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SAN JUAN EVANGELISTA:
A SIXTEENTH-CENTURY SPANISH COLONIAL MISSION
IN CULHUACAN MEXICO
LAURIE P. RINFRET
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Laurie P. Rinfret
I owe a great deal of gratitude to many people who encouraged and guided me in
the completion of this thesis.
I especially want to thank Dr. Kathleen Deagan, chair of the committee, for her
patience, understanding, and academic assistance through the years as I juggled my desire
to complete this paper with the demands of a full-time job. Dr. Murdo MacLeod and Dr.
Lynette Norr, also as members of the committee, provided many helpful suggestions and
comments on my work, and I value their contributions.
Thomas Charlton was very gracious to me when I emailed him with questions and I
am grateful that he took the time to help me, even though we had never met before. I
also want to thank Leah Minc for her instrumental neutron activation analysis of an Early
Aztec sherd that is included in this thesis.
While I was doing my ceramic analysis at the Historical Archaeology Lab I often
turned to Al Woods, Jamie Waters, or Gifford Waters when I was having trouble with
identifying a particular sherd. They were always willing to share their expertise and I
appreciate their assistance.
Without the gentle and constant encouragement of my husband, Joe, and
daughters, Kree and Karla, I would have found it very difficult, indeed, to finish this
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ......... .................................................................................... iii
L IST O F T A B L E S .............................................................................................. v
LIST O F FIG U R E S .... .............................. ....................... ........ .. ............... vi
ABSTRACT .............. ..................... .......... .............. vii
1 IN TR OD U CTION ............................................... .. ......................... ..
John Goggin in M exico ...................................... ........................ ... .
C ulhu ac n ............................................................. 3
C ulhuacan in Prehistory ............................................................................ 4
Culhuacan C olonial H history ........................................ .......................... 10
2 ARCHAEOLOGY AT CULHUACAN ........................................ ............... 15
Historical Archaeological Research in M exico ..................................................... 15
Archaeological Research in Culhuacan............... ..............................................16
John G oggin at C ulhuacan..................................................................... .. ...... 17
M ethods of the Present Study ......................................................................... ..... 19
Analysis of M material Rem ains ............................................................................. 21
V essel A n aly sis.................................................. ................ 3 1
3 RESULTS AND DISCU SSION ........................................... .......................... 36
4 C O N C L U SIO N ......... ......................................................................... ........ .. ..... .. 44
A NEUTRON ACTIVATION ANALYSIS OF EARLY AZTEC SHERD ..................48
B IN D IG EN O U S R IM STU D Y .......................................................... .....................51
L IST O F R EFER EN CE S ........................................................................... ...............55
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................59
LIST OF TABLES
1 C hron ology .................................................. .......................... 5
2 A ll A artifacts ............ ... .. ....... .... ........ ........ ................... 23
3 European Decorated Ceramics ....................................... ..................................25
4 Indigenous C eram ics ...................................................... ................ 26
5 Indigenous D ecorated Ceram ics......................................... .......................... 27
6 European and Indigenous Decorated Ceramics............................................ 42
7 D decorated Rim s ........... ...... ... ............................................ .51
8 Rim Types Compared to Total Rims by Percentage................... ... .............53
9 Indigenou s P lain R im s ..................................................................... .................. 54
LIST OF FIGURES
1 Aztec Types at San Juan Evangelista .... ..................... ...............28
2 Early Aztec ................................. ............................... ......... 29
3 Aztec Grater Bowl Fragm ent .............................................................................31
4 Indigenous Decorated Bowls and Jars ........................................ ............... 33
5 Indigenous Plain Bowls and Jars.................................................... .............. ... 34
6 Sketch of Test Units I and II at San Juan Evangelista ..........................................36
7 European Cast Iron Pot Fragm ent ................................................. ....... ........ 37
8 European C eram ics ............................................ ......................... 38
9 U identified Indigenous ......................................................... ............... 39
10 U identified Indigenous D ecorated .............................................. ............... 41
11 Indigenou s A artifacts ....................................................................... ....................46
12 E early A ztec Sherd .................. ....................... ......... ...... ..... .. ... 48
13 Early Aztec Black/Orange Pottery from the Basin of Mexico..............................50
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
SAN JUAN EVANGELISTA:
A SIXTEENTH-CENTURY SPANISH COLONIAL MISSION
IN CULHUACAN, MEXICO
Laurie P. Rinfret
Chair: Kathleen Deagan
Major Department: Latin American Studies
This thesis presents data concerning the post-contact changes that occurred during
the initial period of Spanish contact as reflected in the indigenous ceramics of the area.
The focus of the study is the early sixteenth century Augustinian mission of San Juan
Evangelista, in the town of Culhuacan, Mexico.
This study is based on the ceramic sherds from Test Unit 3 that John Goggin
collected during his excavations at San Juan Evangelista in 1951. The artifacts were
initially cataloged and then stored at the Florida Museum of Natural History after their
transfer in 1973 from the University of Florida Anthropology Department.
Included in the study is a general history of the area, a discussion of historical
archaeological research in Mexico, and a preliminary classification and discussion of the
indigenous pottery found at San Juan Evangelista. The pottery classification focused on
pre-contact and contact period indigenous ceramic vessels and was used as a basis for
determining post-contact changes in native pottery.
Results of the study indicate that there is little change in indigenous decorated
ceramics from the pre- to post-contact periods. The native inhabitants were interacting
with the Spanish before the mission was built, though the archaeological evidence
suggests there was a minimal European presence at this time. The decline in the native
population that occurred during the Contact period can be seen in the considerable
decrease in the volume of material per level of excavated material after Level 7 where
there appears to be a sustained European presence at the site. The presence of Aztec
ceramics at all levels of the test unit shows that the occupation of the site can be dated to
Aztec times. However, there was a much stronger non-Aztec presence as shown by the
consistently large amount of Red-on-Buff ceramics throughout all levels.
John Goggin, a professor of anthropology at the University of Florida from 1948
until 1963, was a pioneer in historical archaeology (Weisman 2002). He undertook
important studies in European artifacts at Spanish contact sites in Florida, as well as in
the Caribbean and Latin America. He was the first to do extensive, and still the most
inclusive, studies of Spanish ceramics in the New World and Spanish coarse earthenware
olive jars (Goggin 1968, 1964) which are still considered to be important primary
reference works (Deagan 1987; Lister and Lister 1982). During the 1940s and 1950s,
Goggin carried out excavations in a large number of sites in Florida, the Carribbean, and
Mexico. Many resulted in large collections that are curated today at the Florida Museum
of Natural History (www.flmnh.ufl.edu). Since Goggin's emphasis was on Spanish
ceramics, much of the material in this collection remains unreported, including that from
several important sites in the Valley of Mexico. This thesis addresses the issue of using
unreported early collections to produce new information useful to archaeologists and
This study has two objectives. First, to do a preliminary analysis and make
available the previously unreported and unexamined archaeological ceramics from the
mission of San Juan Evangelista in Culhuacan, part of the Distrito Federal (DF), Mexico.
Second, based on this analysis I also attempt to reveal what, if any, changes occurred in
native ceramics from the pre-contact period to the arrival of the Europeans in the
sixteenth century. I will interpret the archaeological data from the San Juan Evangelista
site (DF 7), assessing its significance to historical and Mexican archaeology. How did
the Indigenous pottery change over time? Was there any indication of Indigenous
interaction with Europeans before the San Juan Evangelista mission was built? Was the
decline in population evidenced through changes in Indigenous pottery? These are the
questions I will attempt to address.
John Goggin in Mexico
Goggin spent the early 1950s doing research in Mexico, including the
investigations at Culhuacan in the Distrito Federal, Mexico that are the subject of my
research. Goggin was primarily interested in majolica pottery. His purpose in
undertaking the DF investigations was to "make as complete an examination as possible
of all available majolica ranging from the late 15th to the 18th century" (Goggin 1968:v) in
order to make sense of the majolica pottery types that he had found in 1949 at the Fig
Springs archaeological site in Northern Florida (8-CO-1). The Fig Springs types were
inconsistent with types that had been found at previously excavated Spanish-Indian sites
in Florida. Goggin determined that in order to understand the majolica from Fig Springs
a thorough examination of majolica pottery types throughout Spanish America needed to
be done and this led to his research in the West Indies, South and Central America,
Mexico and the United States. Goggin died in 1963 without publishing the results from
his majolica study; the monograph he was working on was incomplete at the time of his
death. After his death Irving Rouse of Yale University undertook the responsibility of
getting the manuscript into publishable form. The result was John Goggin's Spanish
Majolica in the New World Types of the Si\weeili to Eighteenth Centuries published by
Yale University in 1968.
Eleven of the DF sites that Goggin excavated in 1951 as part of his majolica
ceramic research are included in the book. In this book he lists the majolica types he
found during his excavations and also provides a general description of each ceramic
type. However, he gave little consideration to other ceramic types-including 19th and
20th century majolica types found at the site-since "these and other artifacts, omitted in
this majolica study, will be considered in the final report on the Mexican work" (Goggin
1968:50-1). Most of these ceramics are Native American and have never been counted,
listed, or described. Goggin's final report was never published nor have I been able to
find any unpublished versions during my search for his written work concerning the
Distrito Federal excavations. The sites excavated in the Distrito Federal in Mexico
included eleven DF sites: Tacubaya (DF 1), Carmen (DF 2), Tacuba (DF 3), Ixtacalco
(DF 4), Ixtapalapa (DF 5), Tlihuac (DF 6), Culhuacan (DF 7), Churubusco (DF 8), and
Desierto de los Leones (DF 11). DF 9 is an Aztec mound and DF 10 is an unnamed site;
I have been unable to find any information indicating the location of DF 10. Nine of the
sites were churches or monasteries (DF 1-8 and 11); Goggin undertook surface
collections at all of these sites and dug test units at DF 7 as well.
Culhuacan means "the place of those with ancestors" (Cline 1986:1) and it is a city
with a rich native tradition. It may have been founded as early as the seventh century;
however, Cline (1986:313) notes that there is some dispute about when the city was
established. Today Culhuacan is part of the urban sprawl associated with Mexico City).
The Valley of Mexico, which is about one and a half miles high and covers an area
of approximately 3,000 square miles, is a natural basin surrounded by volcanic
mountains, some as high as 16,000 feet. Much of the Valley was once covered by an
enormous shallow lake system comprised of three lake subsystems: Lakes Chalco-
Xochimilco, Xaltocan-Zumpango, and Texcoco. In the prehistoric and early colonial
periods, before the lake levels dropped because of drainage and desiccation, the town of
Culhuacan was located on the northwestern shore of Lake Chalco-Xochimilco.
(http://www.belizenews.com/files/pages/mayan/art/lakemed.jpg; 11/20/05) Lake
Xaltocan-Zumpango to the north and Lake Chalco-Xochimilco to the south drained into
central Lake Texcoco where the Aztec island city of Tenochtitlan was located. Of the
three lakes, Chalco-Xochimilco was the only one with freshwater; the other two lakes
were saline. Access to freshwater enabled the inhabitants of Lake Chalco-Xochimilco to
build a productive system of chinampas, or floating gardens, that allowed the cultivation
of fresh produce all year long. Archaeological excavations indicate that the inhabitants of
Culhuacan built chinampas as early as C.E. 1100. Chinampas can still be seen today in
the city of Xochimilco.
Culhuacan in Prehistory
Culhuacan figured prominently in the pre-contact era in the Valley of Mexico,
which is generally characterized by three principle cultures and periods (Davies 1982:19-
20): Classic, Toltec, and Aztec. The Classic period (see Table 1) was dominated by
Teotihuacan (100 B.C.E. to 750 C.E.). The Toltec culture flourished between the 11th
and 12th centuries and was centered at Tula as well as Culhuacan. The Toltecs were
followed by the Aztecs whose empire lasted from 1428 until 1521 when Cortes captured
the capital city of Tenochtitlan (1982:19-20). Unlike Tenochtitlan, Teotihuacan and Tula
were located outside the boundaries of present-day Mexico City.
Table 1. Chronology
Absolute Major Archaeological Periods and Phase Names
Chronology New System Old System
Late Horizon Late Aztec Tenochtitlan
1200 Phase Three Early Aztec Culhuacan/Tenayuca
1000 Intermediate Phase Two Late Toltec Mazapan
800 Phase One Early Toltec Coyotlatelco
600 Phase Two Late Classic
500 Middle Horizon Xolapan
300 Early Classic
200 Phase Five Miccaotli
0 Phase Four Terminal Tzacualli
100 Phase Three Patlachique
400 First Intermediate Late
Phase Two e Ticoman
800 Phase One-B id Cuautepec
900 F ive La Pastora
1000or El Arbolillo
1100 Phase One-A Bomba
1200 Early Horizon Phase Two Manantial
1400 Phase One Formative Ayotla
Adapted from Parsons, Jeffrey R., Elizabeth Brumfiel, Mary H. Parsons, David J. Wilson,
Prehispanic Settlement Patterns in the S.,nnitl ii Valley of Mexico The Chalco-
Xochimilco Region. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1982, p. 72.
The Culhuas, whose name means "grandfathers," were one of the original tribes to
migrate into central Mesoamerica. According to Davies (1982:23) the name Culhua
came to be associated with the Toltec urban dwellers of the Valley of Mexico as
distinct from the successive waves of Tolteca-Chichimecs who poured into the
region after the collapse of Tollan. The distinction is a fine one, since the Toltecs .
.. were themselves a blend of Tolteca-Chichimecs, who had originally come from
the northwest, and of Nonoalcas from the southeast. ... Culhua blood came to be
copiously diluted as the people of the city [Culhuacan] mingled with Alcohuas and
It is unclear where the original inhabitants of Culhuacan came from. The Memorial
Breve (Davies 1982:23) mentions that the Culhuas (whom it also calls Chichimecs) came
from Chicomoztoc during Toltec times. On the other hand, the Relacion de la
Genealogia notes that the Culhua came from Teoculhuacan, a legendary city whose name
means "the Old, or Holy, Culhuacan" (1982:24); the location of which is still unknown,
even the residents of Culhuacan at the time of the Conquest did not know its location.
The Culhua rulers reigned from 1205 C.E. to 1430 C.E. (Cline 1986:5), though Davies
(1980:1) notes that the dates of the dynasties are difficult to establish.
At one time, about 1100 C.E., Culhuacan was heavily populated and possibly the
largest community in the Valley of Mexico. Culhuacan remained an island community
until sometime around 1550 when it was partially or completely moved to the mainland
(Blanton 1972:160). It was a densely settled chinampa town and the first town built on
freshwater Lake Xochimilco. Blanton (1972:166) estimates the population at between
1,625 to 3,250 during the Early (1150 C.E. to 1350 C.E.) as well as the Late Aztec (1350
C.E. to 1520 C.E.) periods.
Culhuacan has long been of interest to archaeologists. Franz Boas, who did
extensive investigations at Culhuacan in 1911-12, gave the name "Culhuacan ware" to
the many black-on-orange potsherds he found there. Boas indicates that the presence of
Teotihuacan IV sherds at the site suggests that Culhuacan probably had contact with
Teotihuacan, possibly through trade or settlement (Cline 1986:3).
Culhuacan may be the oldest town in the southern Valley of Mexico. The earliest
written records about Culhuacan are pictorial form migration myths from the 10th
century. The myths tell about the Toltec empire and the arrival of ethnic groups to the
Valley of Mexico as the empire was declining (Cline 1986:3). Native chronicles do not
agree on the town's relation to Tollan, the Toltec center of power. Vaillant (1938:559)
suggests that the term "Tollan" could mean any important Toltec settlement. He
speculates that it "would be not unlikely that the site now called Teotihuacan was called
Tollan by early eastern immigrants, while the imposing site now known as Azcapotzalco
might equally well be Tollan to western invaders." Cline (1986:4) notes that Culhuacan
could have either risen to importance after Tollan fell about 1100 C.E. or could have
been its partner and a well-established settlement by then. Regardless, its people viewed
themselves as the rightful heirs to the Toltec heritage.
Most scholars agree that the historical accuracy of the Aztec native chronicles
decreases as one moves further back in time:
The creation of an objective record of actual historical events with precise
chronological accuracy was not a goal of the indigenous historical traditions nor of
their colonial inscription. Rather, pre-Hispanic native historical traditions served to
legitimize peoples and dynasties, and to glorify the accomplishments of kings and
ancestors (Smith 2003:33).
In order to increase their prestige, the Aztecs linked their heritage with the
Toltecs-a process Smith calls "genealogical parasitism" (2003:32). Scholars should be
wary of assuming these indigenous traditions provide accurate historical information on
Tula and the Toltecs.
According to Nigel Davies (1980:41) Culhuacan saw fewer than 50 years of
political dominance in the Valley of Mexico. Culhuacan's role
as the bastion of Toltec culture in the Valley of Mexico is fundamental to the whole
history of the period that separates the Toltec from the Aztec Empire.Chichimecs,
Acolhuas, Tepanecs, Chalcas and Mexica] were successive claimants to power
[who] sought in turn to occupy Culhua land ... (Cline 1986:4).
Culhuacan was defeated in 1253 by Huetzin, the Acolhua ruler of Coatlinchan
which was located near the eastern shore of Lake Texcoco. Even though defeated
Culhuacan remained a major cultural center as well as a "point of cultural diffusion"
(Vaillant 1938:568) in the Valley.
The Mexica were only one of the numerous aggressive and nomadic tribes that
migrated south after the fall of the Toltec empire, but they were to become the most
powerful. The group of Aztecs who inhabited Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco called themselves
Mexica. The term "Aztec" refers to the various groups of Nahuatl-speaking people who
lived in central Mexico in the Late Postclassic period, 1350 to 1520 C.E. (Weaver
The Aztec confederation, created by the Mexica and their allies, was comprised of
three great cities. Two of the cities were already established as imperial centers when the
Mexica arrived in the mid-thirteenth century (Davies 1982:167): Texcoco, founded by the
Chichimec (Vaillant: 1944:44), and Tlacopan, founded by the Tepanac (Davies
1982:177). The Mexica built the third great city, Tenochtitlan, about 1325 C.E. and
conquered Culhuacan in the 14th century. Culhuacan took part in wars instigated by their
conquerors and eventually went to war against Huexotzinco, Tlaxcala and other polities,
or city-states, that were against the Aztec ruler, Motecuhcoma.
The history of the Mexica is intertwined with that of Culhuacan. Having settled in
Chapultepec in 1299, the Mexica were then expelled from there by the Culhuaque (the
people of Culhuacan) in 1319. In spite of this, the Mexica "threw themselves on the
mercy of Coxcox, the ruler of Culhuacan" (Cline 1986:4). According to the Codex
Acatitlan, the Mexica were exiled to Tizaapan after their ruler Huitzilihuitl was
sacrificed. Another account has the Culhuaque "impressed by the staying power and
fortitude of the Mexica" (1986:4) trading and intermarrying with them. The Mexica
referred to themselves as Culhua-Mexica and "claimed ties to the Toltec line" (1986:5).
The pre-contact trade and exchange patterns that affected Culhuacan fluctuated
with the changing political configuration. Until the formation of the Triple Alliance (a
coalition of the three city-states of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan) around 1428
there were about 40 polities, or city-states, in the Valley of Mexico, each consisting of an
urban center and surrounding territory that contained villages and hamlets (Hodge, Minc
1990:417). These dependencies provided ceramics and other provisions to city-state
rulers on a daily or weekly basis. According to Hodge and Minc, under Aztec imperial
rule, the tribute system and market exchange were two ways of moving goods; utilitarian
products such as painted ceramics were most frequently moved through market exchange.
Among city-states market exchange was more frequent with neighboring polities than
with distant ones.
The emergence of the Aztec--or as Barlow (1945:346-49) calls it, the Culhua-
Mexica--Empire in the 14th century and subsequent political unification resulted in a
greater level of exchange among all polities. City-states brought under the domination of
the Triple Alliance members (Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco, and Tlacopan) were required to
provide manufactured goods and services to the Alliance capitals. Decorated ceramics
were probably one type of goods that was demanded as tribute (Hodge, Minc 1990:417).
Culhuacan Colonial History
The Aztec confederation was at the pinnacle of its power when Cortes invaded their
capital city of Tenochtitlan in 1519. The Spanish brought to the New World diseases to
which the American Indians had no immunity. One of the diseases, smallpox, devastated
the besieged city and was linked with the Spanish success in "taking and holding the
Aztec heartland" (Cook: 1998:69-70). Tenochtitlan finally fell to the Spanish on August
21, 1521 despite heroic efforts by the Aztec leaders to expel Cortes and his men.
The effect of the Spanish conquest on the Indigenous population in the New World
was catastrophic. There was a drastic decline in the native population that was caused in
part by the illnesses brought by the Spaniards to Indigenous people. Cook (1998:13)
calls this "the greatest human catastrophe in history, far exceeding even the disaster of
the Black Death of medieval Europe." There were other causes for the population
decline as well. The wars of the conquest, the abusive treatment the Indians received at
the hands of the Spaniards, starvation, malnutrition, natural disasters, and "flight and
forced migration" all had a part in the decline of the post-contact Indigenous population
(Burkholder, Johnson 1998:110).
By 1548 the Indian population was probably half of what it was in 1520 and the
encomienda system became the principal method of controlling Indian labor (MacLeod
1973:110-111). Under this system the care and religious instruction of a group of Indians
was entrusted to a Spaniard who would reap the benefits of the Indians labor. It was
general practice for a cacique, or native ruler, and his people to be awarded as an
encomienda, increasing the already onerous burden on the common Indian who then had
to pay tribute to both his cacique and to the encomendero. The encomienda supplied
labor and tribute when it was needed, and whatever time the Indians had left would be
spent tending to their milpas, or fields (1973:111). Simpson (1966:110) writes: "This
legal fiction [encomienda], by one name or another, was behind all measures by which
the Indian was coerced into doing work." By the mid to late 16th century, according to
Kubler (1948:134), vast numbers of Indian laborers were being recruited for building the
religious and civil architecture of 16th century Mexico.
The forced labor of the encomienda was eventually replaced by the repartimiento
which required the Indian communities to supply a quota of laborers to work on public
construction and agricultural projects for a period of anywhere from three weeks to four
months per year. Although the Indians were supposed to receive "a fixed wage, the tools
required for their work, an adequate diet, and satisfactory housing" (MacLeod 1973:207)
abuses were widespread. The repartimento was the most common source of labor and
was widely used between 1570 and 1630 (1973:208).
By the 1550s the region, part of what was by then called New Spain, was firmly
under the control of the Spanish. As part of the Spanish Crown's Christianizing mission
in the New World, the religious clergy were present almost from the beginning of
Spanish exploration. The first regular clergy to arrive in Mexico were the Franciscans in
1524, followed by the Augustinians in 1533, and the Dominicans in 1538. Different
religious orders tended to concentrate their missionary efforts in separate areas-the
Franciscans, the first to arrive, focused their religious work on Mexico City, Tlaxcala,
and Michoacan while those areas to the immediate north of Mexico City came under the
jurisdiction of the Augustinians. The Dominicans pushed south and founded a chain of
monasteries extending through Puebla to Oaxaca (Perry 1992:13). Perry notes that the
Augustinians "were the most militant and apocalyptic of the missionaries." The
Franciscans, Augustinians, and Dominicans planned towns, built churches, established
schools and infirmaries, and governed the communities (Kubler 1948:2; Perry 1992:15).
Monasteries or churches established by the regular clergy as early as the 16th century
occupied at least nine of the eleven DF sites, including DF 7, investigated by John
Goggin in 1951.
After the Spanish gained control of Central Mexico Cortes granted the tribute and
labor of its people to the conquerors. Culhuacan was subsequently awarded to the
encomendero, Crist6bal de Ofiate in 1525. It was in his hands for over forty years when
it passed to his son, Hernando Ofiate, and remained in the family until 1659 when the
Spanish crown took control of it.
Sarah Cline (1986) offers an excellent in-depth discussion of the people of late 16th
century Culhuacan (http://instructionall.calstatela.edu/bevans/Art454L-01-
MapsDocsEtc/WebPage-Full.00040.html; 11/20/05) as revealed by their wills. In the late
16th century Culhuacan was a "typical Indian town in the Valley of Mexico" with a
minimal Spanish presence (Cline 1986:161). In 1580 Gonzalo Gallegos was the
corregidor, or royal administrator, over approximately thirty-six hundred Indians, and at
least one Augustinian friar in the town (1986:6-7).
The traders of Culhuacan traveled from the Valley of Morelos to the Spanish
colonial capital of Mexico-Tenochtitlan with their wares. As Cline (1986:167) says,
"there was movement of money, goods, and people." Even those who did not engage in
trade had contact with people of other places and intermarriage between Culhuacan's
citizens and outsiders was not uncommon.
By 1552 Augustinian friars had undertaken the building of the church of San Juan
Evangelista in Culhuacan, which was probably completed by 1580. The Augustinians
were able to draw on a vast supply of Indian labor to build the church and a convento (the
friars' living quarters) that contained a seminary. Stones taken from nearby Indian
temples that had been demolished comprised much of the building material (Perry
The porous volcanic stone, known as recinto-exceedingly hard and difficult to
carve-was perfectly suited to the monumental architecture [pre-contact Indian
temples], but ill-suited for indulging the Augustinians taste for ornamental
sculpture. There was no sacrifice of scale however. The massive church is
accompanied by a seemingly endless sequence of conventual rooms and corridors
The roof of the church collapsed due to an earthquake early in the 18th century. It was
never rebuilt and in the 1900s a smaller church was added to the southeast corner of the
Ruins of the Augustinian convento of San Juan Evangelista can still be seen at the
site. When Goggin examined the site in 1951 he found that "most of the original church
building is now in state of ruin but much of the convent remains" (Goggin 1968:52). The
church that exists there today was built between 1880 and 1897 using materials from the
original building (Trueba 1959:14). However, according to Perry (1992:33), the modern
day church was built in the 1900s.
Across the street from the church are the remains of the first molina depapel, or
paper mill, built in the Americas
(http://www.inah.gob.mx/muse6/cccu/htme/cccu001.html; 11/20/05). It was built about
1580 to satisfy the paper requirements of the Seminario de Lenguas Indigenas that the
friars established in the convento and where they trained missionaries in the native
languages. In order to facilitate the missionaries training, the friars needed great
quantities of paper in order to produce the catechisms used in the
Christianization of the Indians (Trueba 1959:10).
ARCHAEOLOGY AT CULHUACAN
Historical Archaeological Research in Mexico
With only a few exceptions, such as John Goggin's work, archaeology in Mexico
before the 1960s meant prehistoric archaeology, the study of later eras was the venue of
ethnohistorians and historians (Fournier-Garcia and Miranda-Flores: 1992). Eduardo
Noguera (1934) was one of the first archaeologists to undertake a study of the Spanish
colonial period in Mexico. He carried out a preliminary study of historic ceramics in
order to understand the processes of stylistic and technical changes between pre-colonial
and colonial ceramic traditions. His work foreshadowed the future direction that
Mexican historic archaeology would take, "which would be closely linked to analyses of
ceramics and changes resulting from European contact" (Fournier-Garcia, Miranda-
Flores 1992:76). Noguera's was the only work done within the field of historic
archaeology until the 1960s when the archaeology of historic sites assumed a more
significant role in Mexican archaeology.
During the past several decades research on historic sites has been carried out
throughout Mexico by many Mexican and foreign investigators. Some of these include
A. Benavides (1985), Thomas Charlton (1972, 1979), Patricia Fournier (1985), Janine
Gasco (1987), Robert and Florence Lister (1975, 1982), and Fernando Miranda-Flores
and R. Manzanilla (1984). These studies can be grouped into three categories:
(1) studies where the historic past is treated as an archaeological
topic in the same manner as the pre-Hispanic past; (2) studies where historic sites
have been analyzed as part of larger programs of architectural restoration; and (3)
studies where investigators have shown interest in the development of a scientific
form of historical archaeology focused on the analysis of socio-economic processes
(Foumier-Garcia and Miranda-Flores: 1992:76).
The study of historic ceramics, vessels made in Mexico as well as those imported from
other areas, has occupied a significant place in these investigations.
Archaeological Research in Culhuacin
Most of the archaeological research in Culhuacan has concentrated on the pre-
contact era, and has produced a basic archaeological sequence of the area. Franz Boas
(1913) conducted archaeological excavations during 1911-12, naming the black-and
orange pottery he found there "Culhuacan style." Prior to his investigations Boas had
divided the black and orange Aztec pottery into three subgroups, based on the fineness of
the design. Since all three types were found at Culhuacan, he undertook excavations
there to determine the chronological sequence of the types. Aztec I, the crudest type, was
mainly found at the lower levels. This type was prevalent at the level of the water and is
contemporary with the building of chinampas about 1100 C.E. Boas found that the
amount of pottery had noticeably decreased below the water level and he described that
pottery as Teotihuacan type (Blanton 1972:160-161, Cline 1986:3).
Richard Blanton's 1970 dissertation, "Prehispanic Settlement Patterns of the
Ixtapalapa Peninsula Region Mexico" was part of a larger study entitled "Coordinated
Anthropological Research in the Valley of Mexico" which had as its general objective
"... to better understand the influence of cultural development in the Basin of Mexico on
cultural development in Mesoamerica as a whole" (1970:13). Blanton goes on to say that
the purpose of the Ixtapalapa study was to "outline the configurations of settlement of all
the major time periods from the Early Formative through the Aztec, and to estimate the
total population of the region during each of those periods" (1972:15). This project
included his excavation at a site in the town of Culhuacan. Blanton felt that the
Teotihuacan pottery found below Aztec I pottery probably did not suggest an actual
Teotihuacan occupation since this would have resulted in a greater density of ceramics
(1972:16). When Laurette Sejourn published the results of her excavations at San Juan
Evangelista (also known as San Matias) in 1970, she concluded that the site was
contemporaneous with Teotihuacan (1970:35).
Of all the sites Blanton (1972:166) surveyed in the Ixtapalapa Region, Culhuacan
had the most significant number of Aztec I sherds and is the type site for that phase.
During the Aztec II period, it was the only large settlement in the region (1972:176).
According to Sejourne (1970:54) Aztec II pottery also originated in Culhuacan. The
artifact collection from Goggin's DF 7 excavation contains examples of Aztec I, II, and
John Goggin at Culhuacin
As noted above, Goggin's excavations in the Distrito Federal, including Culhuacan,
were carried out to provide stratigraphic analysis of Spanish majolica. At Culhuacan (DF
7) he did surface collections and examined open reconstruction trenches at DF 4. I chose
to examine DF 7 (Culhuacan) because it was the only site in his DF investigations at
which Goggin dug stratigraphic test pits. Of the three test pits at this site, this study will
concentrate on Test Unit 3 which was the deepest, extending to 10 /2 feet. It also yielded
approximately 40,000 artifacts; this was the largest quantity found at the Culhuacan site
or at any of the other DF sites. The number of artifacts collected at the other sites ranged
from 7 (DF 3) to 499 (DF 4). I felt that the assemblage from Culhuacan's stratigraphic
excavations was the most likely to provide sufficient information enabling me to answer
my original research questions. All of the artifacts from Goggin's DF excavations have
been stored in the Florida Museum of Natural History after their transfer in 1973 from the
UF Anthropology Department.
The ceramic sherds collected from Test Unit 3 of the DF 7 (Culhuacan) site are the
basis of my analysis. John Goggin determined that none of the three test units from DF 7
was satisfactory for a stratigraphic analysis of majolica ceramics; the first unit was too
shallow, only a small amount of majolica was found in the second, and majolica was
found only in the first foot of refuse in the third unit. Other information, however, could
be obtained from these units, particularly Unit 3.
I have not been able to locate detailed records about the excavation and site;
however, John Goggin did write brief notes on his field excavation forms. He had a
small field crew of two University of Florida students, Paul Hahn and Donald Kokomoor,
and several local workers. The precise location of Test Unit 3 is unrecorded, although
Goggin noted that two of the three test units at the site were dug in what is now the
modern church garden, and the third was dug in the central patio. Goggin's rough sketch
of the site shows the general locations of Test Units 1 and 2, in the garden and patio
respectively; therefore, it appears that Test Unit 3 was also dug in the garden. His field
notes from Unit 3 are marked "Section: 0' 5"' indicating that the Test Unit was 5' long
and, since other trenches he dug during his 1951 Mexico excavations were 5' wide, this
unit was probably 5' wide also. The depth of the test unit ranges from 122" along its east
wall to 125" along the west wall. Goggin excavated the unit in 6 inch arbitrary levels and
since I found nothing archaeologically that suggests a disturbance, I have accepted his
assessment of the stratigraphic integrity of the site.
The field notes that I have been able to find do not mention screening. Goggin
noted that the first layer (0-6") of soil was heavy, dark, and damp. In the next three
layers (6" 24") the soil was heavy, dark, and granular. At 24" he indicates that the soil
is beginning to lighten from "dark to a dark brown 'granular' type." From 30" to 60" the
soil is dark brown granular, and from 60" to 114" it is dark granular. At 108" to 114" he
reached "partially cemented" sand that did not contain any artifacts. There were four
small holes in this hardpan and he excavated each of them separately. He found "that
there seemed to be another hardpan layer lower with a layer of earth between the hardpan
layer. This dirt revealed sherds also." He stopped excavating at 114" to 125" when he hit
a solid bed of clay that was 12" deep.
John Goggin left only sketchy information about the two features he found in the
test unit. In his excavation notes he writes" [At 12 to 18"] In N.E. corner a lighter
material found. granular but quite brown. It shows no indication of being a later
excavation or pit." In the southeast corer of the unit at 54" -60" he encountered a
feature of dark grey soil which he believed to be old post holes. When he reached the
next level the holes had disappeared.
Methods of the Present Study
Prudence Rice (1987:25) writes that pottery is "formed and informed" and that each
step in the process can reveal insights into human behavior. The choices potters make in
the use of raw materials, decorations and vessel shapes are "culturally conditioned
decisions" that can yield insights into peoples "aesthetic perceptions and ideological
systems." It is because pottery is sensitive to such culturally conditioned decisions that I
chose to look at Indigenous decorated ceramics to see what, if any, post-contact cultural
changes they reflected.
In order to determine if there were changes over time in Indigenous pottery, I
planned to analyze and quantify the ceramics in a stratigraphic context For each level, I
separated the Indigenous pottery into Decorated Ceramics (Aztec types, Red Ware, Red-
on-Buff, and Unidentified Indigenous Decorated ceramics) and Undecorated or Plain
Indigenous Ceramics. The Aztec types identified in the Culhuacan sample include Aztec
I, II, and III (Sejourn 1970). Aztec types that I was unable to identify I labeled as Aztec
UID (unidentified). I further determined if the decorated sherds were most likely bowls
or jars. The Red Ware ceramics in the test unit included Black-Red; Black-White-Red;
and White-Red. I have followed Jeffrey Parson's (1966) usage for the Red Ware type
Following Jeffrey Parson's (1966:1) lead, I use the term "Aztec" to refer to the
period of time from approximately the mid-12th century to 1521 in the Valley of Mexico;
therefore, Aztec pottery includes Indigenous as well as the specific Aztec I, II, III, and IV
type ceramics. According to Parsons (1966:1) it is highly likely that Aztec pottery
continued to be used well after 1521.
I found nine types of European ceramics in the assemblage: Columbia Plain
Majolica, El Morro, Lead Glazed Coarse Earthenware, Transfer Printed Pearlware,
Unidentified Coarse Earthenware, Unidentified Mexican Majolica, Unidentified
Majolica, Black Lead Glazed Coarse Earthenware, and Unidentified Lead Glazed Coarse
Earthenware. These nine groups comprised the 106 European sherds in the test unit.
Once I had sorted and counted the Indigenous and European ceramics and other
artifacts I entered the information into the Historical Archaeology Microsoft Access
database. The database is used to organize information on each artifact from an
excavation site. I entered the data from DF 7 into the following data fields: FS Number,
Provenience, Item, Description, Frequency, Group, Weight, Color, Fragment Form,
Composition, Decoration, Modifier 1, Modifier 2, Diameter, and Length. For each item I
filled in the first six fields and remaining fields as appropriate. In order to answer my
research questions and determine trends in Indigenous ceramics, I graphed the
percentages of European and Indigenous types; Indigenous Decorated and Indigenous
Undecorated (Plain); and, Indigenous Decorated bowl and jar forms to level totals (see
List of Tables).
Analysis of Material Remains
Twenty-one levels were excavated in Test Unit 3. Goggin's original field notation
cards indicate that one of the levels was 66"-72" (Level 12) and another, 72"- 78" (Level
13). However, an artifact box that was part of the original collection identified Level 14
as 66"- 78"; but this level was not listed on the field notation cards. One way that may
account for the discrepancy in these levels is that some of the sherds from the two
separate levels (66"-72" and 72"-78") were inadvertently mixed together when the
collection was brought back to UF from Mexico for cataloging. Since there is no way of
knowing which level (Level 12 or 13) the sherds came from I omitted Level 14 from my
As noted, more than 40,000 artifacts were excavated from Test Unit 3 (see Table
2). These artifacts included European and Indigenous pottery sherds, several clay
figurines, glass, and small amounts of obsidian flakes, bone fragments, chert, slate, and
plaster (see Tables 3-5). Indigenous ceramics accounted for almost 99% of the total
assemblage and provide the focus for this analysis. The majority of sherds fell into the
two ceramic categories Indigenous Plain and Indigenous Decorated.
Aztec ceramics were either hand modeled or mold-made; neither the potter's wheel
nor glazes were known in Mexico until the Europeans introduced them in the early 16th
century. Native artisans produced a variety of utilitarian and ceremonial objects such as
bowls, plates, serving dishes, grater bowls, goblets, incense burners, braziers, figurines,
stamps and pyramid temple models, as well as vessels for special purposes such as cocoa
jugs, sauce dishes, and ladles. There were utilitarian wares, probably made by
nonspecialists, and finer wares that were probably crafted by experienced artisans (Bray
1968:137-138). All households owned some type of pottery and commoner as well as
elite households had access to exotic goods such as obsidian, decorated ceramics, metal
items, and jade beads. Some uses for vessels included jars for storing water; pots for
cooking beans and soaking maize; round flat griddles, called comales, for baking tortillas;
and cajetes, or bowls, with criss-cross incisions on the inside (Bray 1968:138-139). All
types and sizes of sites in the Valley of Mexico seem to have had access to nonlocal
Table 2. All Artifacts
LEVEL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Aztec 3 3 3 2 6 8 4 3 3 11
Black Lead-Glazed 2
Columbia Plain 1
El Morro 49 14 9 6 4 3 1
Figurine Fragments 1 3 6 4 2 10 4 6 14
Indigenous Plain 974 1922 1342 924 1192 2007 2910 2865 2099 3116
Lead-Glazed 2 1 1
Red-on-Buff 49 45 39 26 32 37 106 103 83 138
Redware 1 5 4 5 4 9 4 10 11
Earthenware 1 2 2
Decorated 28 9 36 4 7 17 42 22 22 58
UID Majolica 6
UID Mexico City
Bone (grams) 8.5 7.3 4.4 3.1 2.2 2.5 1.5 0.8
Bldg. Mat'l (grams) 463 151 46 372 159 46 142
Ceramic Bead 1
Chert 1 1 1 2 1 1
Clay Marbles 1 2 1
Clay Whistle 1
Gaming Disk 1 1 1
Glass 7 4
Obsidian 7 9 1 3 7 12 10 8 14
Table 2. Continued
LEVEL 11 12 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Total
Aztec 3 2 6 5 1 2 6 4 3 32
Black Lead-Glazed 0
Columbia Plain 0
El Morro 0
Figurine Fragments 13 15 9 5 8 7 9 8 8 3 85
Indigenous Plain 2283 2193 2863 1625 1974 1814 2160 2419 1758 476 19565
Red-on-Buff 107 103 123 87 105 77 116 166 149 2 1035
Redware 12 5 2 1 12 4 7 12 11 66
Decorated 31 46 77 23 31 22 46 39 32 2 349
UID Majolica 0
UID Mexico City
Bone (grams) 1.7 1.7 2.3 1.2 0.8 4.5 5.9 5.4 4.33
Bldg. Mat'l (grams) 30 98 1331 142 58 85 85 7
Chert 1 1 2
Clay Marbles 1 2 1 4
Clay Whistle 0
Coprolite 1 1
Gaming Disk 1 1 2 1 5
Obsidian 18 9 9 4 8 7 10 4 3 4 76
Spindle Whorl 1 1
Stone Disk 1 1
Worked Stone 1 1
Table 3. European Decorated Ceramics
o 0 "
LO3 9 1 1 1443
LO4 6 1019
LO6 3 2092
L09 1 2236
L13 3 092
102 1 14 11 2037
Total 1 86 3 1 5 1 6 2 1
Table 4. Indigenous Ceramics
AZTEC RED on Level
Level ABO DEC TYPE REDWARE BUFF ABOP Total
# Level% # Level% # Level% # Level % # evel %
L01 28 0.02 3 0.00 0 0.00 49 0.05 974 0.85 1144
L02 9 0.00 3 0.00 1 0.00 45 0.02 1922 0.94 2036
L03 36 0.02 3 0.00 5 0.00 39 0.03 1342 0.93 1443
L04 4 0.00 2 0.00 4 0.00 26 0.03 924 0.91 1019
L05 7 0.01 6 0.00 5 0.00 32 0.03 1192 0.95 1259
L06 17 0.01 8 0.00 4 0.00 37 0.02 2007 0.96 2092
L07 42 0.01 4 0.00 9 0.00 106 0.04 2910 0.94 3101
L08 22 0.01 3 0.00 4 0.00 103 0.04 2865 0.95 3012
L09 22 0.01 3 0.00 10 0.00 83 0.04 2099 0.94 2236
L10 58 0.0211 0.00 11 0.00 138 0.04 3116 0.93 3366
L11 31 0.01 3 0.00 12 0.00 107 0.05 2283 0.93 2467
L12 46 0.02 2 0.00 5 0.00 103 0.05 2193 0.92 2378
L13 77 0.02 6 0.00 2 0.00 123 0.04 2863 0.93 3092
L15 23 0.01 5 0.00 1 0.00 87 0.05 1625 0.93 1752
L16 31 0.01 1 0.00 12 0.01 105 0.05 1974 0.92 2141
L17 22 0.01 2 0.00 4 0.00 77 0.04 1814 0.93 1944
L18 46 0.02 6 0.00 7 0.00 116 0.05 2160 0.92 2359
L19 39 0.01 4 0.00 12 0.00 166 0.07 2419 0.91 2653
L20 32 0.02 3 0.00 11 0.01 149 0.08 1758 0.89 1966
L21 2 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 2 0.00 476 0.98 487
Total 595 0.0178 0.00 108 0.001706 0.04 38916 0.93 41947
Table 5. Indigenous Decorated Ceramics
UID RED on
Level DECORATED UID AZTEC AZTECI AZTECII AZTECIII RED WARE BUFF Total
# % # # % % # % # % # % # %
L01 28 35.00% 0.00% 0.00% 2 2.50% 1 1.25% 0 0.00% 49 61.25% 80
L02 9 15.52% 1 1.72% 0.00% 2 3.45% 0.00% 1 1.72% 45 77.59% 58
L03 36 43.37% 3 3.61% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 5 6.02% 39 46.99% 83
L04 4 11.11% 0.00% 0.00% 2 5.56% 0.00% 4 11.11% 26 72.22% 36
L05 7 14.00% 2 4.00% 0.00% 4 8.00% 0.00% 5 10.00% 32 64.00% 50
L06 17 25.76% 8 12.12% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 4 6.06% 37 56.06% 66
L07 42 26.09% 3 1.86% 1 0.62% 0.00% 0.00% 9 5.59% 106 65.84% 161
L08 22 16.67% 1 0.76% 0.00% 1 0.76% 1 0.76% 4 3.03% 103 78.03% 132
L09 22 18.64% 2 1.69% 0.00% 0.00% 1 0.85% 10 8.47% 83 70.34% 118
L10 58 26.61% 10 4.59% 0.00% 1 0.46% 0.00% 11 5.05% 138 63.30% 218
L11 31 20.26% 2 1.31% 1 0.65% 0.00% 0.00% 12 7.84% 107 69.93% 153
L12 46 29.49% 1 0.64% 0.00% 0.00% 1 0.64% 5 3.21% 103 66.03% 156
L13 77 37.02% 6 2.88% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 2 0.96% 123 59.13% 208
L15 23 19.83% 4 3.45% 0.00% 1 0.86% 0.00% 1 0.86% 87 75.00% 116
L16 31 20.81% 0.00% 0.00% 1 0.67% 0.00% 12 8.05% 105 70.47% 149
L17 22 20.95% 0.00% 0.00% 2 1.90% 0.00% 4 3.81% 77 73.33% 105
L18 46 26.29% 2 1.14% 0.00% 4 2.29% 0.00% 7 4.00% 116 66.29% 175
L19 39 17.65% 1 0.45% 0.00% 3 1.36% 0.00% 12 5.43% 166 75.11% 221
L20 32 16.41% 2 1.03% 0.00% 1 0.51% 0.00% 11 5.64% 149 76.41% 195
21 2 50.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0 0.00% 2 50.00% 4
Total 595 23.95% 48 1.93% 2 0.08%24 0.97% 4 0.16% 108 4.35% 1706 68.68% 2484
The following discussion describes the ceramic types used to classify materials for
the purpose of this study. They are based primarily on the works of Jeffrey Parsons and
Laurette Sejourne. The two predominant ceramic wares during the Aztec period in the
Valley of Mexico are Orange Ware and Red Ware. Orange Wares are either of the Plain
Orange type, which can vary in color from light orange to orange-brown to yellowish
brown to reddish-orange to reddish-brown; or the Black-on-Orange decorated type. Red
Wares are red-slipped ceramics with decorative elements in white and/or black, and
There are four characteristic styles of Black-on-Orange Aztec ceramics in the
Valley of Mexico: Aztec I, II, III, and IV.
Figure 1. Aztec Types at San Juan Evangelista. A) Aztec I, B) Aztec II, C) Aztec II, D)
Aztec I and II are in the Early Aztec Period (1150 C.E.-1350 C.E.) and Aztec III
and IV are part of the Late Aztec Period (1350 C.E.-1520 C.E.). At one time
archaeologists thought that the Aztec II style followed Aztec I, but now the accepted
thought is that the two styles are contemporaneous (Parsons 1982: 438). Aztec I
ceramics are found largely in the southern part of the Valley while Aztec II ceramics
predominate in the northern part. (See Appendix A for a compositional analysis of a DF
7 Aztec II sherd.) In contrast, the Late Aztec styles appear to exhibit uniformity
throughout the Valley of Mexico where the spatial differences generally seem to be more
rural vs. urban and center vs. periphery than northern vs. southern as in the Early Aztec
Figure 2. Early Aztec.
There are varieties of Late Aztec pottery found at some of the large urban centers
such as Tenochtitlan, Chalco, and Texcoco which are missing from the peripheral
villages and hamlets. In general, pottery in use at the northern village sites looks similar
to pottery used at villages in the southern region.
Aztec I is characterized by wavy lines, thick uneven brush strokes, and border
designs of frets, spirals, circles and parallel lines. Center medallions are common motifs.
The vessel walls are generally thicker than the other Aztec styles. Aztec II designs are
similar to Aztec I but with smaller and multiple elements. Thin walls as well as slanting
lines and spirals on vessel interiors are characteristic of Aztec II pottery. Multiple thin
parallel lines and dots are characteristic of Aztec III pottery; designs range from simple to
complex. Aztec IV type pottery is similar to Aztec III in vessel forms, but with "unique
decorative techniques which include thicker lines, new configurations of elements, and
some use of European-derived designs" and is "predominantly post-hispanic (but
probably all 16th century)" (Parsons et al 1982:450). Aztec IV pottery, found only in
urban areas, incorporates more naturalistic forms and figurative motifs such as birds,
flowers, fish, deer and monkeys (Pasztory 1983:296).
Aztec-type pottery continued to be made until the 17th century; the majority of
decorated vessels were ornamented with native flowers and animals. Some of the native
designs were of animals that had significant ritualistic meaning for the Aztecs; however,
the Spanish probably did not consider these motifs idolatrous and therefore were slow in
eradicating them. Though the Spanish were quick to detect heathen idols on large
monuments, they were apparently less concerned about pottery designs.
The term "Red Ware" can be confusing. It can apply to any red slipped pottery no
matter where or when it occurs or to ceramics made with any reddish earthernware clay
which can be slipped, unslipped, glazed, or unglazed. However, for purposes of this
study I use Thomas Charlton's definition of Red Ware: it "usually refers to Aztec period
red/painted/slipped pottery. It continues into the Colonial period with new forms and
designs. Other periods have red painted pottery, but the pastes and forms are quite
distinct from the Aztec Red Ware" (personal communication 7/4/05). For Red Ware
types found in the southern Valley of Mexico I followed the lead of Parsons, et al (1982)
for type names. The types found at the DF 7 site include Black-Red, Black-White-Red;
and White-Red; the type names are based on the surface decoration. The only black-
white-red sherd found at this test unit came from Level 7. There were 41 black-red
sherds, and 66 white-red sherds (see Table 3). The total number of Red Ware decorated
sherds found in Test Unit III was 108 out of a total of approximately 40,000 artifacts
excavated from Test Unit 3.
As part of my ceramic analysis I did a quantitative assessment of Indigenous
decorated bowl and jar sherds with the idea that such a study might be helpful in
answering questions related to changes in Indigenous pottery. I used a simple method to
determine if a decorated sherd was most likely a bowl or jar by examining the outer and
inner surface treatments; bowl sherds were burnished on both sides and jar sherds only on
the outside (Norr, personal communication, 2001). My criterion for determining bowl or
jar was meant to be a "most likely," not definitive, assessment of use.
Figure 3. Aztec Grater Bowl Fragment.
A bowl is a wide mouthed vessel with its height "varying from one-third the
maximum diameter of the vessel up to equal to the diameter" (Rice 1987:216). Ajar is
generally defined as a vessel that is "necked (and therefore restricted) .. with its height
greater than its maximum diameter" (1987:216). Common uses for bowls were graters
(cajetes), servicing utensils, or cooking pots, while jars were used for storing food,
collecting and storing liquids, and cooking.
It appears that with the arrival of the Europeans there was a significant decline in
the use of Indigenous Decorated jars (Figure 4) while the production of Indigenous Plain
jars remained fairly steady (Figure 5). Overall the use of native bowls and jars was
generally consistent from Level 21 until Level 10 when there was a higher percentage of
bowls than jars found at each level (Figure 6).
Changes in the manufacture and use of pottery may be caused by "changes in
available labor, extraction of resources, altered diet, and loss of cultural identity," (Cusick
1989:28), characteristics of the Contact Period in the central Valley of Mexico. The shift
from one type of vessel to another--jars to bowls--implies a shift in eating patterns,
cooking methods, or food availability; changes instigated by the European presence in the
The sample dissertation is not designed to replace the Guide for Preparing Theses and
Dissertations produced and distributed by the Graduate School. It is to be used as a
supplementary example of formatting. This sample dissertation attempts to use all of the
styles and formatting instructions dictated by the Guide. You will notice throughout this
sample dissertation bracketed statements and graphic boxes. These graphic boxes and
bracketed statements are notes used to point out certain formatting aspects and methods
of using the dissertation.
Figure 4. Indigenous Decorated Bowls and Jars
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 16 17 18 19 20
Figure 5. Indigenous Plain Bowls and Jars
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
-0-- Bowls Jars
Figure 6. All Indigenous Bowls and Jars
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The only notes that I was able to locate from John Goggin's excavations at the DF
7 site were sparsely written; I never found his field notebooks, which probably would
contain more detailed information. Since his notes are incomplete, it is impossible to
know with certainty, for example, the type of soil he encountered at each level. He often
writes that the soil is "dark granular," but he does not give an accurate description of its
color. We are left with only a general idea of where two of the three DF 7 test units were
dug since his sketch of the site (Figure 7) does not include any measurements and leaves
out Test Unit 3 entirely. Archaeological methodology in the 1950s was not as precise as
it is today and, therefore, there are interpretive limitations when using older, unreported
Figure 6. Sketch of Test Units I and II at San Juan Evangelista. Courtesy of the Florida
Museum of Natural History.
Tables 2 through 9 summarize the distribution of materials through the excavated
levels. The presence of European artifacts provides a delineation of contact and pre-
contact stages at this site, dating approximately from 1150 C.E. to 1950 C.E. Levels 21
to 10 are pre-contact and Levels 9 and above are post-contact.
The first 18 inches of soil at DF 7 contains modern debris consisting of glass,
construction material, and pottery sherds as well as European and pre-contact Indigenous
artifacts (see Tables 2-4). Levels 4 through 9 contain both European and pre-contact
Indigenous artifacts while Levels 10 through 21 are comprised solely of pre-contact
The archaeological evidence indicates that the first European presence at
Culhuacan occurred at Level 9 where a fragment of a cast iron pot was found.
Figure 7. European Cast Iron Pot Fragment
We know that Cortes awarded Culhuacan as an encomienda to Crist6bal Ofiate in 1525
(Cline 1986:7); therefore, based upon the historical record plus the archaeological
evidence, I believe that Level 9 probably dates to about 1525. I have not relied on the
one El Morro sherd found at Level 9 as the indicator of the terminus post quem (TPQ) for
the level because El Morro sherds do not appear again until Level 7. All levels above
Level 9 belong to the post-contact period.
Figure 8. European Ceramics. A) Pearlware Transfer Print, Columbia Plain, two El
Morro, B) El Morro, two unidentified Majolica, Black Lead-Glazed, C) Lead-
Glazed, unidentified coarse earthenware, D) unidentified Majolica, Delftware
Native Americans interacted with Europeans before construction began on the San
Juan Evangelista mission around 1552. The TPQ of 1550 for El Morro ceramics (3
sherds were found at Level 7) indicates that construction most likely began at this level.
No European ceramics were found at Level 8 and only one at Level 9, which implies a
limited European presence at the site during Levels 8 and 9.
The percentages of Indigenous plain pottery in the total ceramic assemblage vary
only slightly from level to level with the exception of a 9% decrease in plain Indigenous
pottery from Level 21 to Level 20 (when the first Aztec type pottery appears). After
Level 20 the percentage of plain Indigenous pottery gradually increased; however it never
reached the high of 98% found at Level 21. The DF 7 site appears to have been sparsely
settled at Level 21. Of the 487 sherds at this level, 98% or 476 were plain and only about
1% or 4 were decorated. It is possible that an outside influence entered the area and the
initial result was a dramatic increase in native decorated pottery as well as a significant
initial decline in plain pottery.
Figure 9. Unidentified Indigenous. A) figurines, B) vessel handle.
Red-on-Buff sherds consistently comprise the highest percentage of pre- and post-
contact Indigenous decorated sherds per level indicating a clear non-Aztec presence at the
site. Charlton notes that Red-on-Buff pottery is characteristic of Formative, Teotihuacan,
Coyotlatelco (Early Toltec Period, 750 C.E. to 950 CE), and Mazapan (Late Toltec
Period, 950 C.E. to 1150 C.E.) ceramics and is not considered part of Aztec or Colonial
complexes (personal communication 7/5/05). Red on Buff is distinguished by red
decoration on a buff-colored slip.
Figure 10. Red-on-Buff
Aztec type sherds were found at all levels from Level 9 to Level 20 ( 5), suggesting
stratigraphically that the site was occupied only during the period of Aztec influence. An
intrusion of some sort could account for the presence of Aztec sherds at the lowest levels;
however, in Goggin's field notes the only mention of possible post holes is at Level 10
while at Level 20 he indicates there were small breaks in the "hardpan which were small
holes." He does not identify these as post holes, however. It is clear that there was a
non-Aztec presence at the site represented by the Red-on-Buff sherds which comprise a
very consistent Indigenous tradition with little change throughout the occupation period.
Red-on-Buff ceramics were most frequent at lower levels. While Indigenous
decorated pottery (other than Red-on-Buff) is always present in smaller numbers, the
overall proportion of Red-on-Buff remains consistent (see Table 5). The percentages of
Indigenous plain pottery are much greater (averaging 93%) and generally consistent
throughout the unit. The two instances when the percentages of Indigenous Decorated
and Indigenous Plain pottery sharply diverge are from Level 21 to 20 (Red-on-Buff
increases while Plain decreases) and from Level 2 to 1 where there is a sharp decrease in
plain pottery and an increase (though not as marked) in Decorated and Red-on-Buff.
After Level 20 the percentages of both Red-on-Buff and Plain ceramics stabilize. The
numbers of artifacts found at Level 21 (487) and Level 20 (1964), along with the sharp
increase in Red-on-Buff pottery at Level 20, suggest the arrival of newcomers to the area.
They probably brought with them a different tradition of decorated pottery.
There were 595 Indigenous decorated ceramic sherds other than Aztec, Red-on-
Buff, or Red Ware types found in Test Unit III. The Indigenous decorated ceramics were
incised, punctuated, appliqued, stamped, or painted. One hundred and thirty nine figurine
fragments were found in the test unit.
Figure 10. Unidentified Indigenous Decorated
The percentage of all Indigenous decorated sherds to level totals is between 3% and
10% throughout all levels, with the exception of Level 21 where it is less than 1% (see
Table 6). The difference in percentages between levels is so small that it is difficult to
draw any conclusions from this. The exception is between Levels 6 and 7. Assuming
that Level 7 marks the beginning of a sustained European presence at the site, this may
reflect an alteration in the ceramic production tradition and the decline in the number of
.skilled craftsmen available who could produce decorative pottery. This may explain the
50% decline in the number of Indigenous decorated ceramics from Level 7 to Level 6.
Table 6. European and Indigenous Decorated Ceramics
Percent of Percent of
Level European Level Indigenous Level
1 60 0.05 80 0.07
2 18 0.01 58 0.03
3 13 0.01 83 0.06
4 6 0.01 36 0.04
5 4 0.00 50 0.04
6 3 0.00 66 0.03
7 3 0.00 161 0.05
8 0 0.00 132 0.04
9 1 0.00 118 0.05
10 0 0.00 218 0.06
11 0 0.00 153 0.06
12 0 0.00 156 0.07
13 0 0.00 208 0.07
15 0 0.00 116 0.07
16 0 0.00 149 0.07
17 0 0.00 105 0.05
18 0 0.00 175 0.07
19 0 0.00 221 0.08
20 0 0.00 195 0.10
21 0 0.00 4 0.01
In general, in the Valley of Mexico there was a gradual decline in the frequency of
decorated wares as well as an increase in the frequency of plain wares between the
conquest and 1650. There is evidence that the surface treatment of ceramic finishes
declines also. Charlton (1968:98) notes that burnishing was one area in which a
difference in treatment can be noted: pre-contact ceramics often had both exterior and
interior burnished while post-contact Aztec ceramics often have only the interior area
burnished. According to Charlton, the decline in pottery complexity may be due to the
post-contact population decline as well as shifts in the sociopolitical organization
(congregaciones) which probably affected craft industries.
The primary purposes of this thesis were to provide documentation of the collection
from DF 7 and to look at the post-contact configurations at the site. The questions I set
out to answer were: (1) Did the Indigenous pottery change over time? (2) Was there any
indication of Indigenous interaction with Europeans before the San Juan Evangelista
mission was built? (3)Was the decline in population evidenced through changes in
My preliminary analysis uncovered few indications that changes over time occurred
in Indigenous Decorated pottery at the DF 7 site. The changes I found were related to the
increase or decrease in frequency of different types of pottery; for example, Red-on Buff,
or the more general category of Indigenous Decorated pottery. In an article on post-
contact Aztec ceramics in the Teotihuacan Valley, Charlton (1968:99) says that changes
in Aztec ceramics between the 16th and early 17th century were of "minor aesthetic and
technical losses and re-emphases in tradition." My research did not concentrate on
stylistic or technical changes in Indigenous pottery production. A study focusing on
these aspects of pottery manufacture is needed to yield information on what, if any,
effects the early Europeans had on native ceramic pottery production.
The fragment of a cast iron pot found at Level 9 suggests an Indigenous interaction
with the Europeans before the building of the mission in 1552, though there appears to
have been a limited European presence at the site until construction began, probably at
Level 7. The absence of any European artifacts at Level 8 supports the idea of a minimal
Spanish influence at the site during this time.
There is some ceramic evidence for the decline in the native population with the
arrival of the Europeans to the area. The decline in ceramic decorated bowls from over
5% to less than 2% from Levels 8 to 6 suggests there was less of a demand for these
products at this time, probably because there were fewer people to use them or fewer
artisans who could produce them. There is also a 50% reduction in Red-on Buff pottery
between Levels 7 and 6. Charlton notes this pottery type is not characteristic of Aztec
complexes (personal communication 7/5/05), so the decline might be attributed to the fact
that though this pottery was still available, there were fewer people to use it. The
percentage of Indigenous Plain bowls dropped sharply at Level 7, implying a sudden
decrease in the production or demand for this item. The downward trend was short-lived;
the percentage climbed sharply at Level 6 and continued upward.
The decline in population can also be seen in the considerable decrease in the
volume of material per arbitrary level after Level 7 where there appears to be a sustained
European presence. Prior to Level 7 there are only minor fluctuations in the amount of
artifacts per level. There is an average decrease of just over 30% per level from Level 7
to Level 4 after which the volume begins to increase, probably mirroring the recovery of
the native population.
The frequency of obsidian blades and flakes at the site remains fairly consistent
throughout the levels while the few domestic objects, a metate, spindle whorl, and clay
whistle, are found at lower levels. The metate was found at Level 9 where there is a
limited European presence at the site; the clay whistle was found at Level 10 and the
spindle whorl at Level 17. The unchanged lithic assemblage together with the decrease
in domestic items seems to signal a gender-based response to changes triggered by the
entrance of Europeans in Culhuacan.
U AA B
Figure 11. Indigenous Artifacts. A) obsidian, B) bead, C) vessel supports, D gaming
According to Kellogg (1995:560) certain activities are gender based; for example,
Mexica women performed tasks within the household such as food preparation, weaving,
spinning, household cleaning, and childcare. In his discussion of Indian barracks at La
Purisima Mission in California, James Deetz notes that an absence of chipped stone is
indicative of the disappearance of hunting and weapon manufacture, both male activities
Obsidian blades, used for cutting and scraping tools (Pasztory 1983:250), and
flakes are found at all levels in the test unit, with the exception of Level 7 where no
obsidian was found. One reason production stopped could be that the obsidian producers
were among the laborers engaged in the construction of the mission which occurred about
this time. However, the halt in obsidian production was only temporary since it is again
found at Levels 6 and above.
The presence of Aztec ceramics at all levels of the site, with the exception of Level
21, means that the occupation period of the site can be dated to Aztec times. However,
there was a much stronger non-Aztec presence as shown by the consistently large amount
of Red-on-Buff ceramics throughout all levels.
A principal objective of this thesis was to make available previously unreported
and unexamined archaeological ceramics from the Spanish colonial mission of San Juan
Evangelista. The artifacts from DF 7 have been in storage and unknown to all but a few
people for over fifty years. I hope that this study encourages those who are interested in
the archaeological and historical significance of the area to use this preliminary analysis
as a starting point for further research.
NEUTRON ACTIVATION ANALYSIS OF EARLY AZTEC SHERD
Compositional analysis of the Early Aztec sherd was conducted using instrumental
neutron activation analysis (INAA) at the University of Michigan's Ford Nuclear
Reactor. Weathered surfaces of a portion of the sherd were removed through abrasion
with a tungsten-carbide rotary file, and the cleaned portion was then rinsed, dried, and
ground to a powder in an agate mortar and pestle. Approximately 200 mg of powdered
sherd was weighed out into a high-purity quartz vial and the vial sealed.
Figure 12. Early Aztec Sherd
The encapsulated sample, along with standards and check-standards, was irradiated
for 20 hours in a core-face location with an average thermal flux of 4.2 x 1012 n/cm2 /s.
After a 1-week decay, gamma activity from intermediate half-life isotopes was recorded
over a 5000-second count on an HPGecoaxial detector (38% relative efficiency). After a
period of 5 weeks decay, a second gamma count for 10000-seconds recorded activity
from long half-life isotopes.
Elemental concentrations were determined based on comparison with three
replicates of the standard reference material NIST 1633A (coal fly ash) using consensus
values for the standards (Glascock 1991, Table 26). The following elements were
quantified: As, Ba, La Lu, Na, Sm, U, Yb, Ce, Co, Cr, Cs, Eu, Fe, Hf, Nd, Rb, Sc, Sr, Ta,
Tb, Th, and Zn. Samples of New Ohio Red Clay and NIST 1633B (coal fly ash) were
included as check standards on precision and accuracy of results.
The Aztec sherd was compared against a data set of Early Aztec Black/Orange
ceramics from the southern and eastern Basin of Mexico. Prior analyses (Minc 35 et al.
1994) had identified three compositionally and stylistically distinct regional types of
Early Aztec Black/Orange: (1) Culhuacan-area ceramics (including Culhuacan and
Calligraphic Tenayuca styles); (21) Chalco-area (including Chalco and Mixquic
Black/Orange variants); and (30) Texcoco-area Black/Orange (represented by Geometric
Tenayuca). Early Aztec ceramics produced in Tenayuca proper are not represented in
this data set. Discriminant function analysis was utilized to assign the Aztec sherd to the
most likely of these three compositional groups. Based on the 16 most precise minor and
trace elements characterized (La, Lu, Sm, Yb, Ce, Co, Cr, Cs, Eu, Fe, Hf, Rb, Sc, Ta, Tb,
and Th), the unknown sherd is clearly classed with the Culhuacan area ceramics. This
sherd, marked by an X on the attached graphs, falls within the 95% density ellipse for the
Culhuacan group (marked in green), and is clearly separated from the Chalco group (red)
and Texcoco group (blue). This indicates that the unknown sherd is highly similar in
composition to the Culhuacan material, and is most likely a local product.
Canonical Axis (2)
0 ,t -- '-7- --- ---
o 5 -
(Canonical Axis (2)
- .t t
o 0 3
Figure 13. Early Aztec Black/Orange Pottery from the Basin of Mexico.
.. ........ ... .. .... 1 .,
INDIGENOUS RIM STUDY
Table 7. Decorated Rims
-- -e 0 0 -e0 E
00 ^ t o0
1 1 1 2 50.00%
X 0 2 0.00%
2 X 2 2 119 1.68%
X 16 2 18 119 15.13%
3 2 2 112 1.79%
X 24 24 112 21.43%
4 X 5 5 64 7.81%
X 10 6 16 64 25.00%
5 X 1 1 88 1.14%
X 27 1 1 29 88 32.95%
6 X 2 2 82 2.44%
X 1 13 1 15 82 18.29%
7 X 1 2 1 4 131 3.05%
X 7 2 2 11 131 8.40%
8 X 1 1 178 0.56%
X 1 33 3 1 38 178 21.35%
9 X 2 1 3 138 2.17%
X 7 17 4 3 1 32 138 23.19%
10 X 8 22 2 14 181 7.73%
X 8 21 9 1 39 181 21.55%
11 X 2 4 1 3 10 140 7.14%
X 3 14 3 20 140 14.29%
12 X 5 3 2 2 12 157 7.64%
X 5 8 9 1 1 24 157 15.29%
Tabh e 7
X 2 7 4 1 14 146 9.59%
15 X 2 4 1 3 10 128 7.81%
X 20 5 25 128 19.53%
16 X 1 8 1 10 140 7.14%
X 4 16 3 23 140 16.43%
17 X 4 6 1 1 12 118 10.17%
X 3 8 1 1 13 118 11.02%
18 X 4 11 1 1 1 3 21 138 15.22%
X 2 16 3 21 138 15.22%
19 X 2 1 2 2 7 194 3.61%
X 4 39 1 1 45 194 23.20%
20 X 3 2 1 4 10 92 10.87%
X 2 24 1 1 28 92 30.43%
21 0 22 0.00%
X 1 1 2 22 9.09%
Table 8. Rim Types Compared to Total Rims by Percentage
2 6.72%77.31% 6.72% 0.84% 0.84% 5.88% 0.84% 0.84% 0.00%
8 92 8 1 1 7 1 1 119
322.32%61.61% 4.46% 0.00% 0.89% 8.93% 0.89% 0.00% 0.89%
25 69 5 1 10 1 1 112
415.63%65.63% 9.38% 1.56% 0.00% 7.81% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
10 42 6 1 5 64
523.86%54.55% 6.82% 2.27% 0.00% 12.50% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
21 48 6 2 11 88
617.07%68.29% 4.88% 0.00% 1.22% 7.32% 0.00% 0.00% 1.22%
14 56 4 1 6 1 82
738.17%43.51% 3.05% 1.53% 0.76% 10.69% 0.00% 0.76% 1.53%
50 57 4 2 1 14 1 2 131
817.98%63.48% 2.81%2.25%2.25% 7.30% 1.69% 0.56% 1.69%
32 113 5 4 4 13 3 1 3 178
931.16%44.20% 5.07%2.17%0.72% 13.04% 0.72% 1.45% 1.45%
43 61 7 3 1 18 1 2 2 138
1033.15%48.62% 6.63% 1.66% 0.00% 9.39% 0.55% 0.00% 0.00%
60 88 12 3 17 1 181
1130.71%51.43% 7.14%0.71% 1.43% 7.86% 0.71% 0.00% 0.00%
43 72 10 1 2 11 1 140
1227.39%48.41%10.19%6.37%2.55% 3.82% 0.00% 1.27% 0.00%
43 76 16 10 4 6 2 157
1329.45%39.04%21.23% 1.37% 1.37% 6.85% 0.00% 0.00% 0.68%
43 57 31 2 2 10 1 146
15 18.75% 57.03% 6.25% 4.69% 1.56% 10.94% 0.00% 0.00% 0.78%
24 73 8 6 2 14 1 128
1625.00%57.86% 5.00% 2.14% 0.71% 8.57% 0.71% 0.00% 0.00%
35 81 7 3 1 12 1 140
1733.90%52.54% 1.69% 5.93% 0.00% 5.93% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
40 62 2 7 7 118
1836.23%47.10% 4.35% 2.90% 0.72% 8.70% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
50 65 6 4 1 12 138
1921.13%59.28% 2.06% 1.03% 0.52% 14.95% 0.00% 1.03% 0.00%
41 115 4 2 1 29 2 194
2011.96%72.83% 1.09% 2.17% 1.09% 9.78% 0.00% 1.09% 0.00%
11 67 1 2 1 9 1 92
2145.45%40.91% 0.00% 4.55% 0.00% 9.09% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
10 9 1 2 22
Table 9. Indigenous Plain Rims
>o 0 >a3 o
1_ 1 1
2 X 8 28 1 7 1 1 46
X 46 6 1 53
3 18 6 1 10 1 36
X 7 39 3 1 50
4 X 7 6 1 5 19
X 3 21 24
5 X 8 2 2 9 21
X 13 19 4 1 37
6 10 9 1 1 6 27
X 3 32 2 1 38
7 X 31 20 2 9 2 64
X 11 37 2 1 1 52
8 X 25 27 3 3 9 3 1 71
X 5 53 2 1 1 4 2 68
9 X 23 11 2 1 11 1 2 51
X 11 33 2 1 4 1 52
10 X 28 18 1 15 1 63
X 16 47 1 1 65
11 X 21 17 5 1 1 8 53
X 17 37 2 1 57
12 X 25 24 3 4 4 2 2 64
X 8 41 4 3 1 57
13 X 25 25 4 1 2 9 66
X 13 25 22 1 1 62
15 X 21 20 5 2 11 1 60
X 1 29 3 33
16 X 19 16 1 1 6 1 44
X 11 41 3 2 6 63
17 X 29 23 3 7 62
X 4 25 2 31
18 X 23 14 1 8 46
X 21 24 2 2 1 50
19 X 34 34 1 23 92
X 3 42 2 3 50
20 X 1 9 1 5 1 17
X 5 32 37
21 8 6 2 16
X 2 2 4
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Laurie Rinfret was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and lived at various times in
New Hampshire, Colorado, and New Mexico, but spent most of her life in Vermont.
She attended Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and
then Marlboro College, a small progressive liberal arts college in Vermont, earning a
B.A. in anthropology. While at Marlboro College she was fortunate to have the
opportunity to spend a summer with the University of Colorado at Boulder's
archaeological field school in Managua, Nicaragua. That experience led her to a three-
month internship in San Marcos, Nicaragua, where she was in charge of a small
archaeological dig on a coffee plantation. When she made the decision to get her M.A.
degree she knew two things: she wanted to continue her work in archaeology and she
wanted to live someplace warm. This led her to the University of Florida where she is
currently finishing requirements for her M.A. degree.