Power strategies in a changing world: Archaeological investigations of Early Postclassic remains at El Coyote, Santa Barbara, Honduras
McFarlane, William John
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This dissertation deals with power relations in archaeological communities and with the nature of ninth- and tenth-century power relations at the Precolumbian center of El Coyote in northwestern Honduras. A methodological and interpretive framework based on power creates a multiscalar approach to individuals, groups, communities, and interaction networks of the past. Neither interregional nor household scales are given priority, but rather, all points along this continuum are considered crucial for the interpretation of past societies. This research addresses important issues of political theory and process through the generation and examination of new data sets, which date to a poorly understood time period in northwestern Honduras. Archaeological investigation of El Coyote provides an opportunity to examine how actions rooted in diverse sources of power may have dramatic consequences for long-term regional developments. Ultimately, this dissertation addresses the relationship of agency, society, and inequality, subjects of interest to all social scientists concerned with the struggles for power within and between political groups. The focus of this investigation is the Northeast Complex of El Coyote, a ceremonial and residential zone that was a new construction endeavor in the late-ninth century. Data collected from two seasons of investigations reveal that the Northeast Complex became the locus for administrative and ceremonial functions, following, or leading to, the abandonment of the Late Classic monumental core of El Coyote. The nature of power relations at El Coyote during this period contrasted sharply with earlier modes of political economy. During the late-ninth century, power strategies shifted away from the exchange of prestige-goods between elites and toward a corporate organization, which suppressed the personalized bids for power so closely tied to rulership in the Classic Period in the non-Maya region of northwestern Honduras. This new cultural system was a result of the transformation of interregional interaction networks, which followed the eight-century collapse of polities across southeastern Mesoamerica. The sociopolitical and economic changes at El Coyote are representative of a broad Mesoamerican pattern. These findings have broad implications for the study of the Terminal Classic to Early Postclassic Periods in southeastern Mesoamerica, and past societies more generally.