Dr. Michael Love, of California State University, Northridge, along with colleagues and students from US and Guatemalan universities, will conduct an archaeological investigation of early urbanism at the site of La Blanca, Guatemala. Previous scholarship on Mesoamerican urbanism has placed its first appearance in the Classic Period (ca AD 300- AD 900), but recent evidence suggests that urbanism began much earlier, during the Middle Preclassic period (ca 1000-600 BC). Urbanization is a phenomenon that brings into focus many topics of broad interest to the social sciences and the humanities. As a process, urbanization changed the relationships between many social and cultural variables including demography, economy, political structures, and religious practices. Analysis of first-generation urbanization therefore offers an important opportunity to achieve a holistic perspective on important changes in the human condition as well as a myriad of social issues. As one of the limited number of cases in the world where urban centers developed independently, Mesoamerica plays a major role in the worldwide comparative analysis of first generation cities and urbanism. As one of Mesoamerica's first settlements of urban scale, La Blanca is a key site in understanding first-generation cities.
Love's research will examine how daily life was altered by urbanization and how people brought together in an early city negotiated their lives with one another. La Blanca was established when groups from a broad hinterland came together at a new location. This form of aggregation seems typical of early cities throughout the world. A primary question is whether these people of different backgrounds merged into a single new group, or whether they remained mostly independent of one another and maintained separate identities. Love's study will examine three different areas of the city and ask whether they were integrated with one another through a single hierarchical system, or whether the districts were autonomous and only loosely integrated with one another. Love and his colleagues will examine the material remains of a number of households in each district of La Blanca and analyze the evidence of daily life preserved in houses, food remains, tools, and ritual items. The team will collect data on household economic activity (such as subsistence practices, craft production), as well as domestic ritual activity, including rituals of ancestor veneration. Those data will then be used to determine whether economic and ritual activity were organized primarily within each district or integrated at the level of the city itself.