Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales and Eduardo Corona-M.
Interest in the first hunter-gatherer populations of Mexico has increased in the last fifteen years. Exploration of the Late Pleistocene localities involved in the early peopling of Mexico, including the discovery of new ones and reanalysis of known ones, and the application of new methods and techniques (e.g. AMS radiocarbon dating, stable isotopes, scanning electron microscopy, palaeobotanical analysis) have increased. Archaeozoology has contributed to this expansion by increasing the record of terrestrial vertebrates, improving understanding of the record and delimitation of distributional ranges of extinct species. There is now more information on the type of diet of some extinct herbivores and hypotheses about the status of local palaeoenvironments have been provided. Questions remain about the interactions between human migrations and the environments, specifically the degree of influence that humans had in the extinction of mega- and mesofaunas, and the diversity of subsistence strategies employed by hunter-gatherers in the Late Pleistocene.
Vernon L. Scarborough
Agricultural intensification is the process whereby land-use activity is heightened through an increase in production on a plot. Production can be stimulated by an increase in the amount or kind of labor invested, the incorporation of crops that yield more food or fiber, or the use of a novel technology. In Mesoamerica, few “technological breakthroughs” precipitated change, rather the developmental trajectory for intensification was based on labor allocation and slow advances in the amount of food potentially harvested by an evolving process of plant domestication—principally maize. This article discusses agricultural intensification in West Mexico, Central Highland Mexico, the Valley of Oaxaca, and the Maya lowlands.
Eduardo Matos Moctezuma
This chapter discusses the Mexica monumental sculptures uncovered in downtown Mexico City during the late eighteenth century, including the Coatlicue and Tlaltecuhtli sculptures, and the Sun Stone. Other important Mexica archaeological ruins of Tenochtitlan were unearthed during the nineteenth century. The discovery of a stone sculpture of the goddess Coyolxauhqui at base of the Templo Mayor in 1978 led to the excavation of the structure as part of the Proyecto Templo Mayor (Templo Mayor Project). This project has collected data on more than 40 Mexica structures in the heart of Mexico City, including numerous offerings and other important information regarding Aztec history. Some significant findings in recent years include the discovery of several important structures, including the cuauhxicalco, ballcourt, and tzompantli The recent discovery of a stone sculpture of the earth goddess Tlaltecuhtli has also provided essential data, particularly in terms of the offerings found beneath and around the sculpture.
Shoshaunna Parks and Patricia A. McAnany
This article examines the present relationship between indigenous people and archaeology in Mesoamerica, with an emphasis on the Maya region. It provides a brief analysis of the historical and political conditions that have contributed to the disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples from the ancient past. It also looks at recent interactions among stakeholders in the investigation, interpretation, and management of Mesoamerican archaeological heritage.
Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos
The historiography of archaeology in Guatemala is still in its infancy. Accounts of Maya archaeology are mostly concerned with the development of ideas in North America and Europe, where strong traditions of Maya research developed since the nineteenth century. Few authors delve into the sociopolitical events that have conditioned the work of foreign scholars in the country, their interaction with Guatemalan students, and the intellectual currents that have influenced the latter. Guatemalan archaeology has also been overlooked in general surveys of Latin American archaeology. This article describes selected stages in the history of Guatemalan archaeology, based on previous overviews.
Jaime J. Awe
Located on the southeastern corner of the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize is the second smallest country in Central America. In spite of its size, however, the country has an incredibly rich and diverse cultural heritage that includes the remains of pioneering preceramic cultures, numerous prehistoric cities that reflect the grandeur of Maya civilization, the ruins of several “Visita” churches that represent the failed efforts of sixteenth-century Spanish entradas , and various historic sites of the British colonial period. This article provides a brief history of the management of archaeological resources in Belize, a summary of archaeological investigations during the last two hundred years, and the present direction of archaeological research in the country.
Rosemary A. Joyce
Greg Borgstede and Eugenia Robinson
This article reviews archaeological evidence of the Late Postclassic period in the Maya highlands. The Maya highlands contain a diverse and complex geography, a diversity that is represented in the material record. While archaeological and ethnohistoric evidence from the central Guatemalan highlands has long dominated discussion of the Late Postclassic period, research has shown that developments outside of this subregion were extremely variable and localized. A focus on the Quiché and Kaqchikel states has resulted in an important and rich body of evidence that has undeniable importance to Maya and Mesoamerica studies, as well as modern Maya peoples.
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.
Geoffrey McCafferty, Fabio Esteban Amador, Silvia Salgado González, and Carrie Dennett
The southern frontier of Mesoamerica has fluctuated through time but has generally included portions of the Central American countries of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Tied into this liminal status, the history of archaeological research and the development of archaeological institutions in these countries have varied, sometimes emphasizing “Mesoamerican-ness” and sometimes highlighting independent development. This article discusses the history of archaeological practice in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. It then presents a brief overview of the culture history of the region with particular emphasis on relations with Mesoamerican cultures.