Marjorie S. Venit
Distinguished in the first century
This essay assesses the body of archaeological research connected to the New Kingdom settlement site of Amarna (ancient Akhetaten), the short-lived capital of Egypt founded by king Akhenaten around 1347 BC as the cult centre for the solar god the Aten. Amarna, by far the largest exposure of pharaonic settlement to survive from Egypt, is unsurpassed as a case site for the study of ancient Egyptian urbanism and daily life. This essay provides an overview of the ancient city, evaluates past and ongoing excavations at the site, and summarizes the archaeological discourse on the city as a physical, functioning and experienced space.
Christopher F. Altes
Geographic information systems (GISs) are a broad category of spatial technologies for gathering, analyzing, and creating data. Such systems provide a means of managing, archiving, and analyzing a wide range of data. This article reviews the three functions of GISs in archaeology, with an eye toward Caribbean landscapes. These functions can generally be described in terms of recording, gathering, and archiving information; processing basic statistical information; and generating new data. In practice, archaeological applications of GISs tend to fall into two categories. The first relates solely to collecting and archiving geospatial data. This application of GISs creates datasets for management and future research. The second applies tools found in GIS platforms for analysis and the creation of new data.
The Guatemala highlands is an area of contrasting climate, topography, and agricultural potential. High basins and fertile valleys are situated among a series of mountain ranges from the Pacific Coastal volcanic chains to the massive uplifts to the northeast, offering several advantages that facilitate human settlement. The Central Highlands are home to important natural routes, including the Motagua River, which drains into the Atlantic Ocean and separates a series of these mountain ranges crisscrossing Guatemala from east to west. To the north, tributaries of the Chixoy River irrigate the Central Highlands. This article focuses on the Central Highlands, and in particular on the primary site of Kaminaljuyú, which can be used as a proxy to understand better developments throughout the region.
Larry Gorenflo and Christopher P. Garraty
Focusing primarily on archaeological data from systematic regional surveys, this chapter examines settlement patterns in the Basin of Mexico during the Late Aztec period (A.D. 1350–1520) and occupations immediately preceding it (Late Toltec and Early Aztec, A,D, 950–1350). The chapter also discusses the Aztec ceramic sequence and issues for dating sites. The broad geographic arrangement of settlement and site types placed people throughout much of the region, in proximity to a wide range of resources, in a manner that contrasts with preceding occupations. The Late Aztec settlement system provided the foundation for an integrated regional economy that successfully supported large numbers of nonfood producers, particularly those residing in administrative centers scattered throughout the Basin.
Michael E. Smith
The predominant urban form in Aztec central Mexico was the capital of an altepetl; however, this chapter focuses on these cities and not on Tenochtitlan. Several such cities survive today as archaeological zones open to the public. They have a standard suite of civic architecture: single-temple and double-temple pyramids, circular temples, ballcourts, royal palaces, and small altars. Aztec cities influenced or dominated their hinterlands in the realms of politics, religion, and economics. In the realm of commoner life, however—households and neighborhoods—cities differed little from rural settings. Domestic activities and social conditions were remarkably similar in the two contexts.
Richard E. Blanton
Cities became an important and endurable characteristic of Mesoamerican civilization after 500
Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the Mexica capital, underwent a series of changes during and after the Conquest of 1521. These changes were both demographic and material, and they are the result of the political, social, and economic strategies of different groups, as well as patterns of health, migration, and socialization. The transformation of the city, as much as the factors that caused it, defy any attempt to explain the process as either imposition or domination by the colonizers or simply the result of indigenous resistance or cooperation. Historical sources and archaeological data provide evidence of patterns of destruction, reconstruction, appropriation, and continuity in the use of spaces and changes in daily life in the city. This chapter summarizes current knowledge of these patterns in the center of Mexico City.
Marcello A. Canuto and Jason Yaeger
This article reviews research showing the importance of an archaeology of communities for Mesoamerica. Methodologically, the community is situated between the scales of household and polity, which permits researchers to have new insights into the broader social and political dynamics through which these other social institutions were constituted and changed over time. As a paradigm, this approach treats communities as emergent social institutions in which local identities were constituted as a consequence of shared quotidian and extraordinary practices. Because they often were important nodes within regional political and economic structures, communities also become the key arenas for the negotiation of relationships and affiliations that linked its members with other social groups, institutions, and networks.
Complex Societies in the Southern Maya Lowlands: Their Development and Florescence in the Archaeological Record
Arlen F. Chase and Diane Z. Chase
This article reviews archaeological evidence on the development of Maya civilization in the southern lowlands. The evolution of sociopolitical complexity in the southern Maya lowlands is much discussed but as yet is incompletely resolved. Considerations are hampered by the fact that most early archaeological materials lie deeply buried beneath later human construction activity, making it difficult to locate remains that are directly relevant to questions bearing on the rise of complexity. Even should such remains be located, the overlying constructions usually make a real exposure of the earlier materials difficult. Nevertheless, sufficient evidence exists to posit a trajectory of complexity developing from Preclassic villages to Early Classic states to Late Classic attempts at creating hegemonic empires.