Conflicts in Identity

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Although Goldsmith suggests children are only seen with Wide Band Figurines, this is not the case (Goldsmith 2000). In Laurette Séjourné’s book La Leguaje de las Formas en Teotihuacan, children are seen with female figures that do not have the Wide Band Headdress (Séjourné 1966). These children are often, but not always, seen with headdresses (Wide Band Headdresses, particularly), ear spools, necklaces, and hair. The children’s faces are seldom expressive, which is a common trait in nearly all Teotihuacan figurines types. However, the children are portrayed with realistic features and detailed eyes, noses, and mouths (Berrin and Pasztory 1993; Goldsmith 2000; Séjourné 1966). Some children appear clothed, while others are naked.

The second medium where children are depicted are figurines were they are the primary subject (Figure 5). These children are commonly referred to as the Wide Band or Swaddled Infant (Goldsmith 2000). They are very similar to the adult Wide Band figurines, but with one varying characteristic, the children’s bodies. They are wrapped in a cloth that restricts the arms and feet, but leaving the feet fully exposed. Small children are placed in a basket-like object with a cloth bound around the waist to keep the child in place. The ankles are adorned with anklets and bindings are often seen around the torso of the child (Goldsmith 2000). The headdresses, ear spools, and necklaces vary from figurines to figurine. Additionally, children are depicted in what archaeologists often refer to as cradles (Berrin and Pasztory 1993; Goldsmith 2000).

When evaluating these given medias in which children are exemplified, it begs the notion that children at Teotihuacan are depicted as miniature adults. Seen dressed as adults, with the same type of garb and ornaments as the Teotihuacan adults, children are socialized at an early age what it meant to be a citizen of Teotihuacan. When comparing the data found at Teotihuacan to images of children in the Aztec periods, one can find correlation through this ethnohistoric account. Dressing, suggests Joyce:

…began to impose distinct adult male and female statuses on the newborn, ‘boying’ and ‘girling’ these as-yet unfixed human subjects. The initial act of dressing did not make adults of infants, a task that lasted many years. But it did begin to treat children as social beings of the same kind as adults with whom they shared this manner of dress (2000: 476).
This recursive pattern is also prevalent when examining Teotihuacan figurines. The pattern of adorning children with adult style ornaments is a means of treating the child as a social being within the society, a member of the community. Body modification, such as the piercing of the ears to create ear spools, piercing the lip, or cranial modification are modifications instilled in childhood to create a socially constructed adult within a given society (Joyce 2000). At Teotihuacan, children are seen on figurines with ear spools at a young age, allowing archaeologists to surmise that the piercing of the ears began young, a pattern that is mimicked in Aztec ethnohistoric accounts when discussing these lifecycle rituals impressed upon young children (Joyce 2000).

Goldsmith further proposes that Teotihuacano children may have been placed in the cradles as a means for cranial modification. Cranial modification was a common practice in Mesoamerica, particularly in the Olmec and Maya regions. Since children, especially infants, have malleable craniums due to the lack of plate fusion, it is not surprising that cranial modification took place at infancy (Barbour 1975; Goldsmith 2000; Torres-Rouff and Yablonsky 2005). Then, it is not unexpected for Teotihuacan children to have modified craniums. This is further bolstered by evidence of figurines and murals of adults found at Teotihuacan depicted with cranial modification. Image of children with ear spools and possible cranial modification permits one to surmise the body ornamentation that presumably took place at Teotihuacan, modifications that were enacted as a means for forming a socially constructed adult in this given society. Taken place at a young age due to the malleability of children’s bodies, these body modifications aids in understanding what Teotihuacanos believed were properly socially constructed categories of body modification, exemplifying both beauty and status (Joyce 2000).

Finally, headdresses found on infants at Teotihuacan may be another means for adults to teach children where they belong in their society and how they may become a properly socialized adult, like that in the Aztec period. Both hairstyles and headdresses in Aztec periods structurally signify not only one’s gender, but also socialize the child into adulthood. The variety of headdress and clothing associated with many figurines may represent the rank of individuals or groups of individuals in Teotihuacan society, while exemplifying gender variances through differing headdresses and hairstyles represented on images of males and females. The possible representation of Teotihuacan’s figurines as markers of status may have political and economic implications. According to Conides and Barbour, depictions of children with the same headdresses as their parent not only exemplifies status and gender, but also lineal ties, suggesting that they may depict the possibility of a matrilineal lineage taking place (Conides and Barbour 2002: 426). Headdresses, then, were a medium in which Teotihuacanos could understand in which social status, lineal ties, and gender they belonged. Children’s bodies and ornamentations, seen in the same body modification and adornments as their parents, can be interpreted as raw materials in which adults manipulated to socialize a proper adult (Joyce 2000). The pattern of socializing children that were possibly infants suggests that Teotihuacanos recognized children as social beings at a young age. Children were dressed, adorned, and modified to reflect a socially constructed pattern of a proper Teotihuacano, as miniature adults.

Although it is nearly impossible to discern whether the act of dressing, adorning and modifying infants were reflective of a lifecycle events, when comparing these specific events to lifecycles in the Aztec period, this may indeed be the case. Perhaps the figurines of Teotihuacan children were reflective of important lifecycles that were infused into Teotihuacan’s socially constructed rules of what it meant to be an individual from Teotihuacan, like the Izcalli ritual practiced by the Aztecs. This may be seen in the display of young children with ear spools on Teotihuacan figurines, as discussed above. However, due to the lack of representations of older children and young adults depicted on figurines, this pattern of lifecycle rituals is merely speculative (Cyphers Guillen 1993; Joyce 2000).


What is the socially constructed category of childhood at Teotihuacan? How can figurines offer a glimpse of childhood at Teotihuacan? These are merely a few questions I sought to answer when assessing children’s possible role in production of and their depictions on figurines. When attempting to answer these questions, one must first offer concrete evidence proving children played a role in figurine production. Although it is possible children may have aided in the production of figurines at Teotihuacan, the data is inconclusive. This is further compounded by ethnographic examples offering conflicting evidence. In one case, children played a limited role in figurine production (Goldsmith 1998); however, in another, children were proven seen as active producers of ceramics in present-day societies (Barbour 1975). Indeed, the depictions of children on figurines offered more constructive means for reconstructing Teotihuacan childhood, allowing one to determine dress, ornamentation, body modification, and status of past Teotihuacan children. However, these depictions of children leave additional questions: Are there images of older children and young adults on Teotihuacan figurines? Can these depictions aid in the reconstruction of Teotihuacan lifecycle? These questions may be disregarded unintentionally due to subjective biases in some archaeologist’s interpretation of the figure’s size and the style of the figurine. When evaluating children’s role at Teotihuacan, there is only one apparent conclusion, more research is necessary to give voices to these unheard members of Teotihuacan’s society.


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1 For an in depth analysis of kinship diplomacy in the ancient world, see Jones (1999).

2 Lysias 23.2 refers to Plataeans who have been distributed among the Athenian voting tribes, another indication of their citizen status.

3 For similar grants of limited citizenship and land use rights see Kulesza (1999: 159-160).

4 For the appellation “Chalkidian” in non-Athenian sources see Thuc. 1.57-8, 2.79 etc.; Arist. Politics; Theopompus FGrHist 1, p 327, 286. For the use of “Olynthian” in Athenian sources Xen. Hell. 5.2.11-20, 5.3.1 etc.; Dem. Olynthiacs, Philippics, On the False Embassy, Against Aristocrates, Against Neaera, etc.; Isaeus 5.46.

5 Indigenous is used in the same way as European, Aboriginal, or American and, therefore, should be capitalized as standard in English grammar.

6 The names Eurowesterners have used for centuries rarely coincide with the names Indigenous nations have called themselves. One decolonizing and re-indigenizing strategy proposed by Indigenous scholars and activists is to return to using the traditional names by which the people referred to themselves (Silva 2004, Simpson, 2004, Smith, 1999). For clarity, the first time an Indigenous nation name appears, the English designation will appear parenthetically afterward.

7 The rationale for this paper’s inclusion of extensive quotes is a simple one. It is culturally appropriate to allow people to speak for themselves rather than to assume the authority to speak for them (Memmi 1965, Said 1979, Smith 1999).

8 The Anishnabeg, plural for Anishabe, have been called the Chippewa, Ojibway, and Ojibwa by Eurowesterners.

9 Deloria (1973) asks why it is considered a truthism when Jesus walks on water and an easily dismissible “myth,” “legend,” or “tall tale” when Coyote steals fire for the people?

10 The seven nations that comprise what the Eurowesterners refer to as the Sioux nation are the Oglala, Yankton, Sicangu, Santee, Minneconjou, Sihasapa, and Hunkpapa. These nations have been also called the Seven Bands of the Tetons and the Lakota. These nations, however, are made up of Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota speakers.

0 There is a sense in which one might consider the totality of our thoughts and actions in life as our identity, but that totality may or may not correspond to, or be a manifestation of, the nature and potential of the human being. The true self of an individual may not be realized while always being inherent. For the purposes of this paper, my concern is with specific situations in which we irrational fixate on one or more of those thoughts or actions such that we suffer psychologically as a result.

0 The word ‘entity’ is used in its usual sense as a catch-all for all that exists in the past and present alike: the physical and the non-physical, e.g., people, objects, social constructs, mental phenomena such as thoughts, emotions, memories, etc. I use ‘thing’ or ‘something’ as synonyms.

0 Or as an indication of wrong expectations or misplaced efforts, which requires a personal introspective awareness. Whatever the (true) reasons for disappointment (or other emotion we may find ourselves reacting excessively toward), we must be aware of it.

0 Understanding whether a particular feeling is rationally justified or whether it is the result of neuroses or other irrational conditions is important. Why do we feel or think the way we do in a given situation? Is that feeling or thought legitimate? Understanding (a) our past, (b) our interpersonal and socio-economic environment and (c) the positive or negative forces therein that can influence our way of thinking and subsequent behaviors. We are to act (rationally) with our emotions (not excluding or eliminating them), not re-act irrationally. In this sense how we handle ourselves, our inner life, is a scientific endeavor: understanding the given, analyzing the causes, and coming to a reasoned conclusion on how to proceed.

0 Examples of psychological suffering include: self-doubt, depression, self-deprecating thoughts, identity crises, obsessive thoughts, etc.

0 For example, those situations where we irrationally think our human identity or soul is linked to, determined by, or perhaps tainted by various mind-external or mind-dependent entities.

0 A pattern which may have a neuronal analog. In saying this, I am not reducing our mental life to the bio-physical basis that likely affords the mental life, but simply communicating that our thinking and behavioral patterns influence that physical basis. Further, we are often capable of reversing and changing those patterns (neuronal, mental, or behavioral). It is an open question as to whether this change is possible in all situations, regardless of life experiences, however.

0 Despair would be a negative emotion, one that prevents us from thinking and acting rationally.

0 A wrong representation of the self is, roughly, any representation of the self that does not correspond to or denote the self, but rather denotes something else entirely.

0 When the mind is free of neuroses the “image of oneself” as a human being is different. It is a true image in accordance with reality and reason. What we call the “ego” is not the true self, but rather a socially-influenced psychological entity that intrudes on the normal human mind.

0 Conditions common, but not necessary to, to many societies.

0 Very briefly, the psychological tactics involve: calming the body and mind; observation of one’s thoughts and emotions with (rational) detachment; awareness and acknowledgement of the impermanence of reality (particularly those very thoughts and emotions as they flow through the stream of your consciousness); a conscious and willful commitment to non-attachment, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones; and applying positive thinking to our behavior toward others (and ourselves) such that we recognize (a) that suffering is not unique to ourselves and (b) we can endeavor to help others alleviate their suffering. These activities necessarily require

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