February 13, 2005 John Pohl , “History on a Mixteca Pitcher."

Mr Pohl began by describing the confederacy of Eastern Nahua, Mixtec and Zapotec kingdom that held sway in Sothern Mexico for 250 years before the rise of the “Aztec”empire.  He contrasted their artistic styles and some of their cultural practices, and described the importance that an exchange of high-quality artistic masterpieces played in arranging royal marriages.  The better marriages it could negotiate, the higher the rank a royal house could achieve within the confederacy and, in turn, the better access it would have to more exotic materials, merchants, and craftspeople.  This access also helped establish the flow of more mundane goods and determined the successful working of the entire economy of the region.  Royal houses often planned advantageous marriages generations in advance.  (Aztec invaders quickly destroyed generations of planning when the carried off many of the prospective marriage participants to Tenochtitlan for marriage to Aztecs instead.)

With this background, he then examined the scene shown on a particular pitcher from the collection of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK.  By comparing the scene with the iconography in the Mixtec codices, he was able toshow that the pitcher portrays a scene from Codex Colombino and provides the only known portrait of the renowned 11th century warlord, Eight Deer.  Dates and a place sign accompanying the scene allow John Pohl to set the event in a specific time and place.

John Pohl is Peter J. Sharp Curator and Lecturer, Ancient Art of the Americas, at the Princeton University Art Museum.  He is an eminent authority on American Indian civilizations and has directed archaeological excavations and surveys in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Central America as well as Europe.  A specialist in deciphering ancient pictographic art and writing systems, Dr. Pohl is currently writing an analysis of the remarkable polychrome ceramic traditions of the Mixtecs, Nahuas, and Zapotecs.  His books include Exploring Mesoamerica (Oxford), The Aztec Warrior: 1325-1519 (Osprey) The Politics of Symbolism in the Mixtec Codices (Vanderbilt) and The Legend of Eight Deer (Oxford) which he also illustrated.  His unusual background in archaeology, art history, theater, and film production have taken him from museum exhibition design and development to writing, producing, designing, and directing feature and television productions earning a prestigious Clio award for excellence in animation design.

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