Summary of Talk by Dr. Bruce Byland, CUNY, Layman College
to The Pre-Columbian Society on January 10, 1998
"Politics and Economy in Postclassic Mixteca Alta:
A Codical and Archaeological View"


The Pre-Columbian Society welcomed Dr. Byland and his fascinating study of the changing political alliances of the Mixteca Alta during the tenth and eleventh centuries; a period Dr. Byland described as being more truly the end of the classic period for the Mixteca Alta, although it is technically dated in the early postclassic. From the codical records and from extensive habitation site surveys with Dr. John Pohl, Dr. Byland concludes that there were five pivotal sites in the region during that period. These polities were closely tied with marriage alliances, and were originally dominated by Tilantongo. In the "War of Heaven" of 963 -969, Tilantongo, backed by the powerful Tolteca-Chichimeca, decisively defeated three of the other polities: Hill of Wasps, Hill of Flints and Red and White Bundle, while it exerted dominion over the fourth: Jaltepec. Following this defeat, the decimated lesser polities developed an alliance with the Zapotec, as evidenced by the large number of Monte Alban and Zapotec style pottery found at the sites. This alliance eventually led to a second war, in 1101-1102, in which Tilantongo was defeated, and its king, Eight Deer, was executed. Following the defeat of Tilantongo, the brother of the ruler of Jaltepec started a new dynasty at Hill of Flints, moving its central settlement area and renaming it Place of Flints. Interestingly enough, he then apparently pledged his polity's allegiance to the lord of Hill of the Monkey, a Tulan site, just as Eight Deer of Tilantongo had previously done. Dr. Byland's talk gave an historic context to the Mixtec Codices which have been studied by many members. His book, In The Realm of Eight Deer, was strongly recommended by Dr. Wendy Ashmore, but can be difficult to obtain.


Lynn Matson
Secretary, Pre-Columbian Society of
The University of Pennsylvania Museum

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