Drawing after Miguel Covarrubias – Indian Art of Mexico & Central America Death Gods, Smiling Faces and Colossal Heads: Archaeology of the Mexican Gulf Lowlands
by Richard Diehl

Bibliographical Essay

Publications dealing with the archaeology and ethnohistory of the Gulf Coast are scattered through a vast array of often inaccessible sources. Unfortunately there are no detailed syntheses of the topic, nor is there a satisfactory up-to-date bibliography covering the entire region Ignacio Bernal's Bibliografía de arqueología y etnografía de Mesoamérica y norte de México, 1514-1960 (Mexico, 1962), 101-19, contains the most comprehensive bibliography on the subject up to 1960. Subregional syntheses of the prehistory and ethnohistory included in the Handbook of Middle American Indians, 16 vols., ed. Robert Wauchope, (Austin, TX, 1964-76), include articles by Michael D. Coe, Matthew W. Stirling, and France V. Scholes and David Warren in Vol. 3 and José García Payón, Richard S. MacNeish, William T. Sanders, and Guy Stresser Péan in Vol. n. These useful summaries contain extensive bibliographies of significant works, but unfortunately all are rather dated.

Several collections of papers deal with the precolumbian cultures of the region; Huastecos, Totonacos y sus Vecinos, ed. Ignacio Bernal and Eusebio Davalos Hurtado (Mexico, 1953), contains many important original contributions on the north-central and north Gulf Coast subregions, while Lorenzo Ochoa's Huaxtecos y Totonacos: Una antología histórica-cultural (Mexico, 1989) includes reprints of useful but hard-to-find older works dealing with the same territory. Ochoa's Olmecas y Mayas en Tabasco (Villahermosa, 1985) serves a similar function for the south Gulf Coast. S. J. K. Wilkerson's "Cultural Time and Space in Ancient Veracruz," in Ceremonial Sculpture of Ancient Veracruz, ed. Marilyn M. Gold-stein, (Brookville, NY, 1988), 7-18, is the only culture historical synthesis of the entire Gulf Coast.

The bibliographical corpus dealing with Formative period Olmec culture is enormous and even includes a novel by Paul Westheimer, The Olmec Head (New York, 1974). General syntheses include America's First Civilization: Discovering the Olmec by Michael D. Coe (New York 1968); The Olmec World by Ignacio Bernal (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1969); The Olmecs: The Oldest Civilization in Mexico by Jacques Soustelle (Garden City, 1984); and The Olmec: Mother Culture of Mesoamerica, Roman Piña Chan (New York, 1989). Unfortunately, none reflect current thinking or include information from recent investigations. Francisco Beverido P., "Breve Historia de la Arqueologia Olmeca," La Palabra y El Hombre 64 (1987): 161-94, succinctly summarizes the history of investigations of Olmec culture. David Grove, "The Olmec Legacy: Updating Olmec Prehistory," National Geographic Research and Exploration 8 (1992): 166-79, discusses some of the recent research on Olmec culture in the south Gulf Coast heartland, and Regional Perspectives on the Olmec, ed. David Grove and Robert Sharer (Cambridge, England, 1989), contains new interpretations of Olmec culture and its relationships with the rest of Mesoamerica. Two volumes edited by Elizabeth Benson, Dumbarton Oaks Conference on the Olmec (Washington, DC, 1968), and The Olmec and Their Neighbors (Washington, DC, 1981) contain original articles on many aspects of Olmec culture and art. Reasonably current bibliographies can be found in Bibliografía Olmeca, by Francisco Beverido Pereau (Xalapa, 1986) and Corpus Bibliográfico de la Cultura Olmeca by Nelly Gutierrez Solana and Daniel G. Schavelson (Mexico, 1980).

The early literature on La Venta includes Frans Blom and Oliver La Farge's classic account Tribes and Temples, 2 vols. (New Orleans, 1926). Matthew W. Stirling and Philip Drucker initiated modern investigations at La Venta in 1942; the results are reported in Stirling's Stone Monuments of Southern Mexico (Washington, DC, 1943) and Drucker's La Venta, Tabasco: A Study of Olmec Ceramics and Art (Washington, DC, 1952). Excavations at La Venta, Tabasco, 1955, by Philip Drucker, Robert F. Heizer, and Robert J. Squier (Washington, DC, 1959), contains a detailed excavation report of the 1955 National Geographic Society—Smithsonian Institution field project and the first radiocarbon determinations for an Olmec occupation. More recent research at La Venta is reported in numbers 3, 4, 5, 8, II, 13, 24, and 41 of the Contributions of the University of California Archaeological Research Facility (Berkeley, 1967-79). Investigations in the 1980s are briefly reported in William F. Rust and Robert J. Sharer, "Olmec Settlement Data from La Venta, Mexico," Science 242 (1988): 102-4, and Rebecca Gonzalez Lauck, "Proyecto Arqueológico La Venta," Arqueología 4, (1988): 121-65. Lorenzo Ochoa and Marcia Castro Leal's Archaeological Guide of the Park-Museum of La Venta (Villahermosa, 1986) provides a succinct description of the Parque La Venta in Villahermosa and the La Venta monuments on display in this open-air setting. In the Land of the Olmec, Vols. I and 2, by Michael D. Coe and Richard A. Diehl (Austin, TX, 1981), is a detailed consideration of the Formative Olmec occupation at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan. The spectacular Olmec offerings at the nearby site of El Manati are described by Ponciano Ortiz C. and Maria del Carmen Rodríguez in "Proyecto Manatí 1989," Arqueología I (1989): 23-52.

Juan Valenzuela's "Las Exploraciones Efectuadas en los Tuxtlas, Veracruz," Anales del Museo National de Arqueología, Historia y Etnologia 3 (1945): 83-107, reports the first serious archaeological investigations in the Tuxtla Mountains. Ponciano Ortiz C. describes the basic ceramic sequence for the Tuxtlas in La Cerámica de los Tuxtlas (Xalapa, 1975). A joint University of New Mexico–Universidad Veracruzana project in the 1980s produced considerable new data about Matacapan's history, economy, and connections with Teotihaucan. Robert S. Santley, Philip J. Arnold III, and Christopher A. Pool discuss some of the results in "The Ceramics Production System at Matacapan, Veracruz, Mexico," Journal of Field Archaeology 16 (1989): 107-32 and the bibliography of that article contains an extensive list of technical papers on other facets of the project.

The archaeology of Tres Zapotes is described in C. W. Weiant, An Introduction to the Ceramics of Tres Zapotes, Veracruz, Mexico (Washington, DC, 1943), and Philip Drucker, Ceramic Sequences at Tres Zapotes, Veracruz, Mexico (Washington, DC, 1943). M. W. Stirling describes the Tres Zapotes sculptures in Matthew W. Stirling, Stone Monuments; Stirling discusses Stela C in detail in "An Initial Series from Tres Zapotes, Vera Cruz, Mexico," in National Geographic Society Contributed Technical Papers I (Washington, DC, 1940). P. Ortiz, La Ceramica, describes more recent excavations at Tres Zapotes.

La Mojarra Stela I is described by Fernando Winfield Capitaine in "La estela I de La Mojarra, Veracruz, Mexico," Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing 16 (Washington, DC, 1988); Virginia Morrell has done an outstanding job of untangling the controversies surrounding it in "New Light on Writing in the Americas," Science 251 (1991): 268-70. Thomas S. Barthel and Hasso von Winning provide a detailed but controversial interpretation of the glyphic text in "Some observations of Stela I, La Mojarra, Veracruz," Tribus 38 (1989): 91-120, and "La Mojarra Stela I revisited," Tribus 40 (1991): 43-82. John Justeson and Terrence Kaufman provide a generally accepted, linguistically based decipherment of the La Mojarra script in "A Decipherment of Epi-Olmec Hieroglyphic Writing," Science 259 (1993): I703-711. Barbara Stark, Patarata Pottery: Classic Period Ceramics of the South-central Gulf Coast, Veracruz, Mexico (Tucson, 1989), is the best source of information on archaeological sites in the Papaloapan basin.

Cerro de las Mesas is discussed in P. Drucker, Ceramic Stratigraphy at Cerro de las Mesas, Veracruz, Mexico (Washington, DC, 1943), and M. W. Stirling, Stone Monuments. B. Stark, ed., summarizes recent investigations at the site in Settlement Archaeology of Cerro de las Mesas, Veracruz, Mexico (Los Angeles, 1991).

Virtually nothing is known about the Postclassic archaeological sites of the south Gulf Coast. Michael D. Coe, "Archaeological Synthesis of Southern Veracruz and Tabasco," Handbook of Middle American Indians, Vol. 3 (1965), 679-715, summarizes everything known at the time of writing; the only new information can be found in the descriptions of the Villa Alta-phase remains at San Lorenzo in M. D. Coe and R. A. Diehl, In the Land of the Olmec. Conquest period Olmeca and Uixtotin cultures are described in Book 10 of Fray Bernardino de Sahagun's Florentine Codex, ed. Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble, (Santa Fe, NM, 1961), and summarized by France V. Scholes and David Warren, "The Olmec Region at Spanish Contact," Handbook of Middle American Indians, Vol. 3 (1965), 776-86.

The archaeology of central Veracruz is summarized in Alfonso Med-ellin Zenil, Ceramicas del Totonacapan, and José García Payón, "Archaeology of Central Veracruz," 505-42. The recent literature on the region is primarily concerned with the art; especially useful publications include Marilyn Goldstein, ed., Ceremonial Sculpture of Ancient Veracruz (Brook-ville, NY, 1988), Ancient Art of Veracruz, (Los Angeles, 1972), and Tatiana Proskouriakoff, "Classic Art of Central Veracruz," in Handbook of Middle American Indians, Vol. II (1971), 558-72. The spectacular clay sculptures of El Zapotal are profusely illustrated and analyzed in detail in Nelly Gutiérrez Solana and Susan Hamilton, Las Esculturas en Terracota de el Zapotal, Veracruz (Mexico, 1977). A. Medellin Zenil, Nopiloa: Exploraciones Arqueologicas (Xalapa, 1987), contains descriptions of the excavations and artifacts, especially small clay figurines, from that poorly understood site. In one of the few archaeological publications that does not deal with ceramics, architecture, or art, Alfred Siemens et al. present information on prehispanic intensive agriculture in "Evidence for a Cultivar and a Chronology from Patterned Wetlands in Central Veracruz, Mexico," Science 242 (1988): 105-7.

In 1891-92, the Mexican savant Francisco Paso y Troncoso carried out the first systematic archaeological studies of Cempoala, the Conquest period Totonac capital, as part of Mexico's commemoration of the fourth centenary of Columbus's first voyage. The results of this effort were published by J. Galindo y Villain, "Las Ruinas de Cempoala y del Templo del Tajín," Anales del Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Historia, y Etnologia de Mexico (Mexico, 1912). Jesse Walter Fewkes, "Certain Antiquities of Eastern Mexico," Bureau of American Ethnology, Annual Report 25 (1907): 223-84, contains an early description of Cempoala in English. The ruins of Quiahuixtlan are described in A. Medellin Zenil, La Ceramica. Eyewitness descriptions of Cempoala and Quiahuiztlan are found in Bernal Diaz del Castillo's The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico (New York, 1958) and in Hernan Cortes's letters to King Charles of Spain, as compiled by his biographer Fernando López de Gómara in Cortés: The Life of the Conqueror by His Secretary (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1966). These works also present an account of the Conquest and Doña Marina's role in it from the Spanish perspective. Book 12 of Fray Bernardino de Sahagun's Florentine Codex, ed. Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles Dibble (Santa Fe, 1955), provides a contrasting native view on the events.

The precolumbian cultural sequence for the north-central Gulf Coast is best studied in the Tecolutla river valley; its details are presented in S. J. K. Wilkerson, Ethnogenesis of the Huastecs and Totonacs: Early Cultures of North-Central Veracruz at Santa Luisa, Mexico (New Orleans, 1972). A brief summary is found in Wilkerson's "Eastern Mesoamerica from Pre-historic to Colonial Times: A Model of Cultural Continuance," Actes du XLII Congrés International des Americanistes, 8 (1979): 41. The Formative period cultures of the entire subregion are discussed in Wilkerson's "The northern Olmec and pre-Olmec frontier on the Gulf Coast," in Elizabeth Benson, ed., The Olmec and Their Neighbors.

The first modern description of El Tajin in English can be found in Ellen Spinden, "The place of Tajin in Totonac Archaeology," American Anthropologist 35 (1933): 225-70. José García Payón's many field seasons of excavation and restoration at El Tajin are reported in widely scattered sources; the results are summarized in S. J. K. Wilkerson, El Tajin: A Guide for Visitors (Xalapa, 1987). That publication also contains the best and most complete description of El Tajin. Wilkerson analyzes the importance of the ball game at El Tajin in "And Then They Were Sacrificed: The Ritual Ballgame of Northeastern Mesoamerica Through Time and Space," in The Mesoamerican Ballgame, ed. Vernon L. Scarborough and David R. Wilcox (Tucson, 1991). Recent investigations at El Tajin are reported in Juergen Brueggemann and Rene Ortega Guevara, "El Projecto Tajin," Arqueología 5 (1989): 153-90.

Fray Bernardino de Sahagun's accounts of Totonac life and culture in Book 10 of the Florentine Codex (Santa Fe NM, 1961) are invaluable but must be recognized as Aztec perceptions of their recently subjugated neighbors rather than balanced, unbiased descriptions. Isabel Kelley and Angel Palerm, The Tajin Totonac: Part I. History, Subsistence, Shelter, and Technology, (Washington, DC, 1952), is the best and indeed the only reliable synthesis of Totonac ethnohistory and contact-period culture.

Lorenzo Ochoa's Historia Prehispanica de la Huastecan (UNAM, Mexico City, 1979) presents a detailed summary of the archaeology of the north Gulf Coast subregion, supplanting the older La Huasteca: Epoca Antigua by Joaquin Meade (Mexico, 1942). Gordon F. Ekholm, "Excavations at Tampico and Panuco in the Huasteca, Mexico," Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History XXXVIII (1944), contains detailed discussions of excavations that revealed remains of all time periods in the lower reaches of the Panuco River. Richard S. MacNeish reports Formative remains in "An early archaeological site near Panuco, Veracruz," Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 44 (1954): 539-641. Ignacio Marquina, Arquitectura Prehispanica (Mexico, 1952), contains descriptions of many large Classic and Postclassic sites. The sculpture of Castillo de Teayo is analyzed by Felipe Solís in Escultura de Castillo de Teayo, Veracruz, Mexico (Mexico, 1981).

Sahagun describes the Huastecs in Book 10 of the Florentine Codex, while Guy Stresser Péan summarizes the ethnohistory of the region and its inhabitants in "Ancient sources on the Huasteca," Handbook of Middle American Indians, II (1972): 582-602.

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