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Metepec 

Where is Metepec?

The area that is currently known as Metepec is found east of Toluca de Lerado, the state capital of the State of Mexico. As of 2000, The State of Mexico had the highest population of all 32 districts. Additionally, Metepec falls within the valley of Toluca.

Contemporary Metepec can be described as a township or county rather than a city.  It is known to have extravagant displays of artisans and craftsmanship. Markets are filled with ceramic artwork. Most notable is the prized tree of life interpretation.   

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Who Founded Metepec?

As mentioned above Metepec lies within the Toluca Valley. The valley itself has a rich history that spans centuries. A group known as the Matlatzins are credited with the formation of the area. They have been described as speaking four known languages: Otomi, Matlatzinca, Mazahua, Nahuatl. Therefore, any speaker of these languages that resided in the Toluca Valley were referred to as Matlaztins. Nevertheless, they founded a small settlement that was influenced by Toltec Culture.

Due to warfare and changing political heads, most records captured during Matlaztins rule had been destroyed or lost. The majority of the information historians have gathered surrounding the area is based on the descriptions from the Aztecs, who gained control of the Toluca Valley in the Pre-Spanish era.    

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Notable Site

A notable site founded by the Matlaztins is known as Calixtahuaca (cali-house) (ixtlahuatl- prairie). Historians believe the city was a strong city state during its height in the postclassic period (900-1521). The Postclassic period is thought to be a time of chaos and warfare following the collapse of classic era nations. However, warfare created a boom in technological advancements. Calixtahuaca was excavated in the 1930’s.

Site of a Calixtahuacan Temple

Metepec Pottery

Experts believe that pottery from the Toluca valley had a fine clay finish rather than a glaze. Early potters would add color pigments to the clay finish that would appear after the piece placed in the kiln. Initially, ceramics were finalized over a fire. Pits were dug in the ground that connected to a heating source. The unfired clay was placed in the pit and the opening was covered to prevent heat from leaving. Kilns fueled by wood were traditionally used however, achieving the desired temperature was challenging to do making the finished pottery susceptible to breakage. Therefore, gas kilns are contemporarily utilized to maintain a proper level of heat.


Pre-Spanish pottery designs were created by pressing illustrations into the clay. Shells, rocks and pointed sticks were all used to produce intricate decorations. According to Hopkins and Muller plain orangeware which is colored red and black was used to create cooking bowls and utensils, along with grinders and comals (48). When the Europeans invaded Mexico, they brought their own pottery style and traditions. The decoration styles of European and Asian ceramics heavily influenced the central highlands surrounding Mexico City (Hopkins and Muller 49). Traditional styles began to disappear during the early colonial period. 
 

Modern pottery is a blend of Traditional styles and those that have been influenced by European contact. Pottery made in central Mexico has a strong resemblance to decorative elements of European traditions.  (Hopkins and Muller 57). Pottery production is a family affair. Skills and designs are often passed down from one generation to the next, like family heirlooms. Molding casts are contemporarily used for enclosed objects like figurines. Potters wheels are used to create small vessels like bowls and cups. These wheels are powered but electricity, hand, or foot pedal. The profession of pottery is decreasing as more people choose to take up a more profitable career. Therefore, family-run pottery workshops are shirking and replaced by larger shops (Hopkins and Muller 60-61).

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Crider, D., Nichols, D. L., Neff, H., & Glascock, M. D. 2007. In the aftermath of Teotihuacan: Epiclassic pottery production and distribution in the Teotihuacan Valley, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity, 18(2), 123+. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A166821592/AONE?u=temple_main&sid=AONE&xid=0cb85dc7

Huster, C., Angela & Pierce, E., Daniel. 2019. A geochemical baseline for clays of the Toluca Valley, Mexico, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.Vol. 29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2019.102094.

The Associated Press. Sep. 19, 2000. Lead in Mexican Products Raises Concern. New York Times. p. 14.

Megged, Amos. 2008. Communities of Memory in the Valley of Toluca: The Town of Metepec, 1476-1643. Ethnohistory 55 (2): 251–85. doi:10.1215/00141801-2007-063.

Pizzigoni, Caterina. 2013. The Life Within: Local Indigenous Society in Mexico's Toluca Valley, 1650-1800. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. Accessed November 8, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Santacreu, Daniel. 2014. Materiality, Techniques and Society in Pottery Production : The Technological Study of Archaeological Ceramics Through Paste Analysis. Warschau/Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH. Accessed November 11, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Stoner, Wesley D., and Deborah L. Nichols. 2019. POTTERY TRADE AND THE FORMATION OF EARLY AND MIDDLE FORMATIVE STYLE HORIZONS AS SEEN FROM CENTRAL MEXICO. Ancient Mesoamerica 30 (2). Cambridge Welles

Hopkins, Barbara., Muller Florencia. 1974. A Guide to Mexican Ceramics. Mexico City: Minutiae Mexicana. ISBN 968-7074-44-2. University Press: 311–37. doi:10.1017/S0956536118000330.