Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Power Strategies at Early Postclassic Sitio El Coyote, Sta. Barbara, Honduras
Geoffrey Braswell Principal Investigator
MetadataShow full item record
With National Science Foundation support, William McFarlane will conduct an eight-month field season of archaeological research at the site of El Coyote located in the Cacaulapa Valley of northwestern Honduras. Founded during the Late Formative Period (200 BC - AD 200), El Coyote remained a regional center into the Early Postclassic (AD 900 - 1200). This is noteworthy as the Early Postclassic has been viewed as a transitional period in the prehistory of southeastern Mesoamerica, characterized by socio-political decentralization and an end of nucleated settlement. Data in hand suggest the Early Postclassic community at El Coyote was a centralized village boasting a large ceremonial center, a well defined set of ritual practices, organized production locales, and long-distance trade connections to greater Mesoamerica. Current models of the Early Postclassic cannot account for the existence of such a site. It is clear an individual or group at El Coyote was able to maintain community solidarity when other sites in the region were abandoned. It is therefore imperative to refine current models of Honduran prehistory by documenting the social, political, and economic organization of El Coyote and charting the trajectory of the community through time. Early Postclassic investigations directed by William McFarlane, including excavation of ceremonial, administrative, and residential structures, mapping of archaeological materials throughout the immediate area, and artifact analysis will compliment on-going research by the parent project, Proyecto Valle de Cacaulapa. <br/><br/>In addition to refining current models of Early Postclassic northwestern Honduras, the research design will address broader issues of human interaction. The central question: how do individuals and groups use diverse resources to seize and maintain positions of power within and between communities, is considered from three different perspectives. The first perspective emphasizes the use of ideological resources, such as religious practices, foreign symbols, and imported concepts of statecraft by individuals or groups to create social distance between the leaders and the community. The second perspective considers resource allocation strategies that impact the economy. Control over the importation, production, and distribution of raw materials and commodities is frequently cited as a central feature of complex societies. The final perspective focuses upon attempts to develop and promote activities that reinforce community solidarity, thus, tying polity members together. It is expected that during the 3 centuries investigated by this project various power strategies were implemented with diverse success rates thus providing an index from which to rate the viability of successive leader's social, economic, and political policies. <br/><br/>The Early Postclassic research project stands to contribute to our understanding of a little researched and poorly understood period of Honduran prehistory. Further, investigations of El Coyote provide an opportunity to examine how actions rooted in diverse sources of power can have dramatic consequences relative to long-term regional developments. It is hoped that a better understanding of the power struggles within and between political groups in the past and present may be achieved.