Kingship: Kingship in Mesoamerica and South America

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Of essential importance for the study of kingship in Mesoamerica and South America is the profound connection between supernatural authority and political power residing in an elite class of sacred kings who directed the interaction of the natural environment, the human population, technology, and developments in social structure from sacred precincts and ceremonial cities. In the Aztec, Maya, and Inca patterns of sacred kingship are found distinct versions of this connection.

Aztec Sacred Kingship

The supreme authority in Aztec Mexico was the tlatoani (chief speaker), who resided in the imperial capital of Tenochtitlan. This pattern of rulership grew out of earlier forms of sacred and social authority in which each political-territorial unit (altepetl in Nahuatl) was governed by a titled lord, or tecuhtli, living within a noble estate or elite social and geographical domain. This local ruler was understood to be the living image of the altepetl' s patron deity and communicated directly with him. As one scholar notes:

The tlatoani headed a large, multifaceted bureaucracy composed of other lords and lesser nobles, and his palace (tecpan, tecalli ) was the principal government administration building. The king, like other high-ranking lords, was the titular head of a patrimonial demesne (complex of holdings, privileges, and obligations) that consisted of the provision of agricultural, public works, manufacturing and military services by commoners, tribute payment, the allegiance of lesser (including nontitled) nobility, and various other sumptuary privileges. (Gillespie, 2001)

During the later stages of Aztec history, the tlatoani governed with the assistance of the Council of Four, which included the second in command, who occupied an office called the Cihuacoatl (snake woman). The occupant of the Cihuacoatl office was always male. The elite status of the Council of Four is indicated by the fact that the members were chosen from the royal family and included the king's brothers, sons, and nephews. Under normal circumstances this group chose the successor to a dead king from one of its members. A primary qualification for the Aztec king was military leadership, and a truly great king was a victorious general who conquered many towns, which led to the organization of tributary payments to the royal and capital storehouses. In broad terms, the Aztec tlatoani was responsible for agricultural fertility, order and success in warfare, the maintenance of the ceremonial order, the stability of bureaucratic systems, and above all the orderly parallelism between society and the cosmos. The dominant symbol of sacred rulership in Mesoamerica was the throne that took the form of a woven mat or a seat with a high back in which the ruler was also carried in public settings. In Aztec society the word for throne was petlatl, icpalli, or the "reed mat"the seat that also became a metaphor for the ruler.

By the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Aztec tlatoani Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (Moctezuma II, r. 15031520) was surrounded by an elaborate court dedicated to carrying out the expressions of authority and pomp of the monarch. According to Hernán Cortés's second letter to the king of Spain, Motecuhzoma changed clothes four times a day, never putting on garments that had been worn more than once. The formation of this privileged position came about as the result of two decisive transformations in the social and symbolic structures of Aztec lifethe acquisition in 1370 of the sacred lineage of kingship associated with the Toltec kingdom, and the consolidation of authority and power in the office of the king and a warrior nobility known as the pipiltin during the war against the city-state of Atzcapotzalco in 1428.

When the Aztec precursors, the Chichimec (from chich, meaning "dog," and mecatl, meaning "rope" or "lineage"), migrated into the Valley of Mexico in the thirteenth century, they encountered an urbanized world of warring city-states. The basic settlement pattern in the valley was the tlatocayotl, a city-state that consisted of a small capital city surrounded by dependent communities that worked the agricultural lands, paid tribute, and performed services for the elite classes in the capital according to various ritual calendars and cosmological patterns. Within this world of political rivalries, the most valued legitimate authority resided in communities tracing their royal lineage to the great Toltec kingdom of Tollan (tenth through twelfth centuries ce), which was remembered as the greatest city in history, noted for agricultural abundance, technological excellence, and cosmological order.

As the Aztec slowly but systematically integrated themselves into the more complex social world of tlatocayotls, they sought a means to acquire access to the Toltec lineage. According to a number of sources, they turned to the city-state of Culhuacan, which held the most direct lineal access to the authority represented by the Toltec, and asked to be given a half-Aztec, half-Culhuacan lord by the name of Acamapichtli as their first tlatoani, or royal leader. The successful transfer of legitimate kingship to the Aztec resulted in an internal adjustment of Aztec society. The first several tlatoanis were forced to negotiate their authority with the traditional social unit of Aztec life, the calpulli. The calpulli was most likely a type of conical clan in which members were interrelated by family ties but hierarchically stratified according to lines of descent from a sacred ancestor. This sharing of authority took an abrupt turn at the collapse of the Tepanec kingdom between 1426 and 1428 and the formation of a new political order known as the Triple Alliance. During the last half of the fourteenth century the Mexica (Aztec) were military vassals of the powerful Tepanec kingdom centered in the capital of Azcapotzalco.

During their tutelage to the Tepanec, the Aztec became the most powerful military unit in the region and adapted their political and economic structure to the more urbanized systems of the valley. When the king of Azcapotzalco died in 1426, the Tepanec kingdom was ripped apart by a war of succession. The Aztec tlatoani Itzcoatl, with his nephews Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina and Tlacaellel, formed a political alliance with two other city-states and successfully took over the lands, tribute, and allegiances that formerly belonged to the Tepanec. In the process these three leaders restructured the Aztec government by concentrating power and authority in the tlatoani, the Council of Four, and to a lesser extent in the noble warrior class known as the pipiltin. The calpulli were incorporated into less powerful levels of decision making. This restructuring marked the beginning of the rise of Aztec kingship on a road to the status of god-king.

Subsequent Aztec kingssuch as Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina (Moctezuma I)issued decrees defining the different classes of nobles, traders, warriors, and commoners according to their privileges, manner of dress, ownership, and education. Beginning around 1440 the cosmological traditions undergirding Aztec society were reinterpreted to legitimate the rise of sacred kingship and the concentration of authority in the elites. As a sign of this cosmic and political authority, each king following Itzcoatl took the responsibility of enlarging the Great Temple of the capital and acquiring large numbers of enemy warriors to be sacrificed to the imperial gods Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli.

Interestingly, the symbolic sources for the legitimation of Aztec kingship come from two lines of descent. On the one hand, Aztec kings drew their legitimacy from the Toltec priest-king Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, while on the other hand they drew their power from the "all-powerful, the invisible, the untouchable" Tezcatlipoca, whom one chronicler called "the first among all the gods" and who was strongly related to the patron Aztec god Huitzilopochtli. This combination demonstrates both the strength and, surprisingly, the vulnerability of Aztec kings. The most intimate inspiration for Aztec kings came from the twisting maneuvers of the principal god, Tezcatlipoca. While Quetzalcoatl was an ancient underpinning of Aztec kingship, Tezcatlipoca's influence on the legitimacy, power, and conduct of Aztec rulers was immediate and pervasive. Guilhem Olivier summarizes the major feast of Tezcatlipoca:

The king personally decorated "his beloved god," a young man impersonating Tezcatlipoca, who was destined to be sacrificed. The king sacrificed himself symbolically through the man who was the image (ixiptla ) of his tutelary divinity. Likewise, during the royal enthronement rites, the future sovereign wore pieces of fabric that covered the sacred bundles (tlaquimilolli) of Huitzilopochtli and of Tezcatlipoca, ritually reproducing the death and rebirth of the two major Aztec divinities. (Olivier, 2001)

Perhaps the most vivid example of Tezcatlipoca's influence appears in the prayers recited at the installation of a ruler and upon his death. When a new king was installed in Tenochtitlan, Tezcatlipoca was invoked as the creator, animator, guide, and potential killer of the king. The ceremony, according to book 6 of Fray Bernardino de Sahagún's Historia general de las cosas de la Nueva España (compiled 15691582; also known as the Florentine Codex), begins at the moment when "the sun hath come to appear." The particular phrasing of the description of the sunrise in the prayer reported by Sahagún is related to the story of the creation of the Sun in the official cosmogonies of the Aztec elites. The king's installation and Tezcatlipoca's presence are seen as cosmogonic acts that result in the dawning of a new day. As the ritual proceeds, Tezcatlipoca is called the "creator and knower of men" who "causes the king's action, his character," even the odors of his body. This intimacy is best stated when Tezcatlipoca is asked to inspire the king: "Animate him for this is thy flute, thy replacement, thy image." This intimacy is carried to a surprising turn when, later in the narrative, the prayer asks Tezcatlipoca to kill the king if he performs badly. This resonates with the tradition about Tollan, in which the king Quetzalcoatl broke his vows of chastity and was sent away by the sorcerer Tezcatlipoca. The omnipotence of Tezcatlipoca is also evidenced in the repeated statement that the new king, like all the other previous rulers, was merely borrowing the "reed mat" (symbolic of kingship) and "thy [i.e., Tezcatlipoca's] realm" during his kingship. The invocation to Tezcatlipoca ends when the god is asked to send the king "to be on the offensive" in the "center of the desert, to the field of battle." Kings in Aztec society were expected above all to be successful in warfare.

As this historical narrative demonstrates, the Aztec sense of legitimacy was derived, in part, from their acquired connection to the ancient kingdom of Tollan, where Quetzalcoatl ruled a world of abundance, artistic creativity, and cosmic balance, only to be undone by his counterpart Tezcatlipoca. This connection and conflict apparently influenced Aztec kingship and provided to some degree an ironic destiny for the last Aztec tlatoani, Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (Moctezuma II). In fact, the vulnerability of Aztec kingship is reflected in a series of episodes involving Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin and Hernán Cortés, the leader of the conquering Spanish expedition (15191521). According to the account of the conquest of Tenochtitlan told in book 12 ("The Conquest") of Sahagún's work, when word reached the magisterial city of Tenochtitlan that "strangers in the east" were making their way toward the high plateau, "Moctezuma thought that this was Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl who had come to the land. It was in their hearts that he would come to land to find his mat his seat. Moctezuma sent five emissaries to give him gifts."

This passage demonstrates how, at least in the eyes of some of his descendants and Spanish chroniclers, an Aztec king used an ancient mythological tradition of kingly abdication in a new situation for the purpose of interpreting a threatening development. According to this tradition, the kingdom of Tollan (centuries before the Aztec arrived in the central plateau of Mexico) was ruled by the brilliant priest-king Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, but it collapsed when a sorcerer (Tezcatlipoca) from the outside tricked him into violating his kingly vows and abdicating his throne. Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl left his kingdom for the eastern horizon, where, according to different traditions, he either sacrificed himself and became the morning star or sailed away on a raft of serpents promising to return one day and reclaim his throne. In the crisis of 1519, according to some interpreters, the last Aztec king applied to a series of reconnaissance reports the archaic mythologem of Quetzalcoatl's flight and promised return to regain his throne. Moctezuma sent jeweled costumes of Aztec deities, including the array of Quetzalcoatl, to Cortés, and he instructed his messengers to tell Cortés that the king acknowledged the presence of the god for whom he had been waiting to return and sit in the place of authority. As the Spaniards advanced, Moctezuma fell into an emotional crisis ("He was terror struck his heart was anguished"), and he made two gestures of abdication. First, he moved out of his kingly residence into a palace of lesser authority, and second, he sought escape in a magical cave where he believed he could pass into the supernatural world. When Cortés arrived at the capital, a series of encounters took place in which Moctezuma instructed his nobles to transfer their power to the returning king. In this situation, a form of "imperial irony" appears in the tradition of Aztec kingship. On the one hand, the Aztec drew their legitimacy from the tradition that depicted Tollan as a city-state characterized by agricultural stability, artistic achievement, and religious genius. But in drawing their legitimacy as Toltec descendants, they were also heirs to a tradition of kingly abdication and dramatic political changes. Like Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, who gave his kingdom to Tezcatlipoca, Moctezuma opened the royal door for Cortés to enter.

It must be noted that this interpretation, found in both the sixteenth-century chronicles and a group of modern studies, is in constant dispute by some scholars who believe these episodes were largely fabricated during the early decades of Spanish colonial domination in central Mexico. In this view, the application of Quetzalcoatl's return to the arrival of Cortés was part of a vigorous sixteenth-century prose project designed to justify the holy and just war propaganda of the Europeans and to celebrate the genius of their triumphs.

In the case of the last great civilization of Mesoamerica, sacred kingship was an urban institution acquired by the Aztec, who utilized borrowed and indigenous religious symbols to legitimate their imperial expansion and social character.

Maya Sacred Kings

In the last several decades, our overall view of the long, complex history of Maya society, culture, and rulership has undergone something of a revolution. Where once were imagined peaceful kingdoms ruled by astronomer priests who had mastered the human tendencies of aggression and warlike domination, it is now known that Maya peoples, despite their superb artistic, mathematical, and architectural capacities, struggled violently among their various city-states, kingdoms, and extended families. Stunning breakthroughs in deciphering Maya forms of writing have led to a complex understanding of how Maya societies were organized around stunning ceremonial centers in which resided, supreme among an ever pulsating elite community, the ajaw or k'uhl aja- lord (ruler or holy lord or supreme ruler). As one Maya scholar writes, "Perhaps the most famous Mesoamerican scenes of accession appear on the so-called niche stelae of Piedras Negras; they represent the new king on a scaffold throne, surrounded by cosmological symbols of heaven. Like the Mexica emperors, the new Maya ruler is shown at the central point of the cosmic order" (Stuart, 2001).

Scholarship has shown that in many ways the Maya replicated the basic pattern of ruler-deity relations, control of natural and cultural resources, dominance through military aggression, and administration of tributary payments outlined above in the central Mexican world. But the Maya world also had many distinctive royal practices and variations of sacred authority during the many centuries of urban development. In exquisitely constructed civic ceremonial centers such as Tikal, Copán, Quirigua, Caracol, Calakmul, and many others, rulers and their elite families occupied and controlled high-status compounds from which they ruled a large populace by directing ritual performances in imposing stone temple precincts, spacious plazas, and even ballcourts. Kkings and their families reenacted cosmological narratives, sometimes of bellicose and warlike character in these ballcourts. Royal authority, as William Fash (2001) has shown, was powerfully reinforced through public displays of portrait sculptures, dynastic genealogies, and accounts of military victories against neighboring city-states. In Maya centers throughout a long, complex history, rulers skillfully used public architecture to not only map the course of the time and the heavens but also to persuade the populace of their individual dynastic interests and interpretations.

Certainly by what is called the "Late Classic" period, the holy lords of many Maya centers passed on their authority from father to son, unless a younger brother was deemed more fit for the accession to the throne. Among the Maya, as archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence clearly shows, women sometimes governed as regents and played crucial roles in interdynastic marriage alliances. The record also shows that Maya rulers lived in an unstable social world. As one scholar writes:

Despite the sumptuous royal tombs, impressive building programs, and texts extolling military exploits, marriage alliances, and visits by honored foreign leaders, royal authority was clearly subject to challenge. Titles for subsidiary lords proliferated in the Late Classic, suggesting growing recognition of sub-royal entitlements. A "council house" (popul na ) is material evidence that Copan's rulers shared formal governance with high-ranking nobles by the late eighth century ce. (Ashmore, 2001)

What seems particularly outstanding through the Maya world, especially in places like Copan and Tikal, is a profound respect given to the founders of kingdoms and their real or imagined well-being. Ancestor worship as social and symbolic sites where each new generation discerned the will of the gods seems profoundly intertwined with the rise, florescence, and waning of Maya society.

Inca Sacred Kingship

When Spanish soldiers led by Francisco Pizarro arrived on the Pacific coast of South America in 1527, they encountered the Inca empire, called Tahuantinsuyu (land of the four quarters). At its height, the empire extended from the northern border of present-day Ecuador south for more than 4,300 kilometers to the Maule River in Chile. This kingdom contained more than twelve million people organized into a tightly knit series of local, regional, and imperial administrative units, with authority centered in the capital city of Cuzco. When subsequent researchers attempted to reconstruct the history of the Inca empire, they found two impressive facts. First, the Inca achieved a meteoric rise from a modest village settlement in the valley of Cuzco to an imperial power in less than one hundred years. Second, the Inca recorded their own historic developments in terms of the lives and achievements of their kings and the care of dead kings by the royal mummy cult.

The term Inca, according to the social context to which it refers, can have one of three meanings. As Michael A. Malpass writes,

It can refer to a people, an empire, or even a single personthe Inca king. The term as it is used by experts refers only to the small ethnic group that originally lived in the area around Cuzco. All others were not originally Incas; we may refer to them as Inca subjects, but not as Incas. To be an Inca was to have certain privileges not allowed to others; to wear a particular kind of headband and to wear earplugs that were so large that they stretched out the earlobe. This caused the Incas to be given the Spanish nickname orejonjes, or "big ears." Not to be an Inca was to be subject to the orders of the reigning Inca king, who claimed ownership of your land and rights to your labor. Thus the differences between the Inca and the Inca subject were great (Malpass, 1996, p. 37).

The origin myth of the Incas explains the sacredness of the royal Inca lineage. Eight ancestors of the Inca kings, four women and four men, emerged from a cave near the town of Pacariqtambo. One of them, Maco Capac, became the first Inca ruler, and from him all subsequent kings descended. After other people emerged from nearby caves, the royal ancestors gathered them together and sought a place to settle. They drove out the original inhabitants of the town of Cuzco and there established a capital city. From this myth, it is gathered that Inca kingship was intimately related to:

  1. The powers of the earth, for example, caves.
  2. A cosmology of wholeness symbolized by the number eight, with four males and four females constituting a balance of gender.
  3. The site of Cuzco, which served as the axis of the Inca world.
  4. A direct line to Manco Capac.

At its most basic social level, the world of these kings and their royal mummies was organized by ayllus, which appear to have been composed of well-ordered endogamous kinship groups that traced their descent to a common ancestor. Ayllu members emphasized self-sufficiency by rigorously practicing certain traditions such as assisting one another in the construction of homes and public buildings, the farming of lands together, and the care of specific deities within local ceremonial centers. In fact, certain common plots of land were used to produce goods for sacrifices at the shrine of ancestral deities.

These ayllus were organized into larger units such as villages and chiefdoms that were involved in intense raiding and small-scale warfare among themselves. The social setting of ayllus and competing chiefdoms helped to produce the emergence of sinchis, or war leaders, who possessed the additional capacity to organize groups of men into firm alliances. These leaders were chosen from the prominent adult male members of the ayllus, and if one was particularly successful in warfare and conquest of new lands, he utilized his acquisitions to achieve more permanent positions of leadership.

It appears that the earliest Inca kings were particularly prominent sinchis who achieved a semblance of permanent and legitimate authority by manifesting an intimacy with the Inca sun god Inti. The actual reconstruction of the process of the rise of sacred kingship in the Inca culture is difficult to discern. However, the standard Inca histories hold that all Inca kings descended from this great solar god. Different primary sources include a standard list of thirteen Inca kings dating back to mythical times, but serious historical reconstructions reveal that the expansion of Inca power beyond the chiefdom level and the consolidation of authority in kings took place with the career of the ninth Inca king, Pachacuti.

The sacred histories of the Inca tell of a crucial turning point in the creation of their empire. In 1438 the fledgling Inca village of Cuzco was attacked by the aggressive army of the Chanca. A threatening siege of the settlement resulted in the flight of the Inca king Viracocha and his designated successor, his son Urcon, from the capital. Another son, Cusi Yupanqui, commanded the defense of Cuzco. Just before the expected final attack, the commander had a vision of a terrifying deity that identified itself as the Inca sky god; the sky god called Cusi Yupanqui "my son," and he told Cusi Yupanqui that if he followed the true religion he would become the Sapay (great) Inca and conquer many nations. Driven by this powerful vision and supported by increased political alliances, the Inca leader drove the invaders away, which resulted, after factional intrigues against his father and brother, in his ascension to the throne. The new king then embarked on an intense series of conquests resulting in the expansion of Inca lands and the laying of the foundation for the Inca empire. He became known as Pachacuti, which means "cataclysm" or "he who remakes the world." This remarkable episode, which is recorded in a number of sources, combines two major patterns of Inca religion: the sacred legitimacy of Inca kinship and the responsibility of the king to acquire new territories through conquest and warfare.

While it is difficult to present a satisfactory outline of Inca religion, recent studies have identified three major components, each relating to the power and authority of Inca kings: the omnipotence and omniscience of the creator sky god Viracocha, the cult of ancestor worship and mummies, and the pervasive pattern of the veneration of huacas.

Inca kings derived their sanctification from what Arthur Andrew Demarest (1984) calls the "upper pantheon" of Inca religion. According to Demarest's useful formulation, the single Inca creator sky god manifested himself in at least three subcomplexes organized around Viracocha (the universal creator), Inti (the sun god), and Illapa (the thunder and weather god). Ritual cycles and ceremonial events associated with political, astronomical, and economic schedules revealed the many aspects and versions of this upper pantheon. At the center of the sacred schedule of activities stood the Sapay Inca, who was venerated as the manifestation of Viracocha, as the descendant of Inti, and, upon his death, as the power of Illapa.

Cult of ancestor worship

The second aspect of Inca religion related to kingship is the fascinating cult of ancestor worship and mummies. A pan-Andean tradition of ancestor worship, in which the bodies of dead family members were venerated as sacred objects and ceremonially cared for by the living, permeated Inca existence. Central to this tradition was the practice of oracular communication with the dead. The ancestral remains, in the form of a mummy or simply a collection of bones, were called mallquis. Specific questions concerning all aspects of life were put to the mallquis, and specific answers resulted. Specialists known as the mallquipvillac (they who speak with the mallquis ) were influential in Inca life. The ancestral spirits also manifested themselves in hierophanies of stones and plants, and, most powerfully, in the sparks of fires. Specialists called the "consultors of the dead" communicated with the ancestors through fire.

The quintessential expression of this pattern of ancestor worship was the royal mummy cult of Cuzco. As already noted, the king was considered a descendant of the sky god Inti or Viracocha. At the death of a Sapay Inca, the authority to govern, wage war, and collect taxes passed on to one of his sons, ideally a son born of a union with the king's sister. However, all possessions of the dead king, including his palaces, agricultural lands, and servants, remained the property of the mummy. These possessions were to be administered by his panaqa, a corporate social unit made up of all the descendants in the male line. While the panaqa lived off a small portion of these lands, the group's primary purpose was to function as the dead king's court and to maintain his mummy in private and public ceremonial events, relaying his wishes through oracular specialists and carrying out his will. The public display of these mummies was a major element in Inca ceremonial life. Processions of kingly mummies, arranged according to their seniority, traveled through the fields at rainmaking ceremonies and paraded through the streets of the capital to the ceremonial center of Cuzco, where they observed and participated in state rituals. They also visited one another to communicate through oracular specialists and participated in the dances, revelries, and ceremonies in their honor. All kings, alive and dead, were considered the living spirit of Inti.

What is vital to understand is the degree of influence the cult of mummies had on the conduct and destiny of the living king. For instance, when the Spanish captured the Inca ruler Atahuallpa and condemned him to death, he was given a choice of remaining a pagan and being burned at the stake or converting to Christianity and being garroted. Atahuallpa chose conversion and garroting, not because he believed in Christianity but so that his body would not be destroyed. After receiving a Christian burial, some surviving Incas secretly disinterred his body, mummified it, and then hid the mummy, continuing to treat it in the traditional manner. More impressive perhaps is the political and military pressure placed on the living king by his mummified father. Powerful in privilege but much poorer in lands and riches, the new Inca was spurred on to carry out expansive conquests in order to acquire his own territorial lands and riches so he could live in the expected manner. This forced him to carry out his kingly responsibilities of establishing short- and long-distance trading routes, building agricultural projects to sustain himself and his growing kingdom, building temples to the sky god Viracocha throughout the new regions of the empire, and establishing the local and imperial administration units into which the kingdom was organized.

At the more popular level, Inca religion was organized by the veneration of huacas. Huacas were the endless hierophanies in stones, plants, or other objects that animated the entire Inca landscape. The countless huacas were objects of offerings, sacrifices, and oracular events. Even major family relationships expressed in the concept of villca (ancestor, descendant) were examples of huacas. Ancestors were huacas, and in this way the Inca mummies were the most sacred of huacas.

The last great civilization of South America, the Inca developed their concept of sacred kingship by combining their practice of ancestor worship with the historical process of imperial expansion and warfare. As in Mesoamerica, sanctified legitimacy was derived from connection with ancient and contemporary hierophanies, deities, and their human representatives.

See Also

Aztec Religion; Inca Religion; Maya Religion; Quetzalcoatl; Tezcatlipoca.


Adams, Robert M. The Evolution of Urban Society: Early Mesopotamia and Prehistoric Mexico. Chicago, 1966. This concise study of urban development in Mesopotamia describes the step-by-step process of the rise of intense social stratification. It includes insightful passages on the persistence of the sacred in periods of secular growth.

Ashmore, Wendy. "Maya Lowlands." In Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures, edited by Davíd Carrasco, vol. 1, pp. 242243. New York, 2001.

Brundage, Burr C. Empire of the Inca. Norman, Okla., 1963. Though dated in some respects, Brundage's study provides a useful description of the religious forces contributing to the integration of the Inca empire.

Carrasco, Davíd. Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire: Myths and Prophecies in the Aztec Tradition. Niwot, Colo., 2001. This work discusses the ironic dimensions of Aztec kingship and the roots of sacred kingship in five Mesoamerican capitals. This revised version has a new chapter on the controversy surrounding the "return of Quetzalcoatl" tradition and the conquest of Mexico.

Carrasco, Pedro. "Los linajes nobles del Mexico antiguo." In Estratificación social en la Mesoamérica prehispánica, edited by Pedro Carrasco, Johanna Broda, et al., pp. 1936. Mexico City, 1976.

Cobo, Bernabé. History of the Inca Empire: An Account of the Indians' Customs and Their Origin, Together with a Treatise on Inca Legends, History, and Social Institutions. Austin, Tex., 1979. One of the valuable post-Conquest primary sources for the study of various aspects of Inca history and religion.

Demarest, Arthur Andrew, and Geoffrey W. Conrad. Religion and Empire: The Dynamics of Aztec and Inca Expansionism. Cambridge, U.K., 1984. This study makes a significant contribution to the comparative study of social dynamics, religion, and imperialism in the two regions of New World primary urban generation.

Fash, William. Scribes, Warriors and Kings: The City of Cópan and the Ancient Maya. London, 2001. This beautifully illustrated book illuminates the ways that rulers, warriors, and Maya scribes interacted to consolidate the Maya worldview and conceptions of authority.

Gillespie, Susan D. "Rulers and Dynasties." In Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures, edited by Davíd Carrasco, vol. 3, pp. 9698. New York, 2001. This is the best overview of up-to-date scholarship on the varieties and powers of sacred rulership in Aztec and Maya societies.

Katz, Friedrich. The Ancient American Civilizations. Chicago, 1972. The standard starting point for a comparative analysis of the material and social character of Aztec and Inca kingship.

Malpass, Michael A. Daily Life in the Inca Empire. Westport, Conn., 1996. A very useful summary of scholarship on the religion, politics, and daily life in the Inca world.

Nicholson, H. B. Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl: The Once and Future Lord of the Toltecs. Niwot, Colo., 1999.

Olivier, Guilhem. Mockeries and Metamorphoses of an Aztec God: Tezcatlipoca, "Lord of the Smoking Mirror." Niwot, Colo., 2004. This is the finest and most detailed analysis of the evidence about Tezcatlipoca's significance in Mesoamerican society and the relationship to kingship.

Reed, Kay. Time and Sacrifice in the Aztec Cosmos. Bloomington, Ind., 1998.

Schele, Linda, and David Freidel. A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya. New York, 1990. A detailed study of the lives of individual rulers in lowland Maya cultures.

Stuart, David. "Ruler Accession Rituals." In Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures, edited by Davíd Carrasco, vol. 3, pp. 9596. New York, 2001.

Wheatley, Paul. The Pivot of the Four Quarters: A Preliminary Enquiry into the Origins and Character of the Ancient Chinese City. Chicago, 1971. Wheatley places Inca and Aztec social and symbolic structures within a broad comparative analysis of the rise of primary urban generation.

Zuidema, R. Tom. "The Lion in the City: Royal Symbols of Transition in Cuzco." Journal of Latin American Lore 9 (Summer 1983): 39100. One of the many important articles by Zuidema explaining the myths and rituals associated with kingship and authority in Inca religion.

DavÍd Carrasco (1987 and 2005)

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