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.
Cultural Evolution in the Southern Highlands of Mexico: From the Emergence of Social Inequality and Urban Society to the Decline of Classic-Period States
Oaxaca formed the core of a distinct zone within Mesoamerica often called the southern highlands. Covering some 2,000 square kilometers, the Oaxaca Valley is the geographic center of and largest open area in the southern highlands. At the valley's center sits Monte Albán, one of Mesoamerica's earliest urban settlements. North and west of the Oaxaca Valley lies the Mixteca Alta, a region dotted with numerous small valleys that measure in the low hundreds of square kilometers. A third region of importance is Lower Río Verde. The Río Verde River valley on the Pacific Coast is created by the confluence of the Verde and Atoyac rivers that drain the Mixteca Alta and Oaxaca Valley. This article summarizes research in these three regions and describes the emergence of ranked societies and the formation of states.
This article discusses the development of complex societies during the Formative period in the Pacific coastal plain, stretching from Chiapas, Mexico, to El Salvador. Data shows that a trend of increasing complexity began soon at the end of the Archaic period and climaxed with the emergence of urbanism and early state societies during the Late Formative period. The long-term trajectory of increasing social complexity was not seamless, however, and there were significant disjunctions that suggest episodes of political cycling at various points within the sequence, manifested in the movement of political centers, economic reorganization, and changes in the ideological justifications of political power.
Dietary Transition in Late Holocene Eastern North America: The Orofacial Record of Masticatory Function, Nutritional Quality, and Health in Maize Farmers
Clark Spencer Larsen
This chapter presents an overview of the record of reconstructing and interpreting diet from the study of craniofacial morphology and teeth, especially as the orofacial record pertains to masticatory function, nutritional quality, and health. This record is an essential element of the study of diet as it is represented in the archaeological past. Analysis of the orofacial skeleton from eastern North America reveals temporal trends relating to or arising from the introduction and intensification of farming based on plant cultigens, especially maize. These trends are characterized as including (1) reduction of facial robusticity and occlusal surface wear; (2) increase in growth disruption owing to poor-quality nutrition; and (3) increased prevalence of dental caries and related pathology caused by focus on plant carbohydrates.
Diversification and Cultural Construction of a Crop: The Case of Glutinous Rice and Waxy Cereals in the Food Cultures of Eastern Asia
Dorian Q. Fuller and Cristina Castillo
Rice (Oryza) is one of the world’s most important and productive staple foods, with highly diverse uses and varieties. We use archaeobotany, culture, history, and ethnobotany to trace the history of the development of sticky (or glutinous) forms. True sticky rice is the result of a genetic mutation that causes a loss of amylose starch but higher amylopectin content. These mutations are unknown in wild populations but have become important amongst cultivars in East and Southeast Asia (unlike other regions). In the same region, other cereals have also evolved parallel mutations that confer stickiness when cooked. This points to a strong role for cultural history and food preparation traditions in the genetic selection and breeding of Asian cereal varieties. The importance of sticky rice in ritual foods and alcoholic beverages in East and Southeast Asia also suggests the entanglement of crop varieties and culturally inherited food traditions and ritual symbolism.
Joseph A. Tainter and T. F. H. Allen
The evolution of complexity is one of the long-standing concerns of historical science, as well as being crucial to understanding the modern world and our future. This chapter explores the connection of complexity to energy gain, energy return on investment, and the energy–complexity spiral. The connection of energy gain to complexity is illustrated by case studies of fungus-farming ants and the Roman Empire. A comprehensive set of propositions explores the relationship of energy gain to complexity, evolution, resource use, system duration, and scarcity and abundance. These propositions can be applied to further research, and provide a framework for developing questions about cultural evolution and resource use. Finally, the relationship of energy gain to complexity is used to explore our future energy use and its relationship to land conversion, environmental damage, and return on alternative energy sources.
The town of Tornio, on the border of present-day Finland and Sweden, was founded in 1621, on the order of the King of Sweden, to replace the old medieval marketplace on the estuary of the Tornio river. It was the northernmost urban site in Europe at the time. The founding and early development of the town was part of the broader trade-political process in the emerging Kingdom of Sweden during the early modern age. The original town was a small, wooden trading-post-like place, settled mostly by peasants from the surrounding countryside. This chapter provides an overview of Tornio’s urban development in its first century of existence, and discusses the development of the built environment based on the results of archaeological studies conducted since the 1960s. Lastly, the chapter addresses the early urbanization process of the inhabitants by considering their relationships with artefacts during the early phases of the town.
Christopher A. Pool
The story of the Formative (Preclassic) period in Mesoamerica is fundamentally one of sociopolitical origins. That is, anthropological interest in this time span revolves around the origins and early development of “complex” social institutions and the material conditions and ideological precepts that supported them. This article broadly sketches issues surrounding the formation of complex societies and urban centers in early Mesoamerica, emphasizing regional variation and interregional interaction through the Middle Formative period.
David M. Carballo
Mesoamerican peoples built for themselves a wide array of domestic units, ranging from modest wattle-and-daub structures in the earliest villages to Teotihuacan's highly planned urban apartment compounds, which were among the most populous residences of the ancient world. This article outlines four broad dimensions of Mesoamerican households: their social organization, their variability related to status, their productive activities, and their ritual practices.
The development of early complex societies in the Central Mexican Highlands resulted in particular local traditions. The region twice served as the heartland for densely populated ancient cities—Teotihuacan and Tenochtitlan—the populations of which are estimated to have been between 100,000–150,000 and 150,000–200,000 people, respectively. This article discusses the underlying local circumstances that favored the development of populous complex societies at an unprecedented scale in this region.
Katherine Hayes, Stephen Mrozowski, David Landon, and Heather Trigg
This chapter considers the example of Sylvester Manor’s plantation in coastal New York to demonstrate the diversity and complexity of the colonial context. Despite popular histories which downplay the role of slavery in the US north-east and colonial studies which consider the British and Dutch colonies to have been resistant to pluralism, the case of Sylvester Manor shows how broadly entangled and diverse northern provisioning plantations could be. In particular, archaeological remains illuminate the ongoing engagement of Native Americans in colonial settlements and plantations. The chapter uses the lenses of labour and technology to explore the specific grounds of engagement between African, Indian, and European groups.