Twin City Tales addresses an old problem in Mesoamerican studies: the relationship between Chichen Itza and Tula. Though separated by 800 miles and belonging to different cultural traditions, architectural and artistic similarities between the two cities have invited every generation of scholars to offer their own theories on the connection. Early on, scholars decided that Toltec warriors from Tula invaded Chichen Itza and took it by force, bringing with them their art and design styles. However, this interpretation seemed based upon an overdramatization of the data and remained suspect to many. Recent advances in understanding Mesoamerican history compelled Lindsay Jones to reevaluate the nagging problem. Jones, associate professor in the Division of Comparative Studies in the Humanities at Ohio State University, spent over ten years surveying the evidence and exploring Mexican ruins. The end result of his academic journey of discovery is the comprehensive and exhaustively researched Twin City Tales.
The 482-page book is in a large 9" x 12" format, contains notes after each of the four chapters, and is illustrated with dozens of nice black and white photos and drawings. Jones' study serves as a long awaited sourcebook on an old debate, and convincingly argues for a revised interpretation of an episode in Mesoamerican history that has been misunderstood for decades. Utilizing a specific methodology (hermeneutics - the art and science of interpretation), Jones focuses on the unresolved problem of similitude between Tula and Chichen Itza from the perspective of the history of religions. Despite the complex looking Table of Contents, the text is prosaic and engaging, if at times a little obscure. He factors all the pertinent studies into his reevalution, and finally lays to rest the outmoded vision of Toltec warriors conquering Chichen Itza. His conclusion, based upon his well documented and lengthy analysis of a broad spectrum of the literature on the topic, is that the Tula-Chichen connection involved a process-oriented unification of the two traditions rather than a drama-inspired scenario of violent conquest. Chichen Itza was thus a place of Mesoamerican synthesis, a unification of two different social and cosmological modes much like the Greco-Roman merger in the Old World.
In the impressive and definitive Twin City Tales, Lindsay Jones establishes a revised history of the Yucatec Maya that all future books on the topic must acknowledge.
Reviewed by John Major Jenkins