Economic Institutions in Ancient Greece and Mesoamerica

Author(s): Stephen Kowalewski

Year: 2018


New studies have led to a deeper comprehension of economic variation and change in Late Postclassic Mesoamerica and the Archaic and Classical Greek world. Archaeological data on city-state settlement patterns, specialized production, trade, and household consumption, and new archival material and re-analysis of texts, have replaced primitivism, substantivism, and ideal-types.

In urbanization and demographic scale the two areas are comparable. Mesoamerican and Greek agricultural production was not simply for subsistence, but was market-oriented and market-dependent. Local and long-distance trade often functioned by market mechanisms. The economies had the capacity for real growth beyond Malthusian pace-keeping.

Greece and Mesoamerica contrast in their current states of method and theory. Mesoamerica has better samples of city and hinterland settlement patterns. Ancient Greece has fuller textual sources. Research on the Greek economy is more in touch with economic theory.

I focus on two differences. The Old World used silver and state-issued coinage as money; Mesoamerica had goods monies. In the Old World the firm, or corporate group for jointly carrying out economic activities, was larger than in Mesoamerica, where the household was the locus of specialized production. These differences had consequences in the relative capacity for appropriation and accumulation.

Cite this Record

Economic Institutions in Ancient Greece and Mesoamerica. Stephen Kowalewski. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444282)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 18768