Prehistoric Political Economy in Mesoamerica's Northern Periphery
Ben Nelson Principal Investigator
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The site of La Quemada located in the Malpaso valley of Mexico has been known to archaeologists for many years because of its large scale architecture, its system of associated roads, and its associated "ball court" which indicates major ceremonial activities. The site has also interested archaeologists because of its unusual location, well North of the Valley of Mexico where most large sites from this time period are situated. However, surprisingly little is known about the site and little excavation has been conducted there. Dr. Nelson and his collaborator, Mexican archaeologist Peter Jimenez, will lead a team and conduct one season of research at La Quemada. They will produce a detailed map, conduct test excavations in trash middens to recover cultural material, excavate in the ceremonial ball court, and analyze the materials obtained. The data thus collected should permit a detailed chronology to be established. It should also be possible, through analysis in the differences between middens and grave items, to determine the degree of social stratification at the site. Finally, through study of ceramics and chemical analysis of turquoise, the investigators will determine the relations between La Quemada and contemporary sites both in the Valley of Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. This will permit archaeologists to fit the site into a broader regional picture and to elucidate the relationships between Middle America and the Southwest U.S. In recent years archaeological focus has shifted from a site specific to a more regional perspective, and researchers have come to realize that the development of social complexity is closely tied to expanded areal networks. Through study of what may be a northern "outpost" or "outlier", Dr. Nelson and his colleagues should gain new insight into the rise of Middle American civilization.