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Producing an Empire: Household Production and Market Expansion at Postclassic and Colonial Xaltocan, Mexico

Author(s): Lisa Overholtzer

Year: 2016

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Archaeologists have long been interested in household production and consumption, regional economic interactions, and the development and expansion of trade networks, particularly with the rise of states and empires. This research, however, has often focused on top-down political-economic processes in which state-level elite actors condition economic activity. Put simply, “states”—and by extension, their leaders—intensify household craft production, facilitate exchange, and redirect the flow of goods. In contrast, my research reframes our understandings of macro-level economic processes to include the daily material practices of ordinary smallholders and the social relationships that drive production and exchange. In this paper, I take a precise, diachronic approach to variation at the micro-level, examining how members of one commoner household at the central Mexican site of Xaltocan altered their production strategies over four centuries, spanning the pre-Aztec, Aztec, and early colonial periods. Among the key findings is that many of the shifts in material culture previously assumed to have been the result of the Aztec conquest—a narrowed focus on cotton textile production, for example—actually pre-date the empire significantly and thus reflect anticipatory strategies of commoner agents. Assessing the effects of such strategies remains a challenging, but I argue crucial, endeavor.

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Producing an Empire: Household Production and Market Expansion at Postclassic and Colonial Xaltocan, Mexico. Lisa Overholtzer. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403672)


Spatial Coverage

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

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America