With National Science Foundation support, Dr. J. Heath Anderson and a team of Mexican colleagues will conduct the first intensive archaeological exploration of Cerro Magoni, a site in Central Mexico in imminent danger of destruction. Cerro Magoni is located just north of Mexico City in an area called the Mezquital Valley, which is best known as the location of the site of Tula, the capital of the Toltec state (AD 950 - 1150). The project addresses a recent resurgence in scholarly interest in the collapse and regeneration of complex societies. This topic has been of interest to anthropological archaeologists since the 1970s and 1980s and continues to be an important focus of investigation and critical debate.

The research tests an emerging model for the regeneration of complex society in the Tula area in Central Mexico ca. AD 550 - 950, a time period called the Epiclassic. From approximately 0 to 550 AD, the Tula area was integrated into the political and economic networks of Teotihuacán, located to the southeast in the Basin of Mexico, which was the capital of Mesoamerica's first empire and the largest urban center at the time. Four centuries later, power and population were again centralized in the form of Tula Grande, a densely occupied city in its own right located to the northwest of the Basin, and the capital of the Toltec state. The processes involved in the regeneration of complex society in the Tula area during the intervening centuries remain unknown. Over the past six years, ceramic analysis and new radiocarbon dates have indicated that the political landscape during this period might have been much more fractious than was previously thought. Several centers once thought to have been occupied at different times may have in fact been contemporaneous, competing political units that ultimately coalesced into the Toltec state. Absent from these reconstructions, however, is Cerro Magoni, which according to surface survey data was the most extensive and populous settlement in the region during the Epiclassic. However, reliable information derived from excavation regarding the site's true span of occupation is not available. This is critical for testing the emerging multicentric model.

The research provides insight through a program of topographic mapping and stratigraphic excavation. Unfortunately, real estate developers are in the process of purchasing Cerro Magoni to construct a luxury housing development on the site, which will destroy most if not all of the prehispanic remains. The summer of 2012 may be the last opportunity to map and explore this site before its integrity is severely compromised.

The project will improve the production, curation, management, and sharing of archaeological data at Tula by producing a digital database to centralize and back up perishable paper records to improve organization and access. This project also facilitates involvement of local populations in archaeological projects, providing training in archaeological laboratory analysis techniques, continuing a tradition of local involvement in archaeological projects at Tula that spans more than 70 years.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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John E. Yellen
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College of Wooster
United States
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