The Aztecs and their World: Initerdisciplinary Contributions of Frances Berdan

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

The past forty years have seen enormous advances in the scholarly understanding of Aztec society. There have been major methodological, conceptual, and empirical advances in historical scholarship, archaeology, and art history. This period also encompasses the first forty years of the ongoing scholarly contributions of Frances Berdan (Ph.D., 1975). Incredibly, Frannie has had her hand in most of the significant advances in all three disciplines. Like the Aztec glue she has studied, Frannie brings together diverse approaches in her work with diverse scholars. In this session, leading scholars take stock of these advances and the role played by Frances Berdan. Because her perspective is broad and comparative, we also include some non-Aztec themes that bear on Aztec scholarship.

Other Keywords
AztecsAztecMayaMesoamericaMerchantsPolitical economypochtecaCeramicsEthnohistoryEconomy

Geographic Keywords

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-14 of 14)

  • Documents (14)

  • The 16th Century Merchant Community of Santa Maria Acxotla, Puebla (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kenneth Hirth. Sarah Imfeld. Colin Hirth.

    Although merchants were an important component of the prehispanic and post-conquest landscape, not much is known about the internal organization of merchant groups and the structure of their respective communities. This paper examines the size, composition, and internal organization of the small merchant community of Santa Maria Acxotla located in the Puebla-Tlaxcala basin of highland Mexico. Census data collected 39 years after the conquest suggests that specialized merchant communities...

  • The Birth of Ehecatl: The Cultural Origins of the Avian Wind God OF Central Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Karl Taube.

    One of the most striking deities of the Aztec pantheon is Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, a duck-billed being embodying such ethereal concepts as rain-bringing wind and the breath of life. He is in jarring contrast to Quetzalcoatl, who although embodying the same concepts of wind, is a quetzal-plumed rattlesnake in Aztec thought. This study argues that in contrast to the plumed serpent, Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl constitutes a relatively recent introduction of an avian wind deity from eastern Mesoamerica into...

  • Ceramic Emulation: Empires and Eminent Polities Seen from Afar (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Barbara Stark.

    A systematic evaluation of emulation of powerful capitals using ceramic comparisons requires consideration of (1) degrees of similarity, (2) legacy traditions, and (3) depositional contexts and sample sizes. This analysis uses ceramics from the Mesoamerican Gulf lowlands on the west side of the Lower Papaloapan River to compare with ceramics from Teotihuacan during the Early Classic Period and from the Aztec Triple Alliance during the Late Postclassic Period. Replication, imitation, and...

  • The Chapultepec Castle Chimalli: A Habsburg-repatriated Mexica feline-hide shield (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Laura Filloy. María Olvido Moreno Guzmán.

    This paper examines a well-known Mexica chimalli (shield), possibly from the sixteenth century, currently found among the holdings of the National Museum of History, Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City. The importance of this study lies in three fundamental aspects: 1) very few Mexica shields have survived; 2) the examples found outside of Mexico have not been fully analyzed; and 3) the chimalli now residing at Chapultepec Castle was originally taken from the Basin of Mexico to Europe during the...

  • The Economics of Aztec Inequality or, the Inequality of the Aztec Economy (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael E. Smith.

    In discussions of Aztec society, the economy and inequality are typically treated as separate realms. The former is discussed in terms of production, exchange, and consumption, while the latter is framed around nobles versus commoners and various hierarchies. Although no one would claim that these two topics are unrelated, the full extent of their interconnection is rarely acknowledged. We cannot understand Aztec economic processes and institutions without reference to patterns of inequality,...

  • The Explanation of Ceramic Variation in East African Prehistory: New LA-ICP-MS Results from Gogo Falls, Kenya (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Peter Robertshaw. Laure Dussubieux. Freda Nkirote.

    Two of Frannie Berdan’s abiding research interests are the concept of ethnic identity and the application of scientific analyses to archaeological problems. These two topics intersect in research on pottery in East Africa. Pioneering work in the 1970s by Simiyu Wandibba led to the recognition of several ceramic ‘wares’ represented among Neolithic and later assemblages from Kenya and northern Tanzania. The occurrence on some sites of more than one ware in the same occupation horizon challenged...

  • Frances F. Berdan and "Finding a Good Road:" Anthropology and the Aztec World (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Deborah Nichols.

    Frances F. Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt begin their magnificent four-volume edition of the Codez Mendoza by offering the following words to Mesoamerican scholars, "ce qualli obtli." "May you find the good road." Frances Berdan’s road to understanding the Aztec world crosses subfields of anthropology, ethnography, ethnohistory, archaeology and linguistics. As one of the most influential and productive scholars of the Aztecs, her road runs opposite the trend in anthropology of increasing...

  • Frannie Berdan and Economic Anthropology (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Richard Blanton.

    We all know of Frannie Berdan’s many contributions to historical scholarship, archaeology, art history, and Aztec studies, but my goal in this paper is to assess Frannie’s influence on the growth of economic anthropology during a time when the discipline was just beginning to rethink the anti-market theories of Karl Polanyi. The principal institutional context of change was the Society for Economic Anthropology, of which Frannie was a founding member and a founding board member. In the...

  • Life in the Tributary Province of Xoconochco (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Janine Gasco.

    Our work on Late Postclassic Xoconochco/Soconusco has been greatly influenced by research carried out by Frances Berdan, particularly her focus on the Codex Mendoza and other Aztec documents and her approach that integrates multiple disciplines. In this paper I use ethnohistoric and archaeological data to review the role of the Soconusco region as an Aztec Tributary Province. More specifically, I examine what these data seem to tell us about how the Aztec conquest and the subsequent collection...

  • Nahua Merchants in a Tarascan World (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Helen Pollard.

    A major enemy of the Aztecs during the Late Postclassic Period, the Tarascan State nevertheless exchanged key commodities within the Mesoamerican world by means of markets, local and long-distance traders, and gift exchange. Sixteenth century documents known since the 19th c have indicated that Nahua merchants exchanged goods with Purepecha merchants at major Tarascan fortified frontier settlements such as Taximaroa. However new research on recently translated documents and new archaeological...

  • Templo Mayor’s Gold (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Leonardo López Luján. José Luis Ruvalcaba Sil.

    Mexico is a not a country rich in native gold deposits, especially compared to Colombia, Peru, or Bolivia. This would explain why the precious metal was always used rather sparingly in Mesoamerican civilizations. A good example is Tenochtitlan (1325–1521 AD): after thirty-seven years of archaeological exploration in the city’s sacred precinct, the Templo Mayor Project (1978-2015) has recovered only a meager set of gold artifacts, in contrast to the tens of thousands of metamorphic greenstone,...

  • Tracking Luxury Craft Production across Mayapán's Physical and Social Landscapes (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Timothy Hare. Marilyn Masson.

    Considering luxury production activities in Mayapán's urban landscape reveals new data regarding a complex and diverse economic system. We explore the evidence for luxury production activities at households attached to elite palaces at this Postclassic Maya capital city. Surplus crafting at Mayapán varied according to scale, intensity, and the value of surplus items. Crafting of valuables such as effigy censers, figurines, copper objects, and stucco sculptures, was more closely supervised (or...

  • Warior Regalia and Questions of Inalienable Possessions in the Aztec World (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Emily Umberger.

    A fascinating aspect of Frances Berdan's new text, Aztec Archaeology and Ethnohistory (2014), is the section in Chapter 8 on warrior regalia as inalienable possessions. This topic is explored by Berdan in a rich discussion that merges Annette Weiner's framework with Berdan's own exhaustive knowledge of written and pictorial manuscript sources on the Aztecs. I would like to take this exploration into the realm of material evidence, by examining particular sculpted examples in the Aztec World. ...

  • Why Pilgrimage? The Ethnography and Archaeology of Journeys to the Center (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alan Sandstrom.

    Pilgrimage is a "dynamic concrete isolate" found throughout the world at all levels of socio-cultural integration. Pilgrimage involves a journey to a significant geographic location and a return to the place of origin. Pilgrimage shades into tourism and a pilgrim's destination may range from the site of a miraculous appearance of a deity to Graceland. In Mesoamerica, pilgrimage has become a major focus of archaeological research. Sites with ritual associations and little evidence of...