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.
Project Uacusecha is an on-going archaeological exploration of the Zacapu Basin malpaís. Led by French archaeologist Grégory Pereira and team, Project Uacusecha aims to understand social organization, urbanism, and economic dynamics in the region prior to and during Purépecha State formation. Project Uacusecha involves settlement pattern survey and excavation that builds on long-term research by the French team in the region. The setting (malpaís) and archaeology is very similar to that encountered by the Legacies of Resilience Project (LORE-LPB) and we are excited by the results of their 2010 season.
Here is a recent article on the summer 2009 work from an amazing writer and blogger Daniel Hernandez. Daniel also is the author of an incredibly insightful blog called Intersections focusing on “the intersections that exist between art, society, the sublime, and the streets.”
As a dual citizen of Mexico and the United States Daniel’s work often invokes cultural fusion, borderlands, and all things Mexico – please check it out. And thanks again to Daniel for his interest in the work.
It’s probably fitting that this is the first blog post on the new Legacies of Resilience (LORE-LPB) website as this project is so tech dependent. LORE-LPB has taken advantage of recent advances in mobile computing to document architectural features faster, and with a higher degree of accuracy, then traditional full coverage archaeological survey. This allows us to occupy a ‘middle ground between traditional extensive-style survey and more intensive mapping done with a total station.
In a recent poster at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Saint Louis we outlined the methodology that we use, which is based on Trimble hardware and software (TrimbleRecon rugged handheld computers as well as the GeoXH and GeoXT GPS receivers, and Terrasync and Pathfinder office software). We also got some props from the blogosphere for our use of these new technologies. Curt Hopkins originally hooked me up with much of this gear and I owe him a big thank you!!
The big issue for us now is how do we organize all of this new information? How can we harness all of these data to address traditional archaeological questions? And . . . is this going to lead us to new questions?