Archaeological Investigations at La Quemada, Zacatecas, Mexico
Ben Nelson Principal Investigator
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With National Science Foundation support Dr. Ben Nelson will continue his archaeological research at the site of La Quemada which is located in Northern Mexico. He will also expand his investigation to the neighboring smaller satellite community of Pilarillos. Work to date has indicated that La Quemada served as a major prehistoric center and was occupied at approximately 600-750 AD. It includes ceremonial ball courts, a temple and other major structures. Over the course of two field seasons Dr. Nelson and his collaborators will conduct a series of excavations. They will continue to expose the ceremonial structure. In addition they will sink a number of test units in middens which are rich in ceramic and other cultural remains. Finally test units will also be opened in areas between terraces where no evidence of structures is visible on the surface. The purpose of these is to test the proposition that "low status" structures built of perishable materials were interspersed among the more elaborate buildings. At the site of Pilarillos surface materials will be collected and a map made. On this basis areas will then be selected for excavation. With these data several questions will be addressed: What is the macroregional and regional chronology? What was the social organization and what role was played by La Quemada which is the largest site? What was the subsistence basis for this prehistoric group and how did they adapt to and in turn affect their environment? Years of research have given archaeologists considerable knowledge about prehistoric Central Mexican cultures and of Mayan regions further to the South. Likewise much work has been done in the American Southwest where large sites such as those at Chaco Canyon have been extensively excavated. However relatively little is known about the intervening northern Mexico area. Without this data it is difficult to examine the intriguing question of interaction and the extent to which Southwestern cultures were influenced by or served as outliers of their southern contemporaries. Dr. Nelson's work will provide a framework for the northern Mexico region and show whether it acted as barrier or conduit. The research is important for several reasons. It will provide data of interest to many archaeologists. It will increase our understanding of how complex societies and inter regional networks develop and the extent to which Southwestern U.S. prehistoric societies developed autonomously.