In pre-Hispanic Central Mexico, communities frequently practiced various forms of embodying social identity through the use of facial adornments. Ornaments were placed in the ears, nose, and lips to materialize aspects of both self and collective identity. Important characteristics, such as age, gender, status, kinship, and ethnicity can be better understood through analysis of facial ornaments recovered from archaeological sites. Recent research at the Late Postclassic (AD 1420-1521) city of Tlaxcallan has provided insight into how facial ornamentation varied within the central highlands of Mexico. Typological analysis of ornaments and figurines recovered at Tlaxcallan and comparative examinations between Tlaxcalteca and Aztec historical documents has provided evidence to support varying embodiment practices between these groups. Despite their shared Nahua identity and close proximity, the Tlaxcalteca and the Aztecs chose to emphasize significantly different aspects of identity within their own social hierarchies. The persistent conflict and varying political organization between these communities is reflected in their embodiment practices. Thus, these objects have the potential to reveal how larger sociopolitical interactions can affect local collective identities. Through this comparative analysis, I demonstrate how the Tlaxcalteca and the Aztecs identified aspects of social identity through analysis of facial ornamentation.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Costa, Angelica, "Fashioning Society: The Use of Facial Adornments for Social Identification in Late Postclassic Tlaxcallan, Mexico" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6601.