THE STREET OF THE DEAD … IT REALLY WAS: Mortuary bundles at Teotihuacan


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Ancient Mesoamerica

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The name “Street of the Dead” used to designate Teotihuacan's main avenue originates from a Nahuatl notation on a sixteenth-century map. Though this “story” is often deemed apocryphal, I argue in this paper that oral tradition preserved conceptual information that may not be archaeologically recoverable. Support for this position comes from comparative cultural analysis of Mesoamerican mortuary bundles as they are expressed in ritual and iconography. Crucial to this argument are the well-known stone masks of Teotihuacan. A case is made that the masks originally served as the faces of oracular mortuary bundles. The likely existence of mortuary bundles at Teotihuacan generates organizational models for the city in which lineage emerges as a fundamental element and suggests new insight into status differentiation and the iconography of power at Teotihuacan.

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