but alsoits ability to provide useful and reliable information for all those who seek anexplanation of their present in the past. Archaeological studies of gender havemade one thing clear: On many occasions, the interpretation of archaeologicalfinds reflects a homogeneous concept of society. Researchers—men and womenalike—tend to generalize and to refer to the inhabitants of ancient settlementsas generic human beings, forgetting that the place assigned to each memberdepends on his or her physical characteristics, age, manual and mental skills,economic status, class membership, and even personal preferences. We frequentlyoverlook the fact that we are talking about men and women who have a spe-cific place in society, and that often it is precisely their sex that detemines theirposition in life and the social group to which they belong. The same can be saidabout other groups, such as children and the elderly.This tendency to generalize has invariably led researchers to give attentionto very broad aspects of the social group they are studying, forgetting not onlyeveryday life but also the importance that individuals, with their own particularskills and limitations, have within their society. The dangers inherent in suchneglect of the individuals are illustrated by the recent excavation at an Epiclassicsite in Central Mexico.In the southeastern part of the state of Tlaxcala on the Central Plateau of Mexico, in a landscape framed by the majestic volcanoes Popocatepetl,Iztaccíhuatl, and La Malinche, stands the hill of Xochitécatl, an ancient volcanowith a Pre-Hispanic ceremonial center at the top (Fig. 1).
1
Its favored geo-
1
All figures and photographs were made for the Proyecto Arqueológico Xochitécatl,Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia–UNAM, México, D.F.
 
256
 Mari Carmen Serra Puche
graphical location at the center of the Puebla–Tlaxcala plains, permanentlywatered by the Zahuapan and Atoyac Rivers, was a factor that determined thesettlement here of large population nuclei engaged mainly in agriculture (Fig. 2).As is normal in any archaeological project, the investigation of the Xochitécatlsite has yielded a large amount of information and, along with this, some puzzlesyet to be solved. The chronological and geographical position of Xochitécatl(Fig. 3) provided those of us who excavated the site with an initial framework for systematizing and delimiting our data. However, as work progressed, theexcavations led us along an unexpected path. In contrast to other occasions, wedid not need in-depth studies to be able to begin interpreting the roles playedby individuals, both men and women, in this society.The presence of feminine elements in cultural discourse came to light withthe first archaeological finds. Numerous ceramic and stone representations of women discovered at the site were key in determining the course of our inter-pretation of the data. At the risk of jumping to conclusions, we can say thatXochitécatl appears to have been a ceremonial center that at the end of theFormative period (400
b.c.
to
a.d.
100) and during its second occupation in theEpiclassic period (
a.d.
650 to 850) (Fig. 4) was dedicated to a feminine cult.
Fig. 1 The archaeological site of Xochitécatl, Tlaxcala, and its surrounding landscape, fromthe northwest, with the view of the Iztaccíhuatl (White Woman) volcano in the back-ground.

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