Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2008
In Central Mexico (Map 11.1) the period between the fall of Tula (c. a.d. 1150) and the conquest of Tenochtitlán by the Spaniards (a.d. 1521) is one of complex, dynamic, and rapid cultural evolution. All cultures in the area were at a state level of development; each represented a regional variant of a civilization with many shared common features (cf. Renfrew 1975:17, 1986:2). The major defining characteristics of the period include the breakup of the Tula macroregional state system that had incorporated and controlled much of Central Mexico, and the devolution of the Toltec political and economic structure into small and separate city-state units (see Map 11.3). This devolution was followed by the emergence of the third and final prehistoric macroregional state system, that of the Aztecs. In many respects the events of the period mirror those of the Early Toltec or Epi-Teotihuacán period (a.d. 650/750—900/950). Characteristic of that time, following the end of Teotihuacán, the first macroregional state of Central Mexico, but before the rise of Tula, there were population movements and the establishment of small independent sociopolitical units (Diehl and Berlo 1989:3–4; Marcus 1989) (Map 11.2). The sociopolitical units formed in the epi-Teotihuacán period were probably structurally and functionally equivalent to the city-states encountered by the Spaniards in Central Mexico in a.d. 1519 (Bray 1972).
The epi-Teotihuacán period ended with the rise of Tula as the first new major post-Teotihuacán state system in Central Mexico. Tula picked up the mantle of Teotihuacán, integrated much of Central Mexico, and influenced distant areas of Mesoamerica such as Yucatan (Charlton 1973a, 1975, 1978; Parsons, and Santley 1979:129–49; Diehl 1981, 1983, 1993; Healan 1989a; Willey 1991; Marcus 1992a:398–99; Blanton et al. 1993:138– 42, 1996:10; Charlton and Nichols 1995).