The Terracotta Figurines from Sigvald Linnés Excavations at Teotihuacán, México
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Research Year: 2000
Chronology: Early Classic
Location: Central Highlands, México
Teotihuacán is justly renowned as the first and largest urban phenomenon in Central Mexican Highlands. Equally remarkable is the seemingly limitless number of small terracotta figurines which were produced at the ancient city. The Teotihuacanos did not leave portraits of their leaders or any historic personage in ceremonial art forms, nor is there evidence of a formal writing system that would name them. Unlike their contemporaries to the south, the Zapotec and Maya with whom they were in contact for centuries, they seem mute on the subject of exploits and the people who would have been involved. In fact, as archaeological exploration and decipherment go on apace, the information imbalance between Teotihuacán and its southern neighbors is greater than ever. It is ironic, and perhaps telling, that the void of recorded history at Teotihuacán is compensated by the multiplicity of human figures in the genre of terracotta figurines. It is highly likely that the Teotihuacanos did record events and picture their historic personages in material that has been destroyed through time. Nevertheless, the figurines provide the greatest amount of information about the people themselves.
Teotihuacán figurines have never received the scrutiny they deserve. In spite of the vast numbers of figurines and their association with households, they have been the most neglected and under-esteemed of all Teotihuacán artifact categories. Occasionally they are used in iconographic studies because many have elaborate clothing and headdresses with designs that seem to have symbolic meaning; but, with few exceptions, they are not the focal point.
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The National Museum of Ethnography
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Report submitted 09/11/2001