by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
It is a style of knife used by the priests of the temple at Tenayuca about 200 yearsries before the Chichimecs) captured Tenayuca and made it their first capital.
Life is indeed a box of chocolates. On my first day in Mexico on a fellowship, I was invited to have dinner at the home of the parents of a young lady, who had been a secretary at the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta. My lunch that same day was the first time I had ever eaten in a Mexican restaurant. I don’t recall there being any Mexican restaurants in Atlanta, when I was a college student. A Venezuelan doctor had urged me to eat the shrimp (cocktail marinare) at this restaurant in Colonia Coyacan.
After a long, evening feast, the Soto daughters invited me to dance with them to their new Credence Clearwater Revival LP record. By the time, we finished dancing, it was too late for Professor Soto to drive me back to my pension in Coyacan. The Sotos invited me to spend the night in Ruth Soto’s bedroom. Ruth would stay in her sister Gionela’s bedroom. Ruth and her offspring, Adolfo and Giselle, are members of LinkedIn! Unfortunately, I came down with a raging case of salmonella food poisoning during the night, caused by the shrimp . . . and threw up all over Ruth’s bedroom. The Soto’s called a doctor and nursed me back to health.
While recovering, I missed my Orientation Session with Dr. Román Piña Chan, Director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. While waiting for another time slot Sr. Soto, a professor at the Polytechnico, took me and the two gals to various archaeological sites in the region around Mexico City. Despite growing up in Mexico City, neither Ruth nor Gionela had ever seen them. The first archaeological site was the ancient pyramid of Tenayuca. It dated to around 1000 AD, two centuries before the Aztecs arrived. To date, no one is really certain who the original inhabitants at Tenayuca were. Apparently, they were completely absorbed by the Aztecs, who also absorbed much of the architectural traditions from this mysterious people.
I was overwhelmed to be at an actual Mesoamerican pyramid and photographed every possible view and every detail. I was particularly intrigued by a series of carved symbols on quarried rocks about the size and shape of a concrete block. I later painted three black abstractions of the one above on concrete blocks in my basement bedroom at my parent’s house, where I spent my summers. I have no clue why I chose this particular motif to decorate my room.
Flash forward to 2017. I am working on a book about the Nacoochee Valley. I had downloaded a digital copy of George Adophus Heye’s booklet on his 1915 excavation of the Nacoochee Mound in Georgia. I came across the photograph above in his booklet and was stunned. It was a burial under the ground, where the mound was later erected. Heye barely commented on the object, which he thought was an over-sized pendant. I searched commentaries on Heye’s dig by late 20th century archaeologists. None had even noticed the object, while analyzing photographs of Heye’s excavation.
How an ornately carved stone knife, portraying a Late Classic-Early Post-Classic religious symbol from the Valley of Mexico, came to be buried in a grave in the Nacoochee Valley of Northeast Georgia obviously does not have a simple answer. So far, I have not found this symbol in later Proto-Creek art. It may be a situation like the Nacoochee Mound, where archaeologists ignored such objects. We just don’t know.
HOWEVER . . . Gringo archaeologists like to quote authority figures rather than think. It so happens that in his famous book, Myths of the Cherokee, Smithsonian ethnologist James Mooney stated that the original name of the large town around the Nacoochee Mound was Itstate. Mooney commented that Itsate was an ancient Cherokee word, whose meaning has been lost. Not so! Itsate is what the Itza Mayas and the majority of Creeks in Georgia called themselves at the time of English colonization in the Lower Southeast. Muscogee speakers were then a minority. The word means “Itza People” in Itza Maya. Now you know!