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The Neighborhood as a Social and Spatial Unit in Mesoamerican Cities

M. Charlotte Arnauld

Publication Year: 2012

Recent realizations that prehispanic cities in Mesoamerica were fundamentally different from western cities of the same period have led to increasing examination of the neighborhood as an intermediate unit at the heart of prehispanic urbanization. This book addresses the subject of neighborhoods in archaeology as analytical units between households and whole settlements.

The contributions gathered here provide fieldwork data to document the existence of sociopolitically distinct neighborhoods within ancient Mesoamerican settlements, building upon recent advances in multi-scale archaeological studies of these communities. Chapters illustrate the cultural variation across Mesoamerica, including data and interpretations on several different cities with a thematic focus on regional contrasts. This topic is relatively new and complex, and this book is a strong contribution for three interwoven reasons. First, the long history of research on the “Teotihuacan barrios” is scrutinized and withstands the test of new evidence and comparison with other Mesoamerican cities. Second, Maya studies of dense settlement patterns are now mature enough to provide substantial case studies. Third, theoretical investigation of ancient urbanization all over the world is now more complex and open than it was before, giving relevance to Mesoamerican perspectives on ancient and modern societies in time and space.

This volume will be of interest not only to scholars and student specialists of the Mesoamerican past but also to social scientists and urbanists looking to contrast ancient cultures worldwide.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. 8-13

One of the most difficult problems in the analysis of ancient Mesoamerican urban societies is to reconstruct the ways in which local social groups related to their larger political, economic, and religious contexts. During the 1990s and until recently, debates among Mesoamericanists focused on entire political systems and their capacities for integration, with less ...

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1. Introduction: Neighborhoods and Districts in Ancient Mesoamerica

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pp. 1-26

All cities known to social scientists and historians have neighborhoods. People living in urban settings universally organize important aspects of their lives on a spatial scale that is intermediate between the household and the city. Urban authorities also tend to organize administrative activities such as tax collection and record keeping on a similar scale. ...

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2. Neighborhoods and the Civic Constitutions of Premodern Cities as Seen from the Perspective of Collective Action

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pp. 27-52

From our previous research on alternate pathways to social complexity and premodern state formation (Fargher and Blanton 2007; Blanton and Fargher 2008, 2009), we confirmed that there is a great deal of variation in the degree to which states display elements of collective action in regime- building policies and practices. We also noted a statistical tendency ...

I: The Central Highlands

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3. Neighborhoods and Elite “Houses” at Teotihuacan, Central Mexico

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pp. 55-73

Teotihuacan, a city of many faces, the most important of which is that of being an exception in Mesoamerica, built itself as an inclusive corporate society. Exceptional for its size and its urban planning (Millon 1973), its settlement pattern with the highly urbanized capital surrounded by villages and hamlets (Sanders et al. 1979), its corporate organization (Blanton et al. ...

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4. Structure and Organization of Neighborhoods in the Ancient City of Teotihuacan

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pp. 74-101

Most recent studies on urbanism and the problems related to the use, transformation, and meaning of urban space over a period of time in large part share the postulate that the urban landscape is a product of specific forms of economic and social relations—forms linked to the development of particular cultural systems, composing one complex structural unit. ...

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5. The “Tlajinga Barrio” A Distinctive Cluster of Neighborhoods in Teotihuacan

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pp. 102-116

It has long been recognized that the city of Teotihuacan was composed of a number of distinct neighborhoods (Cowgill 1997; Millon 1973: 40). These are composed of apartment compounds that appear to share distinct artifacts, often of a foreign nature. The earliest named are the “Merchants’ Barrio,” the “Oaxaca Barrio” (Millon 1973: 34), the “Lapidary ...

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6. Teotihuacan Neighborhoods and the Health of Residents The Risks of Preindustrial Urban Living

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pp. 117-131

Beginning with the Teotihuacan Mapping Project (Millon et al. 1973), it was recognized that some of Teotihuacan’s 2,000 apartment compounds were part of neighborhoods. Some of these were easily recognized, and others are formed by clusters of craft specialists. Certainly, not all neighborhoods have been identified, but excavations in apartment compounds ...

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7. Compact Versus Dispersed Settlement in Pre-Hispanic MesoamericaThe Role of Neighborhood Organization and Collective Action

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pp. 132-155

In pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, many communities, particularly larger population centers, had a compact pattern of settlement in which houses were situated close to neighboring residences and demographic densities exceeded twenty persons per hectare (Drennan 1988: 280–281, 290). More than two decades ago in an influential paper, Drennan (1988) ...

II: The Maya Area

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8. Neighborhoods in Pre-Hispanic Honduras Settlement Patterns and Social Groupings Within Sites or Regions

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pp. 159-180

The editors of this volume asked the contributors to think about “intermediate units of spatial and social analysis.” One of the terms chosen for these intermediate units, neighborhood, is apt from a spatial perspective. To be “in the neighborhood” suggests a physical proximity between two things. Neighborhood also conveys, at least in contemporary discourse, a ...

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9. Neighborhoods in Classic Lowland Maya Societies Their Identification and Definition from the La Joyanca Case Study (Northwestern Petén, Guatemala)

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pp. 181-201

Since the 1970s, the settlement pattern archaeology of the Late Classic Maya Lowlands identifies two settlement units within sites: the basic residential unit, or patio group, and the cluster of patio groups (Ashmore 1981). According to archaeological, ethnographical, and ethnohistorical data, the patio group represents the basic social unit; that is, an extended ...

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10. Houses, Emulation, and Cooperation Among the Río Bec Groups

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pp. 202-228

Río Bec is not a “Maya site” with an epicenter and a residential periphery. It is better defined as a rural zone characterized by dispersed monumental groups, famous for their architecture in the so-called Río Bec style. Adams postulated that such groups could be given together the same status as any cluster of courtyard groups in a Maya center (Adams 1981; ...

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11. Intermediate-Scale Patterns in the Urban Environment of Postclassic Mayapan

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pp. 229-260

Identifying districts, neighborhoods, or smaller social subunits within the urban landscape of Mayapan represents one of the most important challenges for understanding the organization of the city and the relationship between its governors and supporting population. Although historical sources attest to planning principles and strategies, including conceptual ...

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12. Intermediate Settlement Units in Late Postclassic Maya Sites in the Highlands An Assessment from Archaeology and Ethnohistory

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pp. 261-285

The Late Postclassic period (A.D. 1225–1524) in the Maya Highlands of Guatemala was characterized by a high degree of conflicts between local polities of several ethnic affiliations, K’iche’, Kaqchikel, and others. The settlement patterns of this period reflect this conjuncture because many sites that have been defined as fortresses are strategically located on top ...

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13. Postclassic Maya “Barrios” in Yucatán An Historical Approach

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pp. 286-303

In 1546, the Spaniards finally managed to suppress the Mayan uprising in Yucatán, thus putting an end to an enterprise that had taken them 19 years to achieve. However, this did not imply a satisfactory conclusion of the Conquest. In fact, at that moment, they were barely in control of the northwest sector of the peninsula. Therefore, it was of primary importance ...

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14. Neighborhoods and Intermediate Units of Spatial and Social Analysis in Ancient Mesoamerica

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pp. 304-320

The title of this volume refers to two distinct concepts. First, the word neighborhood evokes the locality that surrounds one’s home, an inhabited area that is familiar and proximate (see Keith 2003: 57–59; Reeder 2010; Smith 2010). In many urban settings, as Richard Blanton and Lane Fargher allude to in chapter 2, neighborhoods are meaningful native constructs ...

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About the Authors

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pp. 321-329

Marie Annereau-Fulbert received a doctorate in anthropology from the Université de Paris Panthéon–Sorbonne in 2008. Currently a researcher associated with Centro de Estudios Mayas, Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico, her fieldwork concentrates on the Postclassic and Colonial period of the ...


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pp. 331-344

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599516
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816520244

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2012