New Perspectives on the Izapa State

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Long-known as an important Late Formative political site, Izapa was one of a string of early states extending down the Pacific coast from Chiapas to El Salvador. Izapa's extensive sculpture, part of a pan-regional public art style, demonstrates ties with both the Guatemalan Highlands and Isthmian traditions. Philip Drucker first brought Izapa to world attention during the 1940s in the pages of National Geographic Magazine. In the 1960s, the New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF) established a ceramic chronology and produced wonderfully detailed maps and drawings of the monumental architecture and sculpture that define the site core. Yet, despite these early efforts, surprisingly little is actually understood about how Izapa's residents lived or the world they inhabited. This session brings together a dozen scholars whose recent work provides new insights on Izapa. Reanalysis of NWAF data as well as recent excavations and regional settlement survey contribute to improved understanding of the chronology, demography, and economy of Izapa and its sustaining area. New perspectives on the site's iconography and writing place the site's public art and elite culture in regional context. These exciting new data situate Izapa and the Pacific coast as one of the centers of early Mesoamerican civilization.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-10 of 10)

  • Documents (10)

  • Defining the Izapa polity with lidar and pedestrian survey (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Robert Rosenswig.

    This paper reports the results of the first systematically collected Formative-period settlement data from the area around Izapa. Three environmental zones (coastal plain, low hills and piedmont) were documented by the Izapa Regional Settlement Project combining lidar and pedestrian survey methods. Results indicate population was highest on the coastal plain from 1700-850BC as a series of four sequential political centers rose and fell, each lasting for a century or two. After 850BC collapse of...

  • El Triangulo del Sur: Izapa, Takalik Abaj, and El Ujuxte (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Love.

    The Pacific Coast borderlands of Chiapas and Guatemala were home to at least three major urban centers in the Late Preclassic Period: Izapa, Takalik Abaj, and El Ujuxte. How these sites were related to one another through intellectual exchanges and commerce tells us a great deal about the nature of urbanism in Mesomamerica during the Late Preclassic Period. These three sites were part of a broader southern "City-State Culture" that included Kaminaljuyu, Chalchuapa, and other early urban...

  • A History of Izapa Group B: Buildings, Burials, and Offerings (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rosemary Lieske.

    The Group B complex in central Izapa contains the oldest known structures at the site and is vital to understanding the growth and development of Izapa as a regional center. This paper offers a reconstruction of Group B’s architectural development through time as revealed through the excavations and discusses the placement of its numerous burials and offerings. Most of what is known concerning the development of Group B is restricted to Mound 30a, the Mound 30 acropolis, and its auxiliary...

  • Izapa and the iconography of water and economics (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Julia Guernsey.

    The stelae of Izapa have long been analyzed within a mythic framework, drawing heavily on longstanding interpretations of mythological narratives like those of the Maya maize god. Such interpretations, while fundamental to understanding the complex meanings of such imagery, nevertheless often neglect other salient aspects of the scenes, including elements that speak to more economic concerns, particularly those that revolved around water transport. This paper argues that a re-analysis of the...

  • Izapa's Place in the Discourse on Early Hieroglyphic Writing (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Stephanie Strauss.

    Izapa occupies a curious place in the study of Mesoamerican writing and semiotic practice. Although the linguistic affiliation of ancient Izapa is unknown, glottochronological estimates suggest that Izapa stood at a multilingual crossroads between proto-Mihe-Sokean and proto-Mayan speaking populations. The blended visual vocabulary of Izapa-style monuments, coupled with the site’s location and chronology, further prompted early scholars to place Izapa on a transitional, regional continuum...

  • Izapa’s Hinterland: the use of Lidar mapping to examine the layout and spatial orientation of secondary centers in the Soconusco region, Chiapas, Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Blake. Robert M. Rosenswig. Nicholas Waber.

    We analyze the settlement layout patterns and orientations of major buildings at eight Middle and Late Formative period sites that fall within Izapa’s hinterland. Our previous examination of Izapa’s layout, using high-resolution Lidar maps, confirmed the observations of earlier researchers that the site had a dual orientation: N-S aligned to the volcano Tacaná and E-W to winter solstice sunrise. This dual orientation led to an off-square (97degrees) layout of the site during the Late Formative...

  • Izapa’s industrial hinterland: the eastern Soconusco mangrove zone during Archaic and Formative times (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Hector Neff. Paul Burger. Sachiko Sakai. Timothy Garfin. Marx Navarro Castillo.

    LiDAR coverage of a portion of the eastern Soconusco mangrove zone due south of Izapa has identified nearly 300 archaeological mounds within an area of 56 sq km. The vast majority of these mounds contain Formative period deposits. Surface and subsurface investigation indicate a major movement of people into the zone around 1600 BC, followed by population growth through the Late Early Formative (Cuadros phase). Middle through Terminal Formative (900 BC through AD 200) deposits consist of...

  • New Discoveries in the Izapa "Protoclassic" and Early Classic Periods (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rebecca Mendelsohn.

    Izapa is best known as a Formative period (850-50 BC) monumental center with elaborately carved monuments. The site is also known for its Late Classic period monumental construction in Group F, at the northern end of the site. Considerably less attention has been paid to the transitional Terminal Formative or "Protoclassic" period Hato and Itstapa phases (50 BC-AD 250), as well as the Early Classic period Jaritas phase (AD 250-400), which bridge the temporal gap between these two centers. This...

  • Transisthmian Ties: Epi-Olmec and Izapan Interaction (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christopher Pool. Michael Loughlin.

    Beginning with Matthew Stirling, who in 1943 opined that "Izapa appears to be much more closely related to the earth-mound sites of southern Veracruz … than it does with sites in the Maya area," scholars have postulated ties of varying strength between Late Formative polities on either side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Ceramic similarities have been noted between southern Chiapas and the Gulf Coast, but discussion of Late Formative transisthmian interaction has focused primarily on sculptural...

  • Volcanic hazards pose by Tacaná to the Soconusco region (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jose Luis Macias. José Luis Arce. Paul W Layer. Ricardo Saucedo.

    The Tacaná Volcanic Complex consists of four volcanic edifices: Chichuj, Tacaná, and San Antonio volcanoes, and Las Ardillas dome. It began its formation ~225 ka yr ago at Chichuj, followed by Tacaná ~50 ka, and San Antonio volcano and las Ardillas Dome during late Pleistocene. Its volcanic history recorded during the past 50 ka yr indicates that the complex has experienced major flank failures at Tacaná (~15 ka) and San Antonio (~2 ka). The latter destroyed the southern flank of San Antonio...