Evidence for complex society at Middle Preclassic La Venta settlements

Author(s): William Rust

Year: 2017


In the past, abundant ceremonial evidence found at La Venta and other Gulf Coast Olmec sites has spawned widely ranging views on the emergence of complex society in Mesoamerica. Evidence of dense local riverine settlement was gained from my survey at La Venta and surrounding sites in 1986-7, revealing household sites both on La Venta and surrounding villages on abandoned river courses. The chronological sequence has been guided by over 50 radiocarbon dates recovered from a series of domestic features which range from ca. 3050-350 cal BC. Findings of house floors, refuse pits, caches, and workshops as well as burials and offerings revealed specific distributions of pottery, figurines, and both ceremonial and utilitarian lithics. Several basic trends in long-term settlement evidence show an in situ emergence of complex society around La Venta.

By the Late La Venta 2 subphase (ca. 650-350 cal BC), a local three-tier settlement hierarchy had evolved, with some riverine sites with small central mounds, fine paste pottery, figurines, and jade. Other village sites, however, lacked central mounds, had few figurines, and little fine paste pottery or carved jade. During the same time frame, when local riverine settlement peaked, maize use at all sites was accelerated.

Cite this Record

Evidence for complex society at Middle Preclassic La Venta settlements. William Rust. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430794)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14398