Sampling in Archaeology and History: the Case of Colonizers in Mexico City

Author(s): Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría

Year: 2014


The combination of historical texts and archaeological data is challenging, in part because we use different strategies for interpreting incommensurable data. In this paper I bring insights from literary criticism to show that historical data tend to be interpreted as a substitution of the part for the whole: a document or a few documents can be expanded to represent broad aspects of colonial society, often reaching beyond the limitations of the documents themselves. I evaluate the problems and possibilities of using historical data in this manner by studying the probate inventories of Spanish colonizers in sixteenth century Mexico City in comparison with contemporary archaeological data from the excavations of the Programa de Arqueologia Urbana. I address two questions that matter and have become basic questions in historical archaeology. First, how can we combine historical data and archaeological samples? And second, what did the Spanish colonizers think of indigenous material culture?

Cite this Record

Sampling in Archaeology and History: the Case of Colonizers in Mexico City. Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436859)

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-33,08