29 May 2011

The Calandar Stone at Tamtoc Archeological Zone :Part II (Conclusion)

An implied spatial message of the monolith, since it is placed near a spring and associated irrigation works, by the leaders of the settlement is that “water is the 'life-blood' of our settlement and the reason that the citizens of the settlement can avail themselves to its benefits is related to our leadership in constructing hydraulics for irrigation and determining the time of planting through the calendar we developed.” This message's vehicle is a collection of powerful spiritual metaphors that would have been known to the villagers of Tamtoc which would have cemented or sanctified the role of the leaders/priests as being the providers of one of the basic elements of city public welfare—water. The monolith also attests to the importance of women in society as the ultimate source of life and also of importance of female leadership, hence the predominately female sacrificial priest as the overseer of the process of life including time and its resources (in this case water.) Ultimately, this monument is one of a symbol of power to remind the citizens of this settlement who is responsible for agricultural prosperity-which was of prime importance to settlements in this time period.

Thus, it could be similar (but more palpable) to signs in the Modern Era stating “this building was constructed through the assistance of ______ (government funding agency, non-profit agency or individual(s).)” There are many examples of water resources being linked to a particular urban power structure in the symbols of the city. In Greek and Roman cities, fountains were often constructed by wealthy individuals to link their influence to the prosperity of the city. In Ottoman times, fountains were built around the capital city of Istanbul/Constantinople by the Sultans, the Sultan‟s family or wealthy individuals for the benefit to the local populations, but also to make them aware who was the source of social welfare. The most prominent example of public works related to water which are considered art work in the ancient world would be the aqueducts in areas of the former Roman Empire. They 'speak' dramatically to the importance of the authority of the Romans in providing for the welfare of its citizens—but not as ethereal or encompassed in mythical symbols as the linkage found in the relief in Tamtoc. The Romans were not subtle in their message of who is the power in providing for the public welfare of cities.

In the Pre-Modern city, public art often had a symbolic message to the its populous and to the outside world. It was used to convey in an urban setting messages of : the authority of a certain ruler over a city; the wealth and generosity of a wealthy citizen; a shared major event; the connection between the rulers as spiritual intermediates between the gods or the Christian/Judaic or Islamic God and earthly life; or the position of the city at larger scales. The overall message was one of myriad variations of power that the city, its rulers or prominent citizens were broadcasting to city residents and their known world. In the Modern and Post-Modern city, public art, while it may be 'art for art sake', usually transmits a message consciously or sub-consciously of power or authority to its inhabitants or visitors (virtual or actual.) Examples would be: the Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, Arc de Triumph, Eifel Tower, Big Ben and the Christ the Redeemer statue (overlooking Rio de Janeiro.) Skyscrapers are a collective symbol of hegemonic power of the economic sphere of Modern/Post-Modern cities, replacing those of royalty, religion, and government and blatantly designating them as irrelevant. It is by design that all buildings in Washington, D.C. are low rise and never higher than the Capitol Building. However, this may be anachronistic as the 'real power behind the throne' is reflected by the skyscrapers that are surrounding the area. Thus, we have come full circle, from an unearthed slab of carved rock with obscure symbols to our modern symbols in urban areas. The commonality is all spatially placed symbols in cities are indicators of the power structure of the particular time period and thus are important to those studying urbanism.


Antiqvae Terrae (blog of José Luis Santos Fernández), 2006, “Mexico. Monolito hallado en SLP podría rescribir la historia de Mesoamérica”, http://terraeantiqvae.blogia.com/2006/050801-mexico.-monolito-hallado-en-slp-podria-rescribir-la-historia-de-mesoamerica.php , Last Accessed 29 May 2011.

Cyphers, Ann, 1999, “From Stone to Symbols: Olmec Art in Social Context at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán” in Social Patterns in Pre-Classic Mesoamerica, David C. Grove and Rosemary A. Joyce, Editors, Washington, D.C: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, http://www.doaks.org/publications/doaks_online_publications/Social/social07.pdf, Last Accessed 29 May 2011.

Escoto, Guillermina, 2010 ,“Embellecen manantial de "La Sacerdotisa"", en Tamtok”, Webpage of El Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, http://www.inah.gob.mx/index.php/especiales/247-embellecen-manantial-de-la-sacerdotisa-en-tamtok-#top-toolbar-article , Last Accessed 29 May 2011.

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