To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
George L. Cowgill had a major influence on the study of the ancient city of Teotihuacan and the development and promotion of quantitative methods in archaeology. His wit, teaching, and research influenced many in the profession. We draw on two published autobiographical works (Cowgill 2008a, 2013a), some unpublished autobiographical notes (Cowgill 1983), his many publications, and our own associations with George.
The ballgame, played in an open-air public facility, was an integral institution for most major Mesoamerican centers. Although its social roles likely included political and social mediation among polities or communities, who could witness a game? Our estimates of the numbers of viewers derive from lines of sight toward the playing alley from nearby construction and plazas or other open ground. Focusing on centers in south-central and southern Veracruz, Mexico, we assess court viewership relative to people accommodated in the main plaza to determine the degree to which prime ballgame viewership was restricted. Ratios of prime viewers to plaza capacities for primary and secondary centers show that relative limitations in viewership did not covary consistently with the settlement hierarchy. We show that viewership was markedly curtailed compared to public assembly space in plazas and likely favored the upper echelons of society.
Elaborate urban gardens and parks played key roles in social competition, imperial and primordial symbolism, and public amenity access. Comparative data from 19 societies or cultural traditions indicate the varied content, activities, and contexts of elaborate (and sometimes ordinary) urban gardens and parks in pre-modern states and empires. Despite sparse economic characterizations, investments in them often represented a horizontal grandeur rivalling palatial and monumental construction. Investments in and access to urban parks and gardens are intimately related to the political economy and governance.
As archaeologists, we seek to understand variation and change in past human societies. This goal necessitates a comparative approach, and comparisons justify the broad cross-cultural and diachronic scope of our work. Without comparisons we sink into the culture-bound theorizing against which anthropology and archaeology have long sought to broaden social science research. By undertaking comparisons that incorporate long-term social variability, archaeologists not only improve our understanding of the past, but also open the door to meaningful transdisciplinary research. Archaeologists have unique and comprehensive data sets whose analysis can contribute to dialogues surrounding contemporary issues and the myriad challenges of our era.
In the past two decades, the pendulum seems to have swung away from comparative research in archaeology. Many archaeologists focus on detailed contextual descriptions of individual cases, and only a few have dedicated themselves to explicit comparative work. Yet in that same time span, fieldwork has expanded tremendously throughout the world, leading to an explosion of well-documented diachronic data on sites and regions. We now have substantial detail on the variation inherent in phenomena such as cultural assemblages, settlement patterns, and economic activity. New methods, from dating techniques to digital data processing, promote comparative analysis and greatly advance our understanding of human societies and change. The time is ripe for a renewed commitment to comparative research in archaeology.
Empires, with their varied histories and characteristics, have been subjected to considerable scholarly scrutiny to detect recurrent imperial problems and their attempted solutions. Not so the provinces. Provincial people also face new challenges and opportunities in empires, but they have seldom been accorded the same degree of comparative study. This chapter is one way station in that effort.
In the intensive versus systematic spectrum of comparative approaches noted by Smith and Peregrine (Chapter 2), our effort began intensively for Stark in an attempt to understand archaeological data in an Aztec province (Skoglund et al. 2006). Four Aztec provincials’ strategies were identified that accounted for those data. Subsequently, our collaboration addressed Aztec provincials’ strategies more widely (data from other provinces) and, importantly, compared them with those in Colonial New Spain, Chance’s specialty. This widened perspective gave us two imperial cases, and we identified five additional strategies (Chance and Stark 2007). Clearly the expansion of the comparative base was crucial for understanding the range of provincials’ strategies.
Urban settlement in the western lower Papaloapan River basin in the Gulf lowlands was dispersed and likely employed intensive gardening near domiciles. Land surrounding homes also may have played a symbolic role in these agrarian societies. Water works—formal ponds associated with temple platforms and other prominent structures as well as with many residential mounds—support the idea of symbolic as well as practical functions in land use around buildings. Dispersed occupation occurs in low elevations suited to recessional planting, a technique that takes advantage of dry season ground moisture in low areas where rain and flood waters recede as the water table drops. We analyze elevational zones to show greater settlement density in the low-lying Blanco River delta than in higher elevations upriver. Analysis of distances between archaeological residences and wetlands and drainages shows that residences generally were close to seasonally flooded areas. We also highlight anthropogenic qualities in the alluvial landscape, offering a land use perspective distinct from other views of agricultural intensification. The settlement pattern is compatible with Mesoamerican forms of urbanism.
Both long-distance and localized chemical relationships in pottery and their implications for studies of Gulf lowland exchange can be examined with instrumental neutron activation. New pottery samples from Classic period (A.D. 300-900) contexts in the western lower Papaloapan basin were subjected to chemical compositional analysis. The sample represents three groups, coarse utility jars, common orange slipped serving bowls, and fine paste, higher-value white slipped serving bowls. At an intraregional scale, four localities in the western basin were sampled, but not all proved to be compositionally distinct. A mangrove zone pottery group contrasts compositionally with groups from riverine farmlands to the west. At a larger interregional scale, pottery from neighboring geomorphological areas as well as distant alluvial systems up and down the Gulf lowlands yielded chemically distinct groups. Considerable intraregional trade is suggested, but little is evident at the interregional scale. The interregional analysis is the first integrated overview of Gulf lowland ceramic chemical compositions, and the intraregional analysis begins assessment of Classic period pottery production and exchange within the western lower Papaloapan basin. Methodologically, we use sand sources in the region to determine if differences in tempering of pastes are likely to account for differences in compositional groups.
We use a provincial perspective combined with compositional and stylistic data and historic accounts to propose three provincial strategies for imperial interactions—bolstering, resistance, and emulation—and note a fourth, exodus. A sample of three Late Postclassic period (A.D. 1350–1521) pottery types differs in chemical composition between two localities in south-central Veracruz, Mexico. Sherds from the Aztec provincial capital of Cuetlaxtlan along the lower Cotaxtla River are compared to those from the Lower Blanco River where Callejón del Horno is located. The composition of stamped-base bowls, Texcoco Molded censers, and Aztec III-style Black-on-orange bowls is distinct in samples from the two localities, with only scant evidence of exchange. A few vessels of Aztec III Black-on-orange were imported from the Basin of Mexico to Cuetlaxtlan. The stylistic characteristics on Aztec III-style Black-on-orange vessels do not distinguish the two Veracruz localities, but there are differences between them and illustrated vessels from the Basin of Mexico. The Cuetlaxtlan province was subject to unusual imperial investments, which may account partly for the emulation of imperial styles. Despite documentary evidence of rebellions, another factor was local decisions to use a prestigious exogenous style.
A recent study of Early Formative Mesoamerican pottery by instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) yielded surprising results that prompted two critiques in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The INAA study indicated that the Olmec center of San Lorenzo was a major exporter of carved-incised and white pottery and that little if any pottery made elsewhere was consumed at San Lorenzo. The critiques purport to "overturn" the INAA study and demonstrate a more balanced exchange of pottery among Early Formative centers. However, the critiques rely on a series of mistaken claims and misunderstandings that are addressed here. New petrographic data on a small sample of Early Formative pottery (Stoltman et al. 2005) are potentially useful, but they do not overturn INAA of nearly 1000 pottery samples and hundreds of raw material samples.
Survey-based analyses have used varied criteria to detect locations of pottery production in the Gulf lowlands of south-central and southern Veracruz, Mexico. A common practice uses double criteria: high frequencies or high densities of particular kinds of pottery in conjunction with highly reliable indicators, such as kiln fragments. Reliable indicators are relatively scarce, however, and subject to sampling error. Two previous analytical approaches each present problems with respect to threshold values for applying the density and frequency criteria, and a more standard set of procedures is suggested. An alternative criterion using spatial clustering helps reduce susceptibility to sampling error from infrequent finds such as deformed wasters or kiln fragments. In a case study, two newly detected locations of possible pottery production result from application of the alternative double criteria. With incorporation of these new data, changes in Gulf lowland pottery production over time are compatible with a growing role for specialization and marketing, especially from the Late Classic to the Late Postclassic periods. The examination and application of criteria for identifying possible locations of pottery production are important for harnessing the potential of systematic survey and surface collection for studies of economic change.
We explore social and imperial relations in the western lower Papaloapan Basin, especially along the lower Blanco River, using statistical analyses of ceramic rims from recent surveys. This region is sandwiched between two known tributary provincial centers of the Aztec empire, but its relationship to the empire is uncertain in colonial documentary materials. Our analyses illuminate changes in social relations from the Middle (A. D. 1150–1350) to Late Postclassic (A. D. 1350–1520) periods and shed light on the impact of Aztec imperialism. We use a ceramic unmixing procedure to assign collections to the Middle and Late Postclassic periods for assessment of settlement patterns. Next we use cluster analyses to examine vertical wealth and status differentiation. In the Middle Postclassic period, we observe a concentric gradation of wealth and status away from the small center of El Sauce. Late Postclassic changes include the decline of El Sauce and the founding of a new center at Callejón del Horno. The concentric model does not apply to the Late Postclassic period, however, and wealth and status became more highly concentrated at Callejón del Horno compared to its hinterland. We also investigate sparse collections-those with few Postclassic rims-to evaluate whether these collections represent poor residences or, rather, sherd scatter from possible field manuring. The lower Blanco region was likely integrated into the Aztec empire on the basis of changes in vertical social differentiation from Middle to Late Postclassic times and percentages of Aztec-style ceramics compared to known Aztec provincial centers, especially Cotaxtla.
We examine the ways that textile production, exchange, and consumption were integrated into the political economy of the Gulf lowlands, Mexico, over the course of two millennia. Archaeological, botanical, and historical data concerning cotton textile production reveal that changes in the industry resulted from alterations in the cotton plant, shifts in the local political economy, and changes in the relationship of the Gulf lowlands to other key regions of Mesoamerica. Initially, textiles did not figure prominently in social displays, and there is little archaeological evidence for spinning of cotton thread. Subsequently, textile production may have been stimulated by elite substitution of locally crafted items for increasingly scarce exotic imports toward the end of Olmec times in the Preclassic period. The political and cultural stature of the Gulf lowlands increased during the Classic period in conjunction with a greater emphasis on cotton processing and use of textiles. During the Postclassic period, ruralization of once-key localities and possible conversion of the western lower Papaloapan Basin to a tributary status correlated with changes in the attributes of whorls and in representations of textiles.
We examine ceramic and settlement-pattern changes in the Mixtequilla, Veracruz, during the Preclassic and Classic periods with special attention to the periods corresponding to the rise and decline of Teotihuacan. Data for the study derive from full-coverage survey of 40 square kilometers accompanied by systematic surface collections. Collections are analyzed using a suite of multivariate techniques to study changes in pottery that, in turn, provide a basis for the study of shifts in settlement patterns. Local developments and extralocal relationships are discussed with regard to political and economic spheres. Strong continuity through time is indicated for the region, without major disruptions. Teotihuacan influence is manifest more in stylistic domains than in imported items. Although an episode of indirect administration cannot be ruled out, social emulative relationships are more likely than administrative ones. Alternatives to commercial relations are noted.