FIGURE 22. Styles of earspools in the Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Cylindrical ear bar and round earspool from Cell 40 (left) and thin red ear bars from Cell 39 (right).
FIGURE 23. Obsidian earspools (PC.B.089). Dumbarton Oaks Museum. Photo © Dumbarton Oaks, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.
FIGURE 24. Gold beast-headed labret (PC.B.091). Dumbarton Oaks Museum. Photo © Dumbarton Oaks, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.
FIGURE 18. Cell 1 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala, which contrasts the cloth-bound long hair of two Tlaxcalan nobles (left) with the long unbound hair of a foreign messenger (right).
FIGURE 25. Ethnicity and labret styles on folio 11v of the Matrícula de Tributos. A prisoner from Tlaxcala wears a small white labret (left) and a prisoner from Huexotzingo wears a long curved labret (right).
FIGURE 26. Small white Tlaxcalan-style labret (above) and long curved Huexotzingo-style labret (below) in Cell 40 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
FIGURE 27. Labrets (lower right corner) and other pieces of jewelry offered to Malinche and Cortés in Cell 7 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Compare with Figure 22.
FIGURE 2. Tlazolteotl as costume elements on folio 12r of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis.
FIGURE 28. The crescent-shaped Huaxtec nose ornament, from a shield in Cell 68 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala (left), a shield on folio 14r of the Matrícula de Tributos (center), and worn by a warrior in Cell 61 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala (right).
FIGURE 29. Man from Chiyametlan wearing a red feather as a nose ornament in Cell 67 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
As mentioned above, ear piercing was an important feature of the transformation of children into adult men and women. For thousands of years, people in Mesoamerica decorated their earlobes with round ear ornaments. A number of different styles of ear ornaments appear in the Lienzo, from cylindrical bars to round flares to thin red bars (Figure 22). These ornaments (often called earspools) were worn by both men and women. Some of the most beautiful examples of earspools that have survived today were made of transparent obsidian, a type of volcanic glass (Figure 23). These were very fragile things. One of the places they were made was in a town called Otumba in the Valley of Mexico. Archaeologist Cynthia Otis Charlton, in her research on craft production at Otumba, has reconstructed the full how-to process for making obsidian earspools (and other obsidian tools as well) by piecing together the fragments of earspools accidentally broken in different stages of creation.20
If earspools were worn by both men and women, another type of body piercing seems to have been worn only by men: the labret. This was an ornament worn through a hole cut into the lower lip. A wide flange of metal at the base of the labret kept the ornament in place; rising up from that flange was the decorative cylinder that protruded out the lip (Figure 24). Long golden labrets were tribute items demanded from the provinces of Xoconochco and Cuetlaxtlan in the Matrícula (folios 13r and 14r). Many of the Tlaxcalan nobles in the first row of the Lienzo are shown wearing small white labrets (Figure 18). A small white labret is also worn by the Tlaxcalan prisoner on folio 11v of the Matrícula (Figure 25). On the same page of the Matrícula, the prisoner from Huexotzingo wears a long curved labret (a style that also appears in the Lienzo; Figure 26). The curved labret, then, seems to have been a regional style of dress associated with the altepetl (city-state) of Huexotzingo.21 Cell 7 of the Lienzo shows two labrets among the gifts being presented by the Tlaxcalans to Malinche and Cortés. One is set with a round greenstone; the other is shaped like a golden eagle’s head (Figure 27).
Other types of jewelry also appear in Cell 7, including a greenstone necklace and a number of paired golden cylinders, which could either be earspools or bands to be worn around the arms and legs. Strings of greenstone beads were a common tribute item in the Matrícula (folios 12r, 13r, 14r, and 15v). Nose ornaments were also important in prehispanic Mesoamerica.
One type of crescent-shaped gold nose ornament was associated in Central Mexico with the Huaxtecs of the Gulf Coast, and with one of their principal goddesses, Tlazolteotl. We have already seen one example of this nose ornament in Figure 2 above, showing the costume elements of Tlazolteotl in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis. This nose ornament also appears over and over again in both the Matrícula and Lienzo as part of a ‘Huaxtec-style’ shield design, and is actually worn by a man fighting on the side of the Tlaxcalans and Europeans in Cell 61 of the Lienzo (Figure 28). In contrast, a number of warriors fighting against the Tlaxcalans and Europeans are shown wearing long scarlet feathers through their septum (Figure 29).
Clothing and Ethnic Identity >
20 Otis Charlton 1993, 1994.
21 Berdan and Anawalt 1992b, 188.