Reconsidering the "Epic" in the Epiclassic Period of Mesoamerica Part 1: Regional Interactions

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

The Epiclassic period (AD 600-900) embodies “epic” in both its noun and adjective forms, referring to heroic narratives and something that is impressive and grand in scale. The volumes "Mesoamerica After the Decline of Teotihuacan" and "Twin Tollans" (both Dumbarton Oaks) illuminated this period, yet given a recent resurgence of scholarship devoted to the Epiclassic, further assessment is timely. The declines of Teotihuacan and the Classic Maya cites were nuanced processes, as were the growth and development of the cities that arose in response to new economic and political opportunities. Papers will address specific aspects of the Epiclassic period, including the evolution of new population centers, exchange patterns, language, and other symbol systems; the value of visual culture in helping to discern social change; archaeological evidence that affirms or suggests new chronologies; and archaeological evidence that expands the original idea parameters of the Epiclassic. Finally, some papers will offer theoretical models for approaching this crucial era in Mesoamerica and ponder the validity of the Epiclassic period as it is currently understood. The first part of this two-part symposium focuses on regional developments and interactions in Mesoamerica.

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  • Documents (9)

  • The Epiclassic in Oaxaca (600-900 CE) (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marcus Winter. Robert Markens. Cira Martínez López.

    The centuries from 600 to 900 CE were unusually dynamic times in prehispanic Oaxaca. In the Valley of Oaxaca, population increased and elite Zapotec culture flourished as city-states formed at Monte Albán, Cerro de la Campana, Macuilxóchitl, Lambityeco and Jalieza, and then suddenly collapsed. Surprising connections with the Maya area appear such as Fine Orange and Plumbate pottery as well as possible iconographic and architectural elements, some of these channeled through Southern Isthmus sites...

  • Epiclassic in Southern Mesoamerica? Tradition, Innovation, and Reaction in Pacific Guatemala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Oswaldo Chinchilla.

    The Early Classic ascendancy of Teotihuacan was felt strongly on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, particularly at Montana and related sites on the coastal plain of Escuintla. The Teotihuacan downfall roughly coincided with the demise of those sites, and the rise of a new dominant center Cotzumalhuapa, around A.D. 650. The process seems to parallel the emergence of Epiclassic centers in highland Mexico, and differs in many respects from the Maya Highlands and Lowlands, where there are fewer...

    DOCUMENT Citation Only Keith Jordan.

    Although most scholars now reject hypotheses of a Toltec invasion of Yucatan to explain similarities between the art of Tula and Chichen Itza in favor of models involving economic, political, and religious interaction between the two centers, questions remain concerning the nature and timing of this exchange. Some archaeologists and art historians posit a 9th-10th century florescence for "Toltec" Chichen, and argue that since this makes the "Toltec" style in Yucatan older than the Tollan Phase...

  • Patterns of Elite Self-Presentation in North-Central Veracruz, Middle to Epiclassic Periods (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rex Koontz.

    Elite public imagery in north-central Veracruz during during the Cacahuatal phase (c. 350-600) focused on frontal presentations of single figures and a restricted iconography. The Late Classic brought considerable changes to elite self-presentation in the region, including a more complex multi-figure narrative format and the palma, a new costume object. Both of these changes were directly related to changes in the visual patterns of public sculpture and the performance of public rites. This...

  • The Presence of Teotihuacan’s Iconography at Cacaxtla, Tlaxcala: A Reflection on Its Interpretations (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mario Martínez Lara.

    The archaeological site of Cacaxtla, is located in the southwest of the modern state of Tlaxcala, Mexico. It has been explored uninterruptedly since 1975, and researchers agree that the site had a long occupation, reaching its height by AD 600-900, and being contemporary to other sites like Teotihuacan. Cacaxtla stands out for its mural painting and, in particular, for its iconography that combines many pictorial traditions from different Mesoamerican sites. In particular, Cacaxtla’s art draws...

  • Talking about Epiclassic at Teotihuacan: the urban question (2015)

    The collapse of Teotihuacan has traditionally marked the passage of the Classic to Epiclassic period in central Mexico.However, concepts like Epiclassic or collapse, they have different consequences if we analyze the urban center of the city or the Teotihuacan territory. In this paper , we focus on the collapse of the urban center of Teotihuacan analyzing the variability of the archaeological record that shows a very complex social process. SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of...

  • Teotihuacan and post-Teotihuacan Writing in the Central Highlands as seen from NW Oaxaca and Southern Puebla (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Javier Urcid.

    The Ñuiñe script from NW Oaxaca and Southern Puebla was an eclectic writing tradition that spanned the 5th through the 9th centuries A.D. Its users shared scribal practices with Zapotec, Teotihuacan, and post-Teotihuacan Highland urban centers, deploying them in novel ways. In this paper the script is used as a proxy to ascertain its shared features with Zapotec and Teotihuacan writing, as well as the extent to which Central Highland polities that thrived politically and economically after the...

  • Western Mexico: Opening Act of the Mesoamerican Epiclassic (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christopher Beekman.

    The Epiclassic has been described as a major watershed in Mesoamerican prehistory, but in different or even contradictory ways. The period has been claimed to usher in a shift from prestige to mercantile economies, religious to military political systems, territorial states to city-states, parochial to international art styles, and in the case of western Mexico, from non-Mesoamerican to Mesoamerican society. These metanarratives have privileged formal characteristics, which are in any case found...

  • Women, metaphors of alterity. Expressing elites interactions at Cacaxtla-Xochitecatl (Tlaxcala) and Xochicalco (Morelos) (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Juliette Testard.

    Recent strontium analyses have revealed that many women buried in the Feathered Serpent Pyramid in Teotihuacan changed their environment at least two times during their lifetime. This suggests that their role, especially in cultural interactions, was particularly important, an hypothesis already presented by Gillespie and Joyce (1997) for maya societies. An iconographic study of mural painting, figurines and sculptures from Cacaxtla-Xochitecatl and Xochicalco, two epiclassic cities well known...