Alan K. Outram
Jeffrey T. Rasic
A wide variety of materials, including lithics, manufactured goods, and food circulated within and between communities in the North American Arctic, including fish and sea-mammal oil, dried meat and fish, skins and furs, walrus ivory, and wood, as well as nephrite jade, soapstone, chert, obsidian, slate, graphite, pyrite, galena, jet, lignite coal, amber, quartz crystal, and hematite. This review considers only the inorganic materials. To establish provenance, Arctic researchers employ standard methods including trace-element characterization, geochemistry, petrography, stable isotope values, visual appearance, and geochronology. The geographic coverage extends across the North American Arctic from western Alaska to Labrador, considering each material’s precontact uses, geological source locations, and distribution patterns in time and space, concluding with the prospects and status of provenance studies.
Eivind Heldaas Seland
This chapter reviews the evidence, nature, and development of maritime contacts in the Red Sea and from the Red Sea into the western Indian Ocean from the Neolithic until the start of the Islamic period, c. 4000 BCE–700 CE. In addition to summarizing and highlighting recent archaeological research and ongoing scholarly debates, emphasis is placed on identifying and explaining periods of intensified as well as reduced interaction, and on the relationship between internal Red Sea dynamics and contacts with the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean worlds in light of climate, natural environment, hinterland interest, and a changing geopolitical situation.
Geoffrey McCafferty and Sharisse McCafferty
Woven textiles were highly prized commodities in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, to the extent that they were commonly used as tribute items and even as a standard of value in commercial exchange. This article discusses ways that textile production has been approached archaeologically in terms of both its function and cultural meanings. Textile production was important both functionally and symbolically. Major female deities from throughout Mesoamerica were closely associated with this important aspect of domestic production, which was also linked metaphorically with sexual reproduction. Textile symbolism in Mixtec codices were also used to denote architectural and natural spaces, as a metaphor for the acculturation of the landscape.
Emily McClung de Tapia and Diana Martínez Yrizar
This chapter provides a brief discussion of the main themes relevant to historical ecology and how it differs from cultural ecology as used in Mesoamerican archaeology. A historical ecological perspective is appropriate for the study of Aztec landscape modification during the sixteenth century in the Basin of Mexico because of its inherent focus on the dialectical relationship between human populations and their environments. The Aztec landscape was viewed as a sacred entity and intensive exploitation was mediated by complex rituals within the indigenous worldview. Chinampas are discussed as an example of a highly intensive agroecological system within the sacred prehispanic landscape that has persisted until the present, although in the modern urban environment its preservation is fraught with risks and conflicting interests.
Aztec Agricultural Strategies: Intensification, Landesque Capital, and the Sociopolitics of Production
The Aztec Empire was built on an agricultural base. However, the relationships between agriculturalists and the state and the characteristics of farming systems were not monolithic. Agricultural landscapes involved strategies in which farmers responded to demographic growth, ecological conditions, and political economy. Highlighting the processes of intensification and landesque capital, this chapter discusses how farmers cultivated a diverse assemblage of crops by responding to the ecological constraints of soil, slope, and water. These included terrace systems, irrigation systems, and raised fields. These strategies and investments were connected to the structure of the empire. Agriculturalists paid tribute to local lords and imperial officials, and farmer-merchants traded their products in market places. This relationship between production and political economy, however, was mediated by complex and nested systems of tenure that guided patterns of usufruct, labor obligations, and conveyance.
Aztec artisans produced a spectacular, sophisticated, and technically versatile metallurgy. Although they had integrated certain materials and techniques from contemporaneous and earlier Mesoamerican societies, Aztec artisans created astonishing and original gold and copper-gold castings for public display—particularly of flora and fauna from the natural and supernatural worlds. They placed these castings in their pleasure parks. They also cast hundreds of bells from tin and arsenic bronze and other copper-based alloys for dedicatory offerings at the Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan. The ore sources (copper, gold, tin, lead) lay outside of the Basin of Mexico but within Aztec tribute provinces; the metal itself was worked or cast in Tenochtitlan workshops.
David M. Carballo and Alejandro Pastrana
Obsidian was the primary lithic or stone material used for cutting activities in Aztec society, including domestic food production, craft production, hunting, warfare, and ritual. The demands of millions of consumers within and outside of the Aztec Empire shaped a diversity of industries and distribution networks that operated through merchants, markets, and state taxes in goods and labor. This chapter provides an overview of the primary obsidian sources, quarry activities, artifact types, use contexts, and innovations in lithic technology during the Aztec (Middle and Late Postclassic) period. A particular focus is the Sierra de Las Navajas (or Pachuca) mine and the detailed history of quarrying and manufacturing activities that have been documented there.
Frances F. Berdan
This article discusses central Mexican tribute systems. Tribute in central Mexican prehistory consisted of one-way movements of goods and labor from conquered polities to their conquerors. Military conquests were frequent, especially during the Postclassic period, and repeated aggressive excursions often resulted in conquest states or, more extensively, in empires. A common goal of conquest was control over economic resources and production, and this goal was achieved through the imposition of tribute demands on conquered peoples. Tribute payments consisted of both raw materials and manufactured goods, with an emphasis on manufactured items. Conquerors demanded materials and items that were readily available to the conquered people. As the empire expanded geographically, more and more luxuries were demanded in tribute.
This chapter presents an overview of the chaîne opératoire approach and recalls its relevance as a social and transmission signal. It describes the main components of the ceramic chaînes opératoires and the principles for identifying them on the archaeological material through diagnostic attributes including both surface features and microfabrics. Next, it takes a forward look at the classification of ceramic assemblages according to the chaîne opératoire approach in order to unravel the sociological complexity behind their variability. Finally, this chapter highlights the heuristic character of the chaîne opératoire approach when studying, on the synchronic axis, the techno-economic systems, and on the diachronic axis, changes in technical traditions considered as the expression of culture histories and the factors affecting them.