Teotihuacan Ritual Analysis

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Ritual was an integral part of Teotihuacan culture. It helped establish social cohesion within the growing cities in which dynastic representation of rulers was absent (Filini). Ritual ideology of Teotihuacan is reflected in its material culture such as pyramids, frescoes, vessels, and figurines. In this paper, I argue the dancing figure (Figure 1) was likely a ritual object, which was used in a religious ceremony or for personal worship. I argue the figurine may also be part of a larger work, such as ceremony or ritual that is performed in group. I will provide visual evidence drawn from the formal elements of the figure, which include form, space, medium, context of display, and viewer’s relationship. I will also discuss the object’s ritual…show more content…
Share elements of two objects suggest the figure’s association to religious ritual. Elements presented in both pieces are trapezoidal head, elongated open eyes, marked brow line, wide protruding nose, and open mouth with full lips. Idealized facial features are common in Teotihuacan representation of peoples, as can be found in many ceramic and stone masks, murals, and figurines. Teotihuacan masks played a funerary role. For instance, ceramic masks found at Tetitla and Yayahuala apartment were likely attached to funerary bundles as the visual on the ceramic incense burners illustrate the way they may have been used (Markman). Funerary mask not only was made to create an idealized face for the deceased, but also was to mark the transformation of the dead to another higher being (Markman). Moreover, in Mesoamerica, the dominance of the mouth over the masked face announces the idea that “man is an expression of the gods” (Markman). The link between man and gods adds to the mask’s ritual role, which in turn validates my argument for the dancing figure’s role as a ritual…show more content…
An inexpensive clay medium suggests that the lower-class people may be able to afford and have access to the figurine. In contrast to the economical clay, material such as greenstone (usually fuchsite or serpentine) was rarer, and therefore was more highly priced (Cowgill). Because the greenstone was not local to Teotihuacan, it was mostly imported from distant areas. For even rarer material than greenstone, jadeite was probably imported from sources along the Motagua River in Guatemala (Cowgill), which is more than 600 miles away from Teotihuacan. The type of material also determines the method of production of an object. Molding process has become a common way of producing ceramic figurines and composite censers ornaments (Cowgill). The use of molds suggests lower skilled artisan and less time required due to the increasing rate of production. In Teotihuacan culture, various kinds of ceramic figurines have been produced as a result of rapid production process (Figure 3a-f). The dancing figure could have been made either all by hands, or partly mold-made. Many figurines of later period now had mold-made heads with handmade bodies (Cowgill). On the other hand, small figurines and decorative items made from precious greenstone would require skilled craftsman as well as greater working time and effort, since these were intricately made and well-crafted
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