Symbols of the Spanish Conquest: Early Colonial period figurines from the Basin of Mexico and the Michoacán


The Spanish intrusion in Mexico brought indigenous peoples into contact with a Hispanic cultural system, creating a fusion of multiethnic societies each with its own religious, social, and economic values. Our research considers how material culture is formed and transformed through a variety of processes involving structure and practice in specific contexts, which we glean through archaeological collections and documentary records. We focus on the materiality of ceramic figurines made by the Nahua and Purepecha during the 16th and early 17th centuries, to study modes of manufacture, form, decoration, and particularly continuity and change in imagery. The Spanish conquest and the subsequent Christian indoctrination process resulted in the disappearance of material culture symbols associated with indigenous religion, including idolatrous representations prevalent in pre-Columbian ceramic figurines. Post-Conquest figurines portrayed different ethnic and social groups, and the sacred became the secular. These hybrid artifacts have a symbolic foundation in ideology and world view, for the construction of political organization and other expressions of structural components of society. Their symbols tended to solidify within the indigenous population the imposed way of life, economic and political order, and social organization.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Symbols of the Spanish Conquest: Early Colonial period figurines from the Basin of Mexico and the Michoacán. Alan Avila-Ortiz, PATRICIA FOURNIER, PARESKEVI KOUVATSOU. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396386)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;