Ancient Tropical Society in the Mexican Gulf Lowlands

The Mesoamerican tropical lowlands have challenged understandings of how complex societies developed, changed and functioned. What was the economic structure of societies with low-density urbanism, how were they organized politically, and why did they collapse with substantial depopulation? A long-running project has established systematic regional data for a part of the Gulf lowlands through two cycles of survey and excavations in the “Proyecto Arqueológico La Mixtequilla” in south-central Veracruz. Fieldwork is completed, but analyses of suites of data continue. Currently, investigation focuses on the Classic period leading up to a collapse that rivals that of the better-known Classic Maya. Shifts in settlement patterns point to changing social and political organization that boosted elites and decreased the role of collective action. Did this affect the cotton industry that underwrote regional wealth? Did household consumption patterns change? The power of systematic regional surface collections can be brought to bear to examine these and other diachronic questions.

Project Contact
Barbara Stark
Professor Emeritus

Project Details

Current research in the project focuses on a synthesis of primary settlement pattern data to examine the governance principles suggested by the major buildings and their arrangements at centers. Settlement data point to a degree of unraveling of traditional layout arrangements and separation of some palatial monumental platforms from the civic-ceremonial centers during the Late Classic period, a possible signal of the growing importance of elite estates. The cotton industry provided a valuable product for export, and analysis is underway to examine the spatial and social patterning of the cotton industry by studying ceramic spindle whorls used in spinning cotton thread (textiles are not preserved). A systematic examination of the figurine corpus is planned, in hopes of better understanding household and civic-ceremonial rituals. In the near future, the ceramic chronology will be reexamined to accompany publication of the ceramic classification. Numerous opportunities for collaborative research continue, as exemplified in project publications. The publications present results of methodological analysis of the survey methods, evaluation of ceramic styles and chronology, studies of craft specialization in diverse industries, evaluation of the interaction or incorporation of the region in expansive highland states, and the case for the collapse of the Classic period complex societies.

Research Team

Funding

External funding projects have been completed.

Outcomes

Publications

Arnold, Philip J., III, and Barbara L. Stark
1997 Gulf Lowland Settlement in Perspective. In Olmec to Aztec: Settlement Pattern Research in the Ancient Gulf Lowlands, ed. by Barbara L. Stark and Philip J. Arnold, III, pp. 310-329. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. 
Chance, John K., and Barbara L. Stark
2007 Estrategias Empleadas en las Provincias Imperiales: Perspectivas Prehispánicas y Coloniales en Mesoamérica. Revista Española de Antropología Americana 37:2:203-233. Special Aztec section edited by José Luís de Rojas and Michael E. Smith. 
Curet, L. Antonio
1993 Ceramic Production Areas and Regional Studies: An Example from La Mixtequilla, Veracruz, Mexico. Journal of Field Archaeology 20:427-440. 
Curet, L. Antonio, Barbara L. Stark, and Sergio Vásquez Z.
1994 Postclassic Change in South-central Veracruz, Mexico. Ancient Mesoamerica 5:1:13-32. 
Garraty, Christopher P.
2009 Evaluating the Distributional Approach to Inferring Marketplace Exchange: A Test Case from the Mexican Gulf Lowlands. Latin American Antiquity 20: 157-174. 
Garraty, Christopher P. and Michael A. Ohnersorgen 
2009 Negotiating the Imperial Landscape: The Geopolitics of Aztec Control in the Outer Provinces of the Empire. In The Archaeology of Meaningful Places, edited by Brenda Bowser and M. Nieves Zedeño, pp. 107-131. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. 
Garraty, Christopher, and Barbara L. Stark
2002 Imperial and Social Relations in Postclassic South-central Veracruz, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 13(1):3-33. 
Hall, Barbara A.
1994 Formation Processes of Large Earthen Residential Mounds in La Mixtequilla, Veracruz, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 5(1):31-50. 
Heller, Lynette
2000 Postclassic Obsidian Workshop Debris from El Sauce, Veracruz, Mexico. Mexicon XXII:139-147. 
Heller, Lynette, and Barbara L. Stark
1998 Classic and Postclassic Obsidian Tool Production and Consumption: A Regional Perspective from the Mixtequilla, Veracruz. Mexicon 20(6): 119-128. Figures reprinted in 1999, Mexicon 2(1): unnumbered page following page 12. 
Howell, Todd
1993 Evaluating the Utility of Auger Testing as a Predictor of Subsurface Artifact Density. Journal of Field Archaeology 20:4:475-484. 
Miller, Mary Ellen
1991 Rethinking the Classic Sculptures of Cerro de las Mesas, Veracruz. In Settlement Archaeology of Cerro de las Mesas, Veracruz, Mexico, ed. by B. L. Stark. Monograph 34: 26-38, Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles, California. 
Skoglund, Thanet, Barbara L. Stark, Hector Neff, and Michael D. Glascock
2006 Compositional and Stylistic Analysis of Aztec Era Ceramics: Provincial Strategies at the Edge of Empire, South-central Veracruz, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 17:541-559. 
Stark, Barbara L.
1990 The Gulf Coast and the Central Highlands of Mexico: Alternative Models for Interaction. In Research in Economic Anthropology, vol. 12, ed. by Barry L. Isaac, pp. 243-285. JAI Press, Inc. Greenwich, CT. 
1990 Proyecto Arqueologico La Mixtequilla. Consejo de Arqueologia, Boletin, 1989, pp. 134-137. Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico, D.F.. 
1991 Survey Methods and Settlement Features in the Cerro de las Mesas Region. In Settlement Archaeology of Cerro de las Mesas, Veracruz, Mexico, ed. by Barbara L. Stark. Monograph 34:39-48, Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles, California. 
1992 Ceramic Production in La Mixtequilla, Veracruz, Mexico. In Ceramic Production and Distribution: An Integrated Approach, ed. by George J. Bey, III, and Christopher Pool, pp. 175-204. Westview Press. Boulder, Colorado. 
1993 Entre Los Olmecas y Los Totonacos. Arqueologia Mexicana 1:5:33-36. 
1995 Introducción a la Alfarería del Postclásico en la Mixtequilla, Sur-central de Veracruz. Arqueología 13/14:17-36. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico, D.F. 
1997 Discusión de Dos Aspectos del Patrón de Asentamiento en La Mixtequilla. In Memoria del Coloquio Arqueológico del Centro y Sur de Veracruz, coord. by Sara Ladrón de Guevara y Sergio Vásquez Zárate, pp. 211-222. Universidad Veracruzana, Jalapa. 
1997 Gulf Lowland Styles and Political Geography in Ancient Veracruz. In Olmec to Aztec: Settlement Pattern Research in the Ancient Gulf Lowlands, ed. by B. L. Stark and Philip J. Arnold, III, pp. 278-309. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. 
1998 Las Implicaciones Sociales de la Cerámica Suntuaria en la Mixtequilla, Centro-sur de Veracruz, durante el Período Clásico. XI Simposio de Investigaciones Arqueológicas en Guatemala, pp. 841-849. Museo Nacional de Arqueología e Etnología, Guatemala City, Guatemala. 
1998 Estilos de Volutas en el Período Clásico. In Rutas de Intercambio en Mesoamérica, ed. by Evelyn C. Rattray, pp. 215-238. III Coloquio Pedro Bosch Gimpera. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico, D.F. 
1999 Finely Crafted Ceramics and Distant Lands: Classic Mixtequilla. In Pottery and People: A Dynamic Interaction, edited by James M. Skibo and Gary M. Feinman, pp. 137-156. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. 
1999 Commentary: Ritual, Social Identity, and Cosmology: Hard Stones and Flowing Water. In Social Patterns in Pre-Classic Mesoamerica, ed. by David C. Grove and Rosemary A. Joyce, pp. 301-313. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C. 
1999 Formal Architectural Complexes in South-central Veracruz, Mexico: A Capital Zone? Journal of Field Archaeology 26:197-225. 
2000 Framing the Gulf Olmec. In Olmec Art and Archaeolog in Mesoamerica, edited by John E. Clark and Mary Pye, pp. 31-53. Studies in the History of Art 58. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. 
2001 Cerro de las Mesas. In Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia, ed. by Susan Toby Evans and David L. Webster, pp. 112-113. Garland Publishing, New York, NY. 
2001 Central Gulf Region. In Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia, ed. by Susan Toby Evans and David L. Webster, 334-340. Garland Publishing, New York, NY.
2003 Cerro de las Mesas: Social and Economic Perspectives on a Gulf Center. In El Urbanismo en Mesoamérica: Urbanism in Mesoamerica, vol. 1, edited by Guadalupe Mastache and William Sanders, pp. 391-422. Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia and The Pennsylvania State University, Mexico, D.F. and University Park, PA. 
2003 El urbanismo y la jerarquía en el patrón de asentamiento de las tierras bajas tropicales de Mesoamérica: comparación de la costa del golfo y la zona maya. En: Investigadores de la Cultura Maya 11, vol. 1, pp. 46-55. Universidad Autónoma de Campeche, SECUD, Campeche. XII Encuentro Internacional. 
2005 Las Jerarquías en Patrones de Asentamiento en el Centro-sur de Veracruz, México. IV Coloquio Bosch-Gimpera: Veracruz, Oaxaca y Mayas II, ed. by Ernesto Vargas Pacheco, pp. 489-504. Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, D.F., Mexico. 
2006 Systematic Regional Survey in the Gulf Lowlands in a Comparative Perspective. In Managing Archaeological Data: Essays in Honor of Sylvia W. Gaines, edited by Jeffrey L. Hantman and Rachel Most, pp. 155-167. Anthropological Research Paper 57, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 
2007 Diachronic Change in Crafts and Centers in South-central Veracruz, Mexico. In Craft Production in Complex Societies: Multi-craft and Producer Perspectives, edited by Izumi Shimada, pp. 227-261. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. 
2007 Out of Olmec. In The Political Economy of Ancient Mesoamerica: Transformations during the Formative and Classic Periods, ed. by Vernon L. Scarborough and John E. Clark, pp. 47-63. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 
2007 Pottery Production and Distribution in the Gulf Lowlands of Mesoamerica. In Pottery Economics in Mesoamerica, ed. by Christopher A. Pool and George J. Bey, III, pp. 147-183. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. 
2008 Polity and Economy in the Western Lower Papaloapan Basin. In Classic Period Cultural Currents in Southern and Central Veracruz, ed. by Phillip J. Arnold, III, and Christopher A. Pool, pp. 85-119. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C. 
2008 Archaeology and Ethnicity in Mesoamerica. In Ethnic Identity in Nahua Mesoamerica: The View from Archaeology, Art History, Ethnohistory, and Contemporary Ethnography, by Frances F. Berdan, John K. Chance, Alan Sandstrom, Barbara L. Stark, James Taggart, and Emily Umberger, pp. 38-63. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. 
2008 Patrones Espaciales Cerámicas en la Cuenca Baja Oeste del Río Papaloapan, Veracruz, México. Dossier Dedicado a Alfonso Medellín Zenil. Contrapunto vol. 3:7:35-51. Gobierno del Estado de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave, Xalapa, Veracruz. 
2010 Cerro de las Mesas. In La morada de nuestros ancestros: Alternativas para la conservación, coordinated by Sergio Vásquez Zárate, Henri Noel Bernard Medina, and Sara Ladrón de Guevara, pp. 139-146. Consejo Veracruzano de Investigación Científica y Desarrollo Tecnológiico, Mexico City. 
2010 Nopiloa. In La morada de nuestros ancestros: Alternativas para la conservación, coordinated by Sergio Vásquez Zárate, Henri Noel Bernard Medina, and Sara Ladrón de Guevara, pp. 147-152. Consejo Veracruzano de Investigación Científica y Desarrollo Tecnológico, Mexico City. 
2014 Ancient Open Space, Gardens, and Parks: A Comparative Discussion for Mesoamerican Urbanism. In Making Ancient Cities: Space and Place in Early Urban Societies, edited by Andrew T. Creekmore III and Kevin D. Fisher, pp. 370-406. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England. 
2016 Central Precinct Replications. In Alternative Pathways to Complexity: A Collection of Essays on Architecture, Economics, Power, and Cross-Cultural Analysis, edited by Lane F. Fargher and Verenice Y. Heredia Espinoza, pp. 105-130. University Press of Colorado, Boulder. 
2017 Aztec Imperialism and Gulf Ceramic Emulation: Comparison with Teotihuacan. In Objects and Economy in the Aztec Empire, edited by Deborah L. Nichols, Frances F. Berdan, and Michael E. Smith, pp. 248-277. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. 
2018 Canchas de la Mixtequilla. In El Juego de Pelota, edited by Annick Daneels, Natalia R. Donner, and Jonathan Hernández Arana, pp 79-94. Primer Coloquio Temas Selectos del Centro-Sur de Veracruz. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Antropología, México, D.F. 
Stark, Barbara L., editor
1991 Settlement Archaeology of Cerro de las Mesas, Veracruz. Monograph 34, Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles, California. 
2001 Classic Period Mixtequilla, Veracruz, Mexico: Diachronic Inferences from Residential Investigations, ed. by Barbara L. Stark. Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, Monograph 12, The University at Albany, N.Y. 
Stark, Barbara L. and Philip J. Arnold, III
1997 Introduction to the Archaeology of the Gulf Lowlands. In Olmec to Aztec: Settlement Pattern Research in the Ancient Gulf Lowlands, ed. by Barbara L. Stark and Philip J. Arnold, III, pp. 3-32. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. 
Stark, Barbara L., Matthew A. Boxt, Janine Gasco, Rebecca B. González Lauck, Jessica D. Hedgepeth Balkin, Arthur A. Joyce, Stacie M. King, Charles L. F. Knight, Robert Kruger, Marc N. Levine, Richard G. Lesure, Rebecca Mendelsohn, Marx Navarro-Castillo, Hector Neff, Michael Ohnersorgen, Christopher A. Pool, L. Mark Raab, Robert M. Rosenswig, Marcie Venter, Barbara Voorhies , David T. Williams, and Andrew Workinger
2016 Economic Growth in Mesoamerica: Obsidian Consumption in the Coastal Lowlands. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 41:263-282. 
Stark, Barbara L., and John K. Chance
2008 Diachronic and Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Mesoamerican Ethnicity. In Ethnic Identity in Nahua Mesoamerica: The View from Archaeology, Art History, Ethnohistory, and Contemporary Ethnography, by Frances F. Berdan, John K. Chance, Alan Sandstrom, Barbara L. Stark, James Taggart, and Emily Umberger, pp. 1-37. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. 
Stark, Barbara L., and L. Antonio Curet
1994 The Development of Classic Period Mixtequilla in South-central Veracruz, Mexico. Ancient Mesoamerica 5:2:267-287. 
Stark, Barbara L., and Krista L. Eschbach
2017 El Colapso en la Tierras Bajas del Golfo. Arqueología de la Costa del Golfo. Dinámicas de la Interacción Política, Económica e Ideológica, edited by Lourdes Budar, Marcie L. Venter, and Sara Ladrón de Guevara, pp. 141-158. Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa. 
2018 Collapse and Diverse Responses in the Gulf Lowlands, Mexico. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 50:98-112. 
Stark, Barbara L., and Christopher P. Garraty
2004 Evaluation of Systematic Surface Evidence for Pottery Production in Veracruz, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 15(2):123-143. 
2008 Parallel Archaeological and Visibility Survey in the Western Lower Papaloapan Basin, Veracruz, Mexico. Journal of Field Archaeology 33:2:177-196. 
Stark, Barbara L., and Barbara A. Hall
1993 Hierarchical Social Differentiation among Late to Terminal Classic Residential Locations in La Mixtequilla, Veracruz, Mexico. In Household, Compound, and Residence: Studies of Prehispanic Domestic Units in Western Mesoamerica, ed. by Robert S. Santley and Kenneth G. Hirth, pp. 249-273. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. 
Stark, Barbara L., and Lynette Heller
1991 Cerro de las Mesas Revisited: Survey in 1984-85. In Settlement Archaeology of Cerro de las Mesas, Veracruz, Mexico, ed. by B. L. Stark. Monograph 34:1-25, Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles, California. 
1991 Residential Dispersal in the Environs of Cerro de las Mesas. In Settlement Archaeology of Cerro de las Mesas, Veracruz, Mexico, ed. by Barbara L. Stark. Monograph 34:49-57, Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles, California. 
Stark, Barbara L., Lynette Heller, Michael D. Glascock, J. M. Elam, and Hector Neff 
1992 Obsidian Artifact Source Analysis for the Mixtequilla Region, South-central Veracruz, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 3:3:221-239. 
Stark, Barbara L., Lynette Heller, and Michael A. Ohnersorgen
1998 People with Cloth: Mesoamerican Economic Change from the Perspective of Cotton in South-central Veracruz. Latin American Antiquity 9:1:1-30. 
Stark, Barbara L., and Kevin M. Johns
2004 Veracruz sur-central en tiempos Teotihuacanos. In La Costa del Golfo en Tiempos Teotihuacanos: Propuestas y Perspectivas. Memoria de la Segunda Mesa Redonda de Teotihuacan, ed. by María Elena Ruiz Gallut and Arturo Pascual Soto, pp. 307- 328. Centro de Estudios Teotihuacanos, Teotihuacan, Mexico. 
Stark, Barbara L., and Alanna Ossa
2005 Los Asentamientos Urbanos Huertos-jardines en la Planicie Costera de Veracruz. Anales de Antropología 39 (1):39-50. Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, D.F. 
2007 Ancient Settlement, Urban Gardening, and Environment in the Gulf Lowlands of Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 18:385-406. 
2010 Origins and Development of Mesoamerican Marketing: Evidence from South-central Veracruz, Mexico. In Archaeological Approaches to Market Exchange in Ancient Societies, ed. by Christopher P. Garraty and Barbara L. Stark, pp. 99-126. University of Colorado Press. 
Stark, Barbara L., and Pamela Showalter
1990 Reconocimiento en La Mixtequilla Sur-central de Veracruz. Arqueología (new series) 4:67-86. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México. 
Stark, Barbara L., Robert J. Speakman, and Michael D. Glascock
2007 Inter-Regional and Intra-regional Scale Compositional Variability in Pottery from South-central Veracruz, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 18:44-58. 
Stark, Barbara L., and Wesley D. Stoner
2017 Watching the Game: Viewership of Architectural Mesoamerican Ball Courts. Latin American Antiquity 28(3):409-430.
Licenciaturas, Theses, and Dissertations
Vásquez Zárate, Sergio
1990 El Modelo de Prospección en la Región de La Mixtequilla: Epoca Postclásica. Tesis de Licenciatura, Facultad de Antropología, Universidad Veracruzana. Jalapa. 
Hall, Barbara A.
1991 Domestic Refuse and Residential Mound Formation in La Mixtequilla, Veracruz, Mexico. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona. 
Yarborough, Clare 
1992 Teotihuacan and the Gulf Coast: Ceramic Evidence for Contact and Interactional Relationships. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona. 
Brodbeck, Mark
1993 The Economic Value and Social Importance of Prismatic Blades: A Case Study from La Mixtequilla, Veracruz, Mexico. M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University. 
Ohnersorgen, Michael
1993 Refuse Disposal and Domestic Mound Formation in La Mixtequilla, Veracruz, Mexico: Insights from Flotation Samples. M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University. 
Skoglund, Thanet
2001 Imports and Imitations: Compositional and Stylistic Analysis of Aztec-style Ceramics from Veracruz, Mexico. Master’s Paper, Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University. 
Speaker, John Stuart
2001 Settlement and Agricultural Land Use in Ancient Mixtequilla, Veracruz, Mexico. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Tulane University, New Orleans. 
Johns, Kevin
2003 Courting Power: The Role of the Ballgame in the Western Lower Papaloapan Basin, Veracruz, Mexico. Master’s Paper. Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University. 
Miller, Roberta Neil
2006 Figurines and Middle to Late Postclassic Changes in the Western Lower Papaloapan Basin (A.D. 1200-1521). Master’s Paper, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. 
Ossa, Alanna
2011 Given, Borrowed, Bought, Stolen: Exchange and Economic Organization in Postclassic Sauce and Its Hinterland in Veracruz, Mexico. Ph.D. dissertation, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.

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