Cosmological Practice and Social Complexity in North and Central Mexico

Part of the Cosmology in the New World project

Author(s): Ben Nelson; Matthew Peeples

Year: 2007


To our minds the most interesting issue that emerges from juxtaposing the cosmologies of northern and central Mexico is the relationship between cosmology and social complexity. The regions were historically related and shared both broad structures many details of cosmology. Yet Central Mexican societies had undergone an urban transformation that the societies of northern and western Mexico had not experienced. In our view there are scale-dependent regularities in the material expression of cosmology and the institutions through which it was reproduced and conveyed. To characterize these regularities we will make comparisons across time and space, moving in relation to Tenochtitlan, the Aztec metropolis whose development was interrupted in mid-trajectory by the arrival of the Spaniards in 1519 CE.

We are using northern and central Mexico in a very broad sense, including what archaeologists call West Mexico, the Northern Frontier, and the Central and Southern Highlands <map>. We are not including what some Mesoamericanists call the Far North (i.e., Chihuahua and Sonora). In world-systems terms (1) central Mexico contained one of the two urbanized cores of Mesoamerica at the time of the Spanish conquest; the other was in the Maya Highlands of southern Mexico and Guatemala. Northern Mexico as we define it here was more related to central Mexico than to the Maya, and perhaps had constituted a secondary core earlier in time (2). Although central Mexico is better known, northern Mexico also contributed to the development of the Mesoamerican tradition (3, 4), including its cosmologies.

Cite this Record

Cosmological Practice and Social Complexity in North and Central Mexico. Ben Nelson, Matthew Peeples. Presented at Cosmology Conference, Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico. 2007 ( tDAR id: 4873) ; doi:10.6067/XCV85B00KP

Spatial Coverage

min long: -109.468; min lat: 18.146 ; max long: -94.438; max lat: 28.111 ;

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