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Origins of the Ñuu

Archaeology in the Mixteca Alta, Mexico

By Stephen A. Kowalewski, Andrew K. Balkansky, Laura R. Stiver Walsh, Thomas J. Pluckhahn, John F. Chamblee, Verónica Pérez Rodríguez, Vernice Y. Heredia Espinoza, and Charlotte A. Smith

Publication Year: 2009

"This volume is a major contribution to Mesoamerican archaeology that every scholar will want to read for the vital information it provides on regional state development and population integretion. It will be used and referenced by generations of archaeologists interested in cultural development in the Mixteca Alta and its broader role in the emergence of economic and religious institutions throughout Mesoamerica." —Kenneth Hirth, Journal of Anthropological Research

Combining older findings with new data on 1,000 previously undescribed archaeological sites, Origins of the Ñuu presents the cultural evolution of the Mixteca Alta in an up-to-date chronological framework. The ñuu - the kingdoms of the famous Mixtec codices - are traced back through the Postclassic and Classic periods to their beginnings in the first states of the Terminal Formative, revealing their origin, evolution, and persistence through two cycles of growth and collapse. Challenging assumptions that the Mixtec were peripheral to better-known peoples such as the Aztecs or Maya, the book asserts that the ñuu were a major demographic and economic power in their own right. Older explanations of multiregional or macroregional systems often portrayed civilizations as rising in a cradle or hearth and spreading outward. New macroregional studies show that civilizations are products of more complex interactions between regions, in which peripheries are not simply shaped by cores but by their interactions with multiple societies at varying distances from major centers. Origins of the Ñuu is a significant contribution to this emerging area of archaeological research

Published by: University Press of Colorado

Series: Mesoamerican Worlds Series

Title Page/Copyright

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pp. xi-xvii

List of Tables

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pp. xix-xxii

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pp. xxiii-xxv

We are most grateful that the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded our 1999 fieldwork. The Instituto Nacional de Antropolog

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1. Regional Study of Ancient Societies in the Mixteca Alta

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pp. 1-27

The Mixteca Alta in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, was an important region in the center of Mesoamerica (Figure 1.1). But compared to the better-known Maya lowlands and the Aztec heartland, the Mixteca Alta has received much less archaeological attention. This was a magnificent land with wonderful archaeological sites. The Spanish conquerors in the sixteenth century described it as...

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2. The Western Nochixtl

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pp. 29-80

Today and in the past the well-watered hills and small valleys on the western side of the Nochixtl

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3. Greater Teposcolula

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pp. 81-156

Greater Teposcolula is like a solar system: a Sun—the Teposcolula Valley itself— and six planets held in its gravity. The subordinate ñuu (the planets) are Nuñu, Yodobada, Yucunama, Lagunas, Yolomécatl, and Nduayaco. Here, even better than with the area covered in the previous chapter, we can see how subregions were linked together to form larger aggregations, yuhuitaiyu as they were known in the sixteenth...

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4. Greater Huamelulpan

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pp. 157-181

The three valleys described in this chapter—Yucuxaco, Huamelulpan, and Tayata— are crucial to understanding the rise of urbanism and the state in the Mixteca Alta. A large part of this area was surveyed in 1994–1995 (Balkansky 1998b) and we did more in 1999. All of these results are drawn together in this chapter. Balkansky has begun a more intensive investigation of Tayata that will add much more to what is...

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5. The Inner Basin

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pp. 183-254

Between the Sierra de Nochixtl

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6. Greater Tlaxiaco

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pp. 255-284

The Tlaxiaco Valley is an important place: head of a Mixtec yuhuitaiyu, center of an Aztec tributary province, and Colonial and recent commercial, political, and ecclesiastical seat. It has somewhat limited land for agriculture but it is well watered and it lies at the juncture of major corridors for interregional exchange. The first section of this chapter describes the Tlaxiaco core (the valley itself ) and the...

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7. The Polities of the Early and Middle Formative

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pp. 285-295

The evidence for Archaic period populations in the Mixteca Alta is intriguing but too fragmentary for us to put together a picture of social life. Little is known about the transition between Archaic and sedentary social systems, and the question of continuity between Archaic and Early Cruz remains completely open. For the Early and Middle Formative our survey found settlement clusters made up of large...

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8. The Emergence of Urbanism and the State

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pp. 297-304

The first cities in the Mixteca Alta arose during Ramos, the Late and Terminal Formative. We think that the complex, hierarchical institution of the state was in place by the end of the period. The Middle Formative polities (Chapter 7) did not simply grow larger and become the

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9. The Classic

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pp. 305-314

After the time of regional abandonment, consolidation, and organizational development, Las Flores was the time of the “break out,” the re-population of the abandoned areas, expansion into new places, and demographic growth (Figure 9.1, Table 9.1). The expansion took place with the organizational framework developed in Late Ramos. Compared to Late Cruz and Early Ramos, Las Flores society was more...

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10. The Postclassic

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pp. 315-329

In the Late Postclassic the Mixteca Alta was one of Mesoamerica’s largest, wealthiest economies. Settlement and population increased to levels not seen before or since. The patterns of hierarchy and integration reconstructed from the archaeological data are similar to the cacicazgos described in the sixteenth...

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11. The

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pp. 331-349

Thus far our discussion has been involved with the particulars of the Mixteca Alta. Here we place the archaeological results into a more general Mesoamerican and comparative perspective. In this final chapter we reach five major conclusions. These concern the method of archaeological survey, the societies of the Formative period, the nature of the state, episodes of decline and abandonment, and a form of...

12. Resumen en Espa

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pp. 351-358

Appendix One: Ceramic Chronology

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pp. 359-385

Appendix Two: Flaked and Ground Stone

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pp. 387-394

References Cited

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pp. 395-406


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pp. 407-499


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pp. 501-516

E-ISBN-13: 9780870819902
E-ISBN-10: 0870819909
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870819292
Print-ISBN-10: 0870819291

Page Count: 552
Illustrations: 98 b&w photographs, 162 line drawings, 123 tables
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Mesoamerican Worlds Series