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Idols in Sixteenth Century Mexico

Nancy Farriss
Department of History, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract:

The category of idol (ídolo), as depicted in the Spanish missionary literature of the 16th and 17th centuries, is far more ample than our usual definition. In addition to three-dimensional images of clay, wood, or stone, the term "idol" was applied to such diverse objects as bones, stalactites, and live parrots. I have three questions, for a start: -- What were the criteria for inclusion in this category? -- How closely do they reflect contemporary indigenous conceptions? -- How much can the available material and textual sources actually tell us about these conceptions? Any help in answering these questions, and in formulating a better set, would be most welcome.


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