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Exchange Systems in Late Postclassic Mesoamerica: Comparing Open and Restricted Markets at Tlaxcallan, Mexico, and Santa Rita Corozal, Belize

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2020

Marc D. Marino
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, 330 Old Main, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR72704, USA
Lane F. Fargher*
Affiliation:
Departamento de Ecologı́a Humana, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del IPN–Unidad Mérida, km 6 antigua carretera a Progreso, Col. Cordemex, Mérida, YUC, C.P. 97310, Mexico
Nathan J. Meissner
Affiliation:
Centre College, Crounse Hall 470, 600 West Walnut St., Danville, KY40422, USA
Lucas R. Martindale Johnson
Affiliation:
Far Western Archaeological Research Group Inc., 1180 Center Point Drive, Suite 100, Henderson, NE89074, USA
Richard E. Blanton
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Purdue University, Stone Hall, 700 W. State Street, W. Lafayette, IN47907, USA
Verenice Y. Heredia Espinoza
Affiliation:
Centro de Estudios Arqueológicos, El Colegio de Michoacán, A.C., Cerro de Nahuatzen, 85, Frac. Jardines del Cerro Grande, 59379, La Piedad, Michoacán, Mexico
*
(frederick.fargher@cinvestav.mx, corresponding author)

Abstract

In premodern economic systems where the social embedding of exchange provided actors with the ability to control or monopolize trade, including the goods that enter and leave a marketplace, “restricted markets” formed. These markets produced external revenues that could be used to achieve political goals. Conversely, commercialized systems required investment in public goods that incentivize the development of market cooperation and “open markets,” where buyers and sellers from across social sectors and diverse communities could engage in exchange as economic equals within marketplaces. In this article, we compare market development at the Late Postclassic sites of Chetumal, Belize, and Tlaxcallan, Mexico. We identified a restricted market at Chetumal, using the distribution of exotic goods, particularly militarily and ritually charged obsidian projectile points; in contrast, an open market was built at Tlaxcallan. Collective action theory provides a useful framework to understand these differences in market development. We argue that Tlaxcaltecan political architects adopted more collective strategies, in which open markets figured, to encourage cooperation among an ethnically diverse population.

En los sistemas económicos premodernos donde la inserción social del intercambio proporcionó a los agentes la capacidad de controlar o monopolizar el intercambio, incluyendo los bienes que entraron y salieron del mercado, se desarrollaron “mercados restringidos”. Estos mercados produjeron ingresos externos que fueron utilizados para alcanzar metas políticas. En contraste, los sistemas comercializados requirieron de la inversión en bienes públicos que incentivaron el desarrollo de la cooperación mercantil y “mercados abiertos”, donde los vendedores y compradores de diversas comunidades y sectores sociales participaron en el intercambio como pares dentro del mercado. En este artículo, se compara el desarrollo del mercado en dos sitios del posclásico tardío: Chetumal en Belice y Tlaxcallan en el altiplano central de México. En Chetumal, se identificó un mercado restringido, basado en la distribución de bienes exóticos, particularmente puntas de obsidiana que simbolizan una carga militar y ritual; mientras que en Tlaxcallan se construyó un mercado abierto. La teoría de acción colectiva proporciona el marco para entender las diferencias en el desarrollo de estos dos mercados. Se plantea que los arquitectos políticos tlaxcaltecas implementaron estrategias más colectivas, en las cuales los mercados abiertos fueron importantes para enfatizar la cooperación de una población étnicamente diversa.

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Article
Copyright
Copyright © 2020 by the Society for American Archaeology

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Exchange Systems in Late Postclassic Mesoamerica: Comparing Open and Restricted Markets at Tlaxcallan, Mexico, and Santa Rita Corozal, Belize
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