Comparative Guts

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Early Zapotec stone relief of a sacrificial victim with a disembowelled abdomen

Site: San José Mogote
Culture: early Zapotec
Date: Early Preclassic (c. BC 600-500)
Context: Corridor between Structure 14 and 19, Monument 3
Medium: Stone relief
Figure credit: Drawing by Mark Orsen

Placed as a step at the head of an hallway, the stone was set with its carved surface upwards. As such, this monument almost certainly served as a steppingstone, which all visitors would be forced to tread upon, during their entrance. The contorted figure is reminiscent of the so-called danzantes motif, seen elsewhere in Oaxaca, which were thought to represent dancing figures. Today, however, it is commonly acknowledged that the individuals portray slain and eviscerated victims. The figure in this case, is naked with scrolls emerging from the central abdominal, illustrating the bowels or guts. The eyes are closed, illustrating an individual that is dead. The two glyphs accompanying the individual at the bottom of the monument, may provide the name of the individual. The lower circular glyph designates the numeral 1, whereas the upper glyph renders the glyph for ‘movement, earthquake’, thereby providing the reading ‘1 earthquake’. (LG)