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Aztec Knotted and Netted Capes: Colonial interpretations vs. indigenous primary data

  • Patricia Rieff Anawalt (a1)

Abstract

The past two decades of research and debate in anthropology have shown how ethnocentric perspectives in methodology and interpretation have led to misinterpretations in ethnography and archaeology. This article contrasts Western and indigenous perceptions of ritual attire that marked the role and status of Aztec rulers and deities. Stimulated by inconsistent Spanish colonial descriptions of the emperors' xiuhtlalpilli “blue-knotted” cloaks, the study compares all of the relevant Nahuatl terms, contexts, and native-drawn images and analyzes these in the light of linguistic, technological, social, archaeological, pictorial, iconographic, textual, and ethnographic evidence. This contextual analysis of the primary data reveals the nature of Spanish misperceptions and the true structure of the indigenous clothing-symbol system. While Spanish chronicles are easily accessible and thus more heavily utilized, this study makes the point that only systematic assessment of Nahuatl terms, indigenous images, and contexts are fully dependable. Reliance on the native perspective and evidence allows new insights into pre-Hispanic categories and worldviews.

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Aztec Knotted and Netted Capes: Colonial interpretations vs. indigenous primary data

  • Patricia Rieff Anawalt (a1)

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