Mexico Sees Resurgence of Pulque, Ancient Alcoholic Beverage of Mesoamerica
Mexico is seeing a renewed interest in the
traditional alcoholic beverage known as pulque, a milky drink made from the sap
of the agave, whose origins go back thousands of years. Although the ancient
drink cannot be canned or bottled due to its ongoing fermentation process, the
drink is making a comeback among the younger generation of Mexicans in bars and
I won November’s “Flair’s Choice” for this post on /r/AskHistorians
The truth is that we don’t know all that much. What little we do know is based on survey work in the region, a few excavations of guachimontones at Llano Grande,Navajas, and Los Guachimontones/Loma Alta, an unlooted shaft tomb at Huitzilapa, a cemetery at Tabachines, and a few unlooted shaft tombs at Mary Parez, some work at previously looted and partially looted tombs atEl Arenal, and the countless looted ceramic figures found in museums across the world. No one has really excavated any households with the exception of Huitzilapa. The excavators found a shaft tomb under one of the platforms in the household compounds so their investigation shifted from the compound to the tomb. What we can say is that there is status differences, but not enough to warrant elite households yet. Based on survey data there are no structures that have been identified as elite structures. The Teuchitlan culture did not build palaces like the later period Palacio de Ocomo outside of Oconahua. Instead, what we find are household compounds made up of four platforms in a quadripartite pattern with some platforms scattered individually here and there. Without excavating several compounds we cannot say what constitutes an elite versus commoner household. Personally, I think a lot more structures were built without earthen and stone foundations, but looking for postholes in the dirt doesn’t necessarily sound appealing. Even Los Guachimontones, the site with the largest guachimontones, the most guachis, and with two ballcourts (if a site has a ballcourt, it’s only one), all we find are household compounds built on the hillside and hilltop.
What status the people did have is expressed in the shaft tombs themselves and the ceramic figures often associated with the tombs. Beekman (2008) has proposed that the Teuchitlan culture was corporate based where elite lineages competed and cooperated with one another. This created a checks and balances sort of system in which no one lineage could rule over the others or at least rule for very long. There may have been societal rules in place that prohibited the expression of wealth and power in terms of household size, which may be why we don’t see palaces, but may not have been so strict when it came to death. The tomb at Huitzilapa was veryrichly decorated with many ceramic vessel offerings, jade goods, the oldest paper in Mesoamerica (Benz and Ramos 2006), shell goods, three people in each tomb chamber, and ceramic figures (Lopez and Ramos 2006). If you compare Huitzilapa with Tabachines (Beekman and Galvan 2006, Galvan 1991), where the tombs are small and only have a few vessels or figures, there is a disparity in wealth and status. Unfortunately El Arenal (Corona Nunez 1955, Long 1966) was looted before it was investigated, though some of the looters were interviewed and the goods they robbed documented. El Arenal being 17m (depth varies in reports) deep required a substantial effort on the part of the living. It may be tempting to say that the person buried had great wealth and status, too, but we can never be 100% certain because of the looting.
The guachimontones themselves seem to reflect Beekman’s model of competing groups. Both Llano Grande and Navajas show a wide range of variation in the construction of the platforms of the guachimonton. Beekman hypothesized that at larger sites like Los Guachimontones that the structures would be more uniform and homogeneous since it was a larger center and may have had more administrative control. My own work for my thesis has looked at Circle 2 of Los Guachis since it is the most completely excavated guachi at the site. Circle 1, while larger, was not fully excavated since the majority of its platforms were badly damaged from the elements and farming. What I’ve found is that even in Circle 2 there is a wide difference in how platforms are constructed. One platform may be all clay with stone facing, another may be built with large aggregate mixed with earth with stone facing, some may even have internal walls with different construction materials on either side. The amount of work put into each platform also differs with Platform 1 requiring about one thousand more more person-days than any other platform (most fall between 2000 and 4000 person-days, Platform 1 tops it at 5600+ p-d). But all this is preliminary work for my thesis that won’t be finished until spring or so.
The ceramic figures show some variance in social structure as well. There are interpretations that the figures with more decoration may have more status. Some figures even show scenes of warfare in which the warrior grabs the captor by the hair/head, a common sign of defeat in Mesoamerica. So there is an obvious implied difference in status. Some of the solid ceramic figures from further south in Colima show people being carried on palanquin which may also be an indication of status and importance. Beekman (2016), however, argues there is a relationship between number of figures and proximity to ceremonial centers. Figures with decoration are thought to have more wealth and status than plain figures. Decorated figures were found to be six times more likely to be found in tombs under or near surface architecture than rural tombs. And figures holding objects and props, another indicator, were found to be twice as likely in tombs under/near architecture than rural tombs. So there is some status differences represented in the figures even if the figures are not portraits of the deceased.
I hope this was an alright answer considering no one has excavated enough households yet. I hope to excavate some households in the future, but who knows? Someone may beat me to it. I hope they do because at least the work is getting done even if I’m not the one to do it.
Beekman, Christopher S. “Who did the Western Mexican figures portray? The correlation between figures and their contexts”. In Shaft Tombs and Figures in West Mexican Society: A Reassessment, eds Christopher S. Beekman and Robert B. Pickering. Gilcrease Museum. Tulsa, Oklahoma.
For corporate America, Donald Trump is quickly putting the bully in the bully pulpit.
The president-elect has already singled out Rexnord, Carrier and Ford Motor for attacks over their plans to ship jobs out of the United States.
And on Tuesday he lashed out at aerospace giant Boeing over what he described as the bloated cost of the company’s contracts to build presidential planes. His comments initially slammed Boeing’s stock price and those of defense contractors across the board and sent shock waves through boardrooms nationwide as chief executives worry they will wind up in Trump’s cross hairs.
The concern among executives and free-market conservatives is that Trump will tweet first and ask questions later if he hears about plans he doesn’t like, potentially hitting stock prices, turning public opinion against companies before they have a chance to explain themselves and chilling investment.
It’s a unique dilemma for corporate chiefs accustomed to more gentle treatment, especially from historically pro-business and pro-free trade Republican presidents.
“It’s the president of the United States, the man with the biggest microphone in the world, who just might suddenly one day single you out for abuse,” said David Boaz, executive vice president of the free-market Cato Institute. “This is like being Tylenol and discovering someone has poisoned your product. It’s a sudden shock that will cause companies to be more conservative, more cautious. It hurts the broader economy because these companies won’t be seeking to maximize their own profit and solvency.”
Birds, Stones, and Jaguars: Piecing Together the Multifaceted Ancient Olmec Religion
The principal Olmec cult associations were those
of the bird and the feline. These Olmec religious traditions passed on to the
Maya. Children held special roles in these cults and when they passed
initiation they were recognized as individuals to be respected and could even
give advice to adults.