The Archaeology of Ecological Imperialism in Central Mexico

Author(s): Christopher Morehart

Year: 2017


In the 1960s and 1970s, cultural anthropologist Roy Rappaport criticized the effects of the West on the developing world. Well before Crosby popularized the term, Rappaport labeled this process "Ecological Imperialism" to clarify the unequal relationship between the needs of an empire and environments it absorbs. Rappaport wrote when scientists were beginning to observe global ecological degradation, but anthropologists had yet to develop a historical perspective. Over the past decade, archaeologists have demonstrated ecological degradation also has a history: past states and empires dramatically altered their environments. Archaeologists also recognized that such environmental impacts constitute legacies that shaped the political economy for subsequent states and empires and the social and physical landscapes of everyday people. This paper re-assesses the notion of Ecological Imperialism in this vein. I focus on the Aztec and Spanish empires of central Mexico (ca. 15th to 19th century C.E.). I argue that the political economies of the two imperial systems built different systems of environmental interaction. But they greatly influenced each other in negative and positive ways. A consideration of both are necessary to understand the long-term consequences that continue to be inherited into the present systems of global Ecological Imperialism.

Cite this Record

The Archaeology of Ecological Imperialism in Central Mexico. Christopher Morehart. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429808)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14480