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Completing Research and Sharing the Data of the Teotihuacan Mapping Project

Photo of architecture at Teotihuacan

The Teotihuacan Mapping project, directed by Professor René Millon, was the first to map the entire ancient city. The artifacts from that project, organized and curated by Professor Emeritus George Cowgill, form the nucleus of the collections of the Arizona State University Teotihuacan Research Laboratory. Unfortunately, many of the analyses and subprojects were never completed. Current lab director Professor Michael E. Smith and Center for Digital Antiquity director Francis P. McManamon received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) titled “Documenting, Disseminating, and Archiving Data from the Teotihuacan Mapping Project,” to finish much of the work and make the data available for others to use.

Photo of the 1973 Teotihuacan map

The iconic map produced by the Teotihuacan Mapping Project in 1973 (click to enlarge)

The Teotihuacan Mapping Project (TMP) was one of the most important archaeological projects of the twentieth century in Mexico. Under the direction of Professor René Millon, with major assistance from Professor Emeritus George Cowgill, this project created the iconic map of Teotihuacan that has guided research at the site since the 1960s. By carefully surveying every square foot of the ancient city, Millon and Cowgill were able to piece together the footprints of over 3,000 ancient buildings at the site. For each one, crews collected artifacts from the surface and made other observations. These artifacts formed the nucleus of the collections at the ASU Teotihuacan Research Laboratory, where they remain available to scholars for study today.

The archaeologists and students of the Teotihuacan Mapping Project have made some of the most important discoveries and advances in our understanding of this ancient city. For example, studies of the surface collections first suggested the existence of a possible neighborhood of Zapotecs from Monte Alban in the western part of the city- an idea that was later proved correct through excavations. Other key studies by the project address questions of chronology, state control, and craft production, among many other topics. For their achievements with the map, Millon and Cowgill were awarded the highest honor in New World archaeology in 2004: The Alfred V. Kidder Award from the American Anthropological Association.

Photo of student arranging boxes at the Teo laboratory

Museum Studies MA student Lisa Gallagher arranges boxes of artifacts in the ASU Teotihuacan Laboratory

Unfortunately, much of the work of the Teotihuacan Mapping Project remains incomplete. The NSF will support completion of some of this work and the distribution of primary, expanded, and updated project data and information. The grant to Professor Michael E. Smith and Research Professor Francis P. McManamon, titled “Documenting, Disseminating, and Archiving Data from the Teotihuacan Mapping Project,” will accomplish the following tasks: (1) completion of the study of crucial artifacts, including those used to infer craft production, exchange and other economic activities at the ancient city, (2) write-up of the test-excavations done by the TMP, (3) cleaning, organizing and scanning of project notes and datafiles, and (4) depositing the digital files, along with the robust descriptive and technical metadata, in tDAR (The Digital Archaeological Record) where they can be accessed easily and used for future education, public outreach, research and scholarship. The files are being archived on the tDAR website.

Researchers interested in assisting with the completion of TMP analyses should contact Smith.

Photographs and catalogs from 1960s at Teotihuacan

Photographs and catalogs from the fieldwork of the Teotihuacan Mapping Project in the 1960s

Two categories of materials from the Teotihuacan Mapping Project cannot be included in the NSF project work on these and will have to be funded separately.

Category 1: Research on the housing of Teotihuacan and the reconstruction of life and social patterns. This topic, begun by Millon but never completed, is now being carried out by Smith and students at ASU. See the projects, Living the Good Life at Teotihuacan and Burials and Society at Teotihuacan.

Category 2: Completion of other excavation projects of René Millon. Millon carried out a series of excavations before the start of the Teotihuacan Mapping Project; these included tests of irrigation canals near Teotihuacan and excavations at the three-temple complex known as Plaza One and the Pyramid of the Sun. Relevant information about this fieldwork is currently curated at the Department of Anthropology at the State University of New York, Buffalo, along with Millon’s archive of photographs, notes and materials.

Photo of Teo Mapping team members

Team members Marion Forest, Michael Smith and Angela Huster in a video call with team members Ian Robertson and Oralia Cabrera

FUNDING SOURCE:
• National Science Foundation grant, “Documenting, Disseminating, and Archiving Data from the Teotihuacan Mapping Project,” Michael E. Smith, PI.
• Aug. 15, 2017 to Aug. 15, 2019

Photo of Michael E. SmithMichael E. Smith
Professor
ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Photo of Francis Pierce-McManamonFrancis P. McManamon
Research Professor
ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Photo of Angela HusterAngela Huster
Postdoctoral Research Associate
ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Ian Robertson
Consultant
Photo of Mercedes Cabrera CortesOralia Cabrera
Academic Professional
ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Joshua Kwoka
Consultant
Photo of Marion ForestMarion Forest
Postdoctoral Research Associate
ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change