Community and Household

FIGURE 12. Map of Chachoapan and Yucuita (redrawn from Lind 1979, 13). Blue lines encircle Classic-period occupation; red lines encircle Postclassic occupation; + signs indicate obsidian workshops.

FIGURE 12. Map of Chachoapan and Yucuita (redrawn from Lind 1979, 13). Blue lines encircle Classic-period occupation; red lines encircle Postclassic occupation; + signs indicate obsidian workshops.

FIGURE 13. The hill of Yucuudahui, viewed from the south. June 2007. Photo by Byron Hamann.

FIGURE 13. The hill of Yucuñudahui, viewed from the south. June 2007. Photo by Byron Hamann.

FIGURE 14. The hills of Yucuita (center) and Yucuudahui (left), viewed from the south. June 2007. Photo by Byron Hamann.

FIGURE 14. The hills of Yucuita (center) and Yucuñudahui (left), viewed from the south. June 2007. Photo by Byron Hamann.

FIGURE 15. Sweatbaths, from page 15 of the Codex Vienna.

FIGURE 15. Sweatbaths, from page 15 of the Codex Vienna.

FIGURE 16. Excavation Unit N 205 K: the endeque house at Chachoapan (redrawn from Lind 1979, 45). Black lines indicate excavated features; red lines indicate reconstructed features; beige indicates areas of crushed endeque. Feature F-8 is a stone-lined hearth. Feature F-32 is a staircase.

FIGURE 16. Excavation Unit N 205 K: the endeque house at Chachoapan (redrawn from Lind 1979, 45). Black lines indicate excavated features; red lines indicate reconstructed features; beige indicates areas of crushed endeque. Feature F-8 is a stone-lined hearth. Feature F-32 is a staircase.

While codical images tell us much about spectacular events in the lives of elites, they tell us little about day-to-day life in the Rain Place for members of any social class. In order to reconstruct what Ñudzavui men and women of all social levels did on a daily basis in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, we turn to archaeological, historical and ethnographic records. Several excavations of Postclassic sites have been undertaken in the Mixteca, and here we focus on the work of Michael Lind, one of the first archaeologists projects to focus on Postclassic household archaeology in this region.13 The adjacent communities of Chachoapan and Yucuita are located in the northern Nochixtlan Valley in the Mixteca Alta (Figure 12). Excavated materials from these two sites provide information about the daily life of prehispanic Ñudzavui communities in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The basic patterns seen at these sites have been encountered at other sites in the Mixteca as well.

These two communities are similar in a number of ways. Both are located at the foot of prominent hills. Chachoapan sits at the base of Yucuñudahui, Hill of the Rain God, and Yucuita at the base of Yucuita, Hill of the Flower (Figure 13, Figure 14). At the height of their occupation, both communities were approximately the same size—just over 1 square kilometer—and both had populations of around 1600 people.14 Both were adjacent to the ruins of Classic period centers (the Classic is the period of Mesoamerican history that preceded the Postclassic, spanning from approximately AD 250 to AD 800). Both sites also shared similar spatial relationships between elite and commoner residences. Elite households were located high in the piedmont zone at the edge of the community, where the valley floor gave way to the rocky foot of a towering hill.15 From this higher region, the elite could look down onto the houses of their subjects. Likewise, commoners standing on the porches of their houses could look up and see the palace of the ruling family.

Fifteenth and sixteenth-century Ñudzavui houses—whether of commoners or of the elite—had two basic parts: the house itself (huahi in sixteenth- century Dzaha Dzavui) and the outside patio (cahi). Small plots of land (ñuhu chiy) located alongside these houses might have been used to grow a few plants, such as maguey. Some households may have also had their own sweatbath (huahi ñehe)(Figure 15).16

A commoner’s house excavated at Yucuita (N217H) consisted of a long, narrow rectangular room, approximately 8 meters long and 2 meters wide.17 The floor was of red plaster, the walls of adobe brick built on a stone foundation. The building was probably used primarily for sleeping.18 Outside the west-facing door of the house, a step led down to a narrow white plaster porch, approximately 1.5 meters wide. The porch’s surface was at a slight incline to allow for drainage. This area may have been used for weaving and for grinding maize. Because a hearth was never uncovered in the house or on the porch, it is probable that an unexcavated kitchen structure lies somewhere nearby.

The elite palaces excavated at Chachoapan and Yucuita both show evidence of several phases of construction, suggesting long-term periods of occupation by a single lineage.19 Excavations at the palace at Chachoapan (unit N205K) reveal that the earliest building phase dates to after AD 1340 (Figure 16). The palace during this time was centered around a 9.5 by 9.5 meter courtyard (F-24) paved with crushed endeque (a locally available chalky limestone). Rectangular rooms approximately 9.5 meters long and 3.5 meters wide were located along the western, northern and eastern sides of this courtyard. On the southern side of the courtyard a short flight of stairs (F-32) led down to a wide endeque-paved porch (F-33). The three rooms around the courtyard had interior walls of adobe covered with red plaster and exterior walls of carefully fitted endeque blocks. The western room (F-23) was apparently a kitchen, for it had a stone-lined hearth built into the floor (F-8). In addition to the porch on the south side of the courtyard, a pavement of endeque provided a narrow walkway, one meter wide, around the entire house.20 Later palace constructions at Chachoapan, as well as the series of palaces excavated at Yucuita, follow a similar pattern of rectangular rooms arranged around a courtyard or series of courtyards.

Production and Daily Life >
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13 Lind 1979, 1987; more recent studies include Pérez Rodríguez 2003, Forde 2006, Levine 2007, 2011.

14 Lind 1979, 12.

15 Lind 1979, 15.

16 Terraciano 2001, 199-203.

17 Michael Lind, personal communication, 1997.

18 On contemporary Ñudzavui households, see Monaghan 1995, 33.

19 Lind 1979, 57.

20 Lind 1979, 41-45.