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Volume 65 / Social Sciences

ANTHROPOLOGY: ARCHEOLOGY: MESOAMERICA


JOHN HENDERSON, Professor of Anthropology, Cornell University
ARTHUR A. JOYCE, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder

SOCIAL ARCHEOLOGY—emphasizing interpretation of the social dimensions of ancient Maya societies using anthropological models, often focusing on the everyday practices of social life, remains a popular conceptual approach among Maya archeologists. Interpretation of the social relations of craft production (items #bi2009004424#, #bi2009004419#, #bi2009004551#, #bi2009004571#, and #bi2009004596#) is an increasingly popular focus; spatial organization (items #bi2009004597#, #bi2009004634#, and #bi2009004557#) and gender roles (items #bi2009004565# and #bi2009004598#) continue to be well represented.

Despite the long-standing and intensifying trend toward social perspectives in Maya studies, descriptive work remains strong, especially in Mexico and Central America (items #bi2009000244#, #bi2009000393#, #bi2008002042#, #bi2009000368#, #bi2009000388#, #bi2009000378#, and #bi2009004567#). Descriptive reports on field investigations—excavation projects (items #bi2008002042#, #bi2009000388#, #bi2007002687#, #bi2009003162#, #bi2009000393#, and #bi2009004585#); settlement pattern studies (items #bi2009004555#, #bi2009004570#, #bi2008001078#, and #bi2009004583#); analyses of ancient environments, agriculture, and ecology (items #bi2009004556# and #bi2009004593#); studies of ancient technology and sources of raw material (items #bi2009004414#, #bi2009004595#, and #bi2009004551#)—are well represented. Traditional problems in cultural history, notably the Maya "collapse" (items #bi2006000585#, #bi2009004556#, and #bi2006001022#), continue to be a major theme, though social dimensions are often emphasized.

Ancient Maya political geography (items #bi2009004560#, #bi2009004561#, #bi2008001078#, and #bi2009004582#), the institutions surrounding kingship in Maya states (items #bi2009004739# and #bi2009004434#), and ritual and belief (item #bi2008004774#) are enduring concerns in Maya studies. The human body, especially its mortuary treatment, is a major emphasis in terms of both reconstructing ancient Maya beliefs and bioarcheological approaches (items #bi2006002156#, #bi2009004429#, #bi2009004575#, #bi2009004577#, #bi2009004572#, #bi2007001022#, and #bi2006002256#).

Epigraphic analyses of ancient Maya texts (items #bi2009004568# and #bi2009004563#) are increasingly nuanced in reconstructing grammar and syntax. The Maya calendar has re-emerged as a focus, bringing new understandings of grammar and syntax to bear on calendar recording as well as its political uses (items #bi2009004573# and #bi2009004434#). Traditional approaches to interpretation of meaning (item #bi2008004774#) also continue to be represented.

The recent inclination to think of archeological research and writing and archeological remains in relation to living peoples is intensifying, and collaborations between archeologists and descendant communities are increasingly common (items #bi2007002653#, #bi2008000823#, and #bi2009004588#).

The effects of looting, collecting, and the antiquities market and the ethical implications of archeologists' use of unprovenienced material are, remarkably, hardly reflected in the literature (item #bi2009004586#). [JSH]

Northern Mesoamerica

Important themes in recent publications on the archeology of northern Mesoamerica include research on religion, ideology, and politics; gender and identity; interregional interaction; economy and subsistence; and artifact-based studies, as well as more general regional and site-based syntheses. There has been a decline in publications on landscape, space, and settlement during the period under review.

University presses continue to be important publication venues for the archeology of northern Mesoamerica. The presses that publish extensively on northern Mesoamerican archeology include the University Press of Colorado, the University of Texas Press, and the University of Utah Press. Important monograph series are published by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Michigan. In Mexico, the Colección Científica series of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) publishes many important field reports and monographs. Important professional journals focusing on Mesoamerican archeology are Latin American Antiquity, Ancient Mesoamerica, Arqueología, and Mexicon. Arqueología Mexicana publishes short accessible articles on Mexican archeology for a more popular audience.

Diverse general overviews of northern Mesoamerican archeology include regional summaries on the states of Guanajuato (items #bi2009000819# and #bi2009001715#), Guerrero (item #bi2009004011#), and classic-period Veracruz (item #bi2009000828#), as well as the Sayula Basin, Jalisco (item #bi2007005357#), the Otopame of Central Mexico (item #bi2009000807#), the Huasteca (item #bi2007005351#), the Mixteca (items #bi2009001732# and #bi2009001748#), the southern Highlands and Pacific Coast (item #bi2009001708#), epiclassic Central Mexico (item #bi2007005350#), and Aztec city-states (item #bi2009001744#). Blomster (item #bi2008001961#) edits an important volume on the Oaxacan postclassic (also see item #bi2009001735#); Lowe and Pye (item #bi2009000813#) edit a volume in honor of Gareth Lowe that focuses on the Formative period; Pollard (item #bi2009001750#) presents a model for the development of the Tarascan state; and Pool (item #bi2009004013#) presents a comprehensive overview of the Olmec. Arqueología Mexicana published a series of brief overviews of Mesoamerican archeology by time period, including the Paleo-Indian and Archaic (item #bi2009000849#), early and middle preclassic (item #bi2009000833#), late preclassic (item #bi2009001740#), classic (item #bi2009001742#), and epiclassic (item #bi2009001709#). Marrow and Gnecco (item #bi2009001845#) summarize Paleo-Indian archeology in the Americas, including Mexico. Site-based summaries have been written on Tula (item #bi2009000829#), Chalco (item #bi2009001713#), Teotihuacán (item #bi2009001296#), San Lorenzo (ítems #bi2007005369# and #bi2009000832#), Tututepec (item #bi2009001717#), Cerro de la Estrella (item #bi2007004059#), La Organera-Xochipala (item #bi2009001734#), Cerro de las Minas (item #bi2009001776#), El Polvorín (item #bi2007004160#), Ranas and Toluquilla (item #bi2009001289#), Chapultepec (item #bi2009001259#), and Yucundaa (item #bi2009001282#). Valencia Cruz (item #bi2007005364#) discusses issues of cultural patrimony and preservation in Querétero; Vásquez León (item #bi2007005355#) critically examines archeological discourse and practice in Mexico; Geurds (item #bi2009001279#) discusses community-based archeology in Oaxaca; and Winter (item #bi2009001265#) discusses the life and work of Ronald Spores.

There has been a rise in publications concerning religion, ideology, and politics over the last several years. A major focus of research has drawn on archeological, iconographic, and ethnohistorical evidence to investigate the politics, religious belief, and ritual of the late postclassic and early colonial period Aztec (items #bi2009004740#, #bi2009000831#, #bi2009001298#, #bi2009001295#, #bi2009000844#, #bi2009003167#, #bi2009001842#, #bi2007005361#, #bi2009001716#, #bi2009001747#, #bi2007005370#, #bi2009001720#, #bi2007005299#, #bi2009004009#, and #bi2009004125#). General studies of religion and ritual in other regions include the Huaxteca (items #bi2009000838# and #bi2009001271#), Olmec (items #bi2009001251#, #bi2009001266#, and #bi2009001743#), and colonial period Chiapas (item #bi2009001701#). Another major topic of study is mortuary ritual represented by publications on the shaft tombs of West Mexico (items #bi2009000817#, #bi2009000822#, #bi2009001275#, #bi2009001290#, #bi2009004014#, #bi2009001267#, and #bi2009001262#), the Moon Pyramid sacrifices at Teotihuacán (items #bi2009001285#, #bi2009001268#, #bi2009001287#, and #bi2009001278#), skulls recovered from the Cueva de la Calendaria in central Mexico (items #bi2007005354# and #bi2007005366#), and early cremation burials in Oaxaca (item #bi2009001269#), as well as general regional studies of funerary customs in the Gulf Coast (item #bi2005005137#) and human alterations of mortuary remains (item #bi2007005352#). Studies that focus on ritual also include the origins of the central Mexican Old God of Fire and the Storm God (item #bi2009000823#), the history of the Volador ritual (item #bi2009001756#), Middle Formative ritual feasting in the Soconusco (item #bi2009001728#), ball courts at the site of Cantona (item #bi2007004060#), and the early colonial period Zapotec calendar (item #bi2009001741#), as well as edited volumes on commoner ritual and ideology (item #bi2007002256#) and the relationship between ritual and economy in Mesoamerica (item #bi2007002658#). De la Cruz published a major study of Zapotec (Binnigula'sa') religion, worldview, and calendrics that synthesizes archeological, ethnohistoric, linguistic, and ethnographic evidence (item #bi2009000837#). Other themes include research on the symbolic significance of petroglyphs in northern and western Mexico (items #bi2009001749# and #bi2007005356#) as well as iconographic studies from Chalcatzingo (item #bi2009000836#) and Las Higueras (item #bi2007005353#) and potbelly sculptures of Pacific coastal Guatemala and El Salvador (item #bi2009004552#).

There has been an increase in research on the Mixtec codices addressing issues of religion and political history (items #bi2009001706# and #bi2009001712#), including a special issue of the journal Desacatos (items #bi2009001711#, #bi2009001252#, #bi2009001731#, #bi2009001702#, #bi2009001746#, and #bi2009001707#) and a major edited volume (item #bi2009001721#). Other important epigraphic studies include a study of the history of the word cacao (item #bi2009001726#) and a study of the Spearthrower Owl Hill toponym from Teotihuacán, which has important implications for contacts with the Maya Lowlands (item #bi2009001736#). Rodríguez Martínez et al. present an important article on Olmec inscriptions that represent the earliest writing yet discovered in the New World (item #bi2009001729#).

Works that focus on political organization and process include Beekman's study of corporate power strategies in the Tequila Valleys (item #bi2009000817#), Haskell's consideration of political hierarchy in the Tarascan state (item #bi2009001291#), Elson's study of a secondary administrative center in the Oaxaca Valley (item #bi2009000834#), and the study of the political significance of Teotihuacán's Moon Pyramid by Sugiyama and Cabrera Castro (item #bi2009001292#). Important edited volumes include a collection of articles on the political significance of palaces by Christie and Sarro (HLAS 63:14) and the edited volume by Cyphers and Hirth in honor of David Grove, which focuses on ideology and society in Formative Period Mesoamerica (item #bi2009001256#). Warfare in ancient Mexico has been another important research theme with debates concerning the nature, scale, causes, and effects of conflict (items #bi2007005371#, #bi2009001286#, #bi2009001276#, #bi2009001714#, and #bi2009001263#).

Publications on social identity, especially gender, have increased. General overviews of gender in prehispanic Mesoamerica include Arden (item #bi2009000812#) and Joyce (item #bi2007003008#) as well as chapters in an edited volume on feminist anthropology (item #bi2009000845#); gender and households (item #bi2009000843#); and gender, ritual, and sustainability in rural Tlaxcala (item #bi2007005359#). Begun considers figurines as markers of ethnic identity in Michoacán (item #bi2009001255#).

Research on interregional interaction continues as an important theme in northern Mesoamerican publications. Recent research includes the impact of Teotihuacán in the northern Yucatán (item #bi2009001733#), the impact of the Olmec in Chiapas (item #bi2009001771#), the Protohistoric Tarascan-Aztec frontier (item #bi2009001281#), isotopic studies of human mobility (item #bi2009000825#), ceramic exchange in southern Veracruz (item #bi2009001297#), and world systems-based studies (items #bi2009000808# and #bi2009000827#). Trade routes are examined for Highland Mesoamerica (item #bi2009000824#) and between Oaxaca and the Gulf Coast (items #bi2009000835# and #bi2009001261#). Studies of exchange based on obsidian source analyses continue to be important (items #bi2009001280#, #bi2009001258#, and #bi2009001273#).

Research on economy and subsistence continues to focus on craft production involving ceramics (items #bi2008004785#, #bi2009001254#, #bi2009001300#, #bi2009000842#, #bi2009001284#, #bi2009004008#, #bi2009000839#, #bi2007005365#, and #bi2009001288#), textiles (item #bi2009000830#), obsidian (items #bi2009000847# and #bi2009000848#), copper (item #bi2009001703#), and shell artifacts (item #bi2009001253#), as well as more general overviews of craft production (item #bi2009001710#). Studies of prehispanic subsistence include agricultural practices in the Gulf Coast (items #bi2009001727# and #bi2009001738#) and the exploitation of aquatic resources in the basin of Mexico (items #bi2009001730# and #bi2007005360#). Perry et al. report on the use of starch fossils to identify chili peppers (item #bi2009001745#) and Adrian-Morán and McClung de Tapia (item #bi2009001260#) look at wood use at Teotihuacán. King considers the social significance of domestic food sharing in coastal Oaxaca (item #bi2009001274#). Minc proposes methods for examining market systems in ancient Mesoamerica with a focus on the Aztec (item #bi2009001704#). Research involving the intraregional exchange of ceramics and political economy include studies in the Gulf Coast (items #bi2009001719# and #bi2009001272#) and the Valley of Oaxaca (item #bi2009001264#).

Artifact-based studies continue, although there is a decline in publications on ceramic typologies and chronologies. Lithic studies include an overview of uses of obsidian in Mesoamerica (item #bi2009001257#) and a comprehensive edited volume on lithic artifacts and industries in prehispanic Mexico (item #bi2007005367#). Sax et al. determine that two purportedly prehispanic crystal skulls are fakes (item #bi2009001299#). Other studies include research on bitumen use among the Olmec (items #bi2009001766# and #bi2009001283#), iconographic research on Zapotec effigy vessels (item #bi2009001294#), and a study of artifacts with representations of urban architecture (item #bi2007005358#). Barba presents an important summary of research on chemical residues from plaster floors (item #bi2009000814#).

Publications dealing with landscape, space, and settlement declined considerably in recent years. Significant publications include Kowalewski's (item #bi2009001722#) review of regional settlement pattern studies, while Stark and Garraty (item #bi2009001277#) assess the effects of topography, vegetation, and surface visibility on surface survey results in Veracruz. Parsons (item #bi2009001725#) presents results of settlement survey in the Zumpango region of the Valley of Mexico. Borejsza (item #bi2009001270#) examines the history of agricultural terracing and land-use at La Laguna, Tlaxcala.

I would like to thank Jessica Hedgepeth and Sarah Jennings for assistance with the annotated bibliography. [AAJ]


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