Located in the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley, in the central Mexican highlands, Cholula became an important city in Mesoamerica during the Late Postclassic period (1200–1521). It is known for its beautiful polychrome ceramics, particularly dishes, bowls (with and without supports) and vases. They show a clear influence from the Mixteca (modern states of Oaxaca and Puebla) and the Gulf Coast regions. This ceramic style is referred to as Mixteco-Puebla, a term also applied to a set of religious symbols shared throughout Mesoamerica during the Postclassic, and to the ‘Mixtec Codex style’, a narrative style found in codices, murals, and ceramics in the Mixteca-Puebla region.
A wide range of motifs are painted on Cholula polychrome pottery, many of which were shared by other Mesoamerican cultures during the Postclassic. These include: geometric designs, including grecas or stepped-fret motifs (xicalcoliuhqui); elements related to the feathered serpent; calendrical signs; representations of human figures and deities; elements related to sacrifice, such as severed hands, hearts, and sacrificial knives; skulls and crossed bones; shells, and many other symbols.
Polychrome vessels were intended for use by the élite and were traded widely. The Aztecs, for example, were great consumers of Cholula wares and the decorative techniques were sometimes used in conjunction with Aztec iconography.
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