Evidence for the Emergence of Social Complexity in Early Formative Period Coastal Oaxaca, Mexico

Author(s): Guy Hepp

Year: 2017


The emergence of sociopolitical complexity, and its connections to other developments such as changing subsistence and domestic mobility, has been a central theme of archaeology for over a century. Mesoamerica has been no exception to this trend, and scholars of pre-Columbian Mexico and Central America have scrutinized socioeconomic correlates of changing political integration and centralization. One concept central to this research has been that of hereditary hierarchical inequality. In fact, ancient societies are often considered complex on the basis of producing evidence for such hierarchies. Even as incipient inequality has been traced further back in time in parts of Mesoamerica (to the Early Formative period [2000– 1000 BCE]), questions remain regarding how ostensibly "egalitarian" groups became "transegalitarian," or began shifting toward permanent inequalities. In this paper, I join a few other researchers in arguing that heterarchical distinctions were foundational to Mesoamerican complexity. I present iconographic and mortuary evidence from the Oaxacan site of La Consentida, one of the earliest known villages on Mexico’s Pacific coast. I conclude that distinctions in attire and in specialized knowledge evinced at La Consentida suggest one avenue through which egalitarian peoples laid the foundation for the famous complex civilizations of later Mesoamerican history.

Cite this Record

Evidence for the Emergence of Social Complexity in Early Formative Period Coastal Oaxaca, Mexico. Guy Hepp. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431154)


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): 14743