Socio-Spatial Isomorphism and Ancient Farming Systems: Nominal versus Practical Tenure in the Basin of Mexico

Author(s): Christopher Morehart

Year: 2015


The recognition that similarities exist between the form of agricultural systems and the form of society is a fundamental archaeological contribution to the social sciences. This view of socio-spatial isomorphism is especially notable in research on irrigation. The spatial and temporal properties of water require particular forms of cooperation. Organizational configurations are contingent upon scale, integration, and number of users. In the Basin of Mexico during the Postclassic period, the organization and conveyance of land was tied to multiple institutional domains: household, community, state. The creation of named systems of tenure was one means by which the state exerted control over land, at least by the Late Postclassic Aztec Empire. However, the state exerted little direct control over production, and no relationship existed between systems of nominal tenure and the physical characteristics of farming systems. The first step to understand tenure in practice is to map social relations from the physical structure of agricultural systems, a basic method in archaeology. But to elucidate how local and non-local circumstances also shaped practical tenure, archaeologists must study multiple lines of data that go beyond socio-spatial isomorphism.

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Cite this Record

Socio-Spatial Isomorphism and Ancient Farming Systems: Nominal versus Practical Tenure in the Basin of Mexico. Christopher Morehart. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396010)


Farming Landscape Tenure

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;