Cities form the core of modern society and a deeper understanding of the evolution of the urban form can potentially help to understand the modern world. One place that can make an important archaeological contribution to this debate is the Lake Pátzcuaro Basin, Michoacán, Mexico (LPB), which at the time of European contact was the core of the Late Postclassic (LPC) (A.D. 1350-1520) Purépecha Empire. This National Science Foundation award will fund a program of excavation at the newly discovered city of Angamuco to test models for the development of complex societies in the region. This project develops from over 3 years of NSF sponsored full-coverage survey (2009-2011) as part of the Legacies of Resilience: The Lake Pátzcauro Basin Archaeological Project (LORE-LPB). To test the models developed from this work researchers will excavate architectural complexes within two neighborhoods that, based on surface remains, had unique time and social associations.
Efforts will be focused on addressing three questions concerning the Angamuco occupation. 1) When was the predominate occupation of Angamuco and how does it relate to the development of complex societies in the region? 2) Can initial survey results concerning the function of individual structures and the spatial arrangement of these buildings be confirmed? Do domestic, public, storage, and ceremonial functions that inferred from surface remains conform with excavation data? 3) Can social differentiation be identified through excavation? If so, how does it evolve through time and how is this related to Empire formation.
Testing models that have been developed during the survey of Angamuco will substantially expand and deepen them and pave the way for future research. Results from this work will provide radiocarbon determinations that can help outline the timing, intensity, and location of the Angamuco occupation during the Postclassic. Stratigraphically dated assemblages from the Postclassic period will allow the creation of a more accurate ceramic chronology for this critical time interval. The refined temporal control will allow more accurately determination of the impact of Empire formation on the Angamuco polity.
The Angamuco case study can potentially yield important new insights into the development of complex societies in western Mexico, and in the process make an important contribution to anthropological understanding of the urban process. This is far from a simple academic debate in that global environmental change is increasingly placing urban dwellers at risk of increased poverty, displacement, and health risk.