With support from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Sarah Clayton and colleagues from the U.S. and Mexico will investigate the regional organization and decline of an early urban state from the perspective of daily life at Chicoloapan Viejo, an ancient rural settlement in the southeastern Basin of Mexico. Chicoloapan Viejo was occupied for nearly two thousand years, through the rise and dissolution of the successive Teotihuacan, Toltec, and Aztec states. Its longevity and location on the regional margins of these societies make it a strategic site for advancing knowledge of the sociopolitical and economic relationships among urban capitals and rural communities. This study concerns rural domestic life during the period associated with the height and collapse of Teotihuacan (100 BC-AD 650) and the subsequent reorganization of the region during the Epiclassic period (AD 650-850). As a powerful, multiethnic, urban society without precedent in North America, Teotihuacan is among the world's most fascinating early states, and yet a little is currently known of its administration of the regional population. For example, were rural populations relatively self-sufficient, economically, or tightly linked to regional exchange networks that included or were managed by the capital? Were rural households socially organized like those of urban Teotihuacan, and how did they change after the collapse of the state? Did this dramatic political transformation significantly disrupt social and economic practices among rural settlements, as it did in the capital, or were rural households resilient?

The research questions central to this study necessitate basic information concerning household economic practices and social organization. Two seasons of excavation involving the lateral exposure of domestic architecture and activity areas will be conducted, each followed by one year of analysis of spatial data, excavated artifacts, faunal and archaeobotanical remains, and floor sediments. Data from contexts including middens, house floors, and burials will permit an examination of diversity among households in social, economic, and ritual practices as well as changes in these practices through time.

This research advances knowledge of the earliest urbanized sociopolitical landscapes by providing needed information concerning rural life. The longitudinal view offered by this project contributes important information about how early states such as Teotihuacan met the challenges of regional administration and why they fell apart. This research is timely, as the investigation of ancient rural communities is increasingly hampered by the destruction of archaeological sites caused by Mexico City's urban sprawl. Chicoloapan Viejo itself is imminently threatened by the construction of new roads and houses, and it is one of only a few remaining archaeological sites where questions of rural organization in the ancient Basin of Mexico may be investigated.

This project provides opportunities for graduate students from multiple institutions to generate data for use in their own doctoral dissertations and to contribute to future research in the region. Scholarly interaction between the U.S. and Mexico is supported through collaboration with Mexican colleagues. Finally, the project contributes to the conservation of small archaeological sites in the Mexico City area by increasing local awareness of archaeological resources and cultural heritage.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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John E. Yellen
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University of Wisconsin Madison
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