Collective Social Identification at La Quemada, Zacatecas, Mexico


This project contains the datasets resulting from my dissertation titled "Social Identification and the Capacity for Collective Action at La Quemada, Zacatecas, Mexico (600-800 CE)," which was successfully defended in November 2018.

Dissertation Abstract:

Unlike traditional frontier studies that treat the frontier as monolithic and focus on core-periphery interactions involving colonialism and acculturation, this dissertation seeks to characterize the internal social dynamics of frontier regions using the collective social identification framework. Concentrating on the intraregional and intrasite scales makes it possible to directly evaluate the bottom-up processes involved in the formation of collective social identities within frontier zones (i.e., sociopolitical development divorced from core-centric actions). Derived from social science research aimed at understanding the development of modern nation-states and social movements, the theoretical framework implemented in this research centers on the idea that sustained collective action depends on the degree to which groups of individuals share networks of social interaction (i.e., relational identification) and recognize membership in the same social categories (i.e. categorical identification). Applying this model to the site of La Quemada, Zacatecas, Mexico, provides a methodology for assessing the potential for collective action through time and across spatial scales based on the degree of categorical commonality or the strength of relational connections among the site’s inhabitants.

Dating to the Epiclassic period (600-900 CE), La Quemada was founded during the cultural florescence of the northern frontier of Mesoamerica, but the site was abandoned ca. 800-900 CE while other polities persisted. Therefore, it is hypothesized that a change in how the occupants of La Quemada identified with one another decreased the potential for collective action over time and contributed to site abandonment. Material proxies in the form of ceramic-style categories (i.e., shared styles expressing categorical affiliation) and fabric classes (i.e., shared pastes indicative of relational networks) are used to assess the temporal and spatial consistency of social identification at multiple socio-spatial scales within the site of La Quemada. The results of this research, however, find that despite fluctuations in the expression of categorical identification among La Quemada residents it was the strength of their relational ties that gave them the capacity to recover. Furthermore, the capacity for collective action was high preceding site abandonment, suggesting that a disruption in the social fabric of La Quemada did not contribute to its decline and abandonment.

Funding Acknowledgements:

The research described here was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (BCS 1832709, CNH 1113991), the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (Gr. CONF-631), the Sigma Xi ASU Chapter Grant-in-Aid of Research Grant Program, as well as the Graduate and Professional Student Association and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. This project was conducted with permission from the Consejo Nacional de Arqueología of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia of Mexico and its three studies draw extensively on the data collected by the La Quemada-Malpaso Valley Archaeological Project, which was originally funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies.

Cite this Record

Collective Social Identification at La Quemada, Zacatecas, Mexico. ( tDAR id: 439221) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8439221

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 600 to 800 (CE)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -105.941; min lat: 20.633 ; max long: -100.865; max lat: 24.807 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Andrea Torvinen

Principal Investigator(s): Andrea Torvinen; Ben Nelson

Source Collections

La Quemada-Malpaso Valley Archaeological Project ceramic assemblage

Resources Inside this Project (Viewing 1-3 of 3)


  1. Torvinen and Nelson (2020) Supplemental Material - Refinement of the Chronology of La Quemada, Zacatecas, Mexico, Using Ceramic Seriation (2020)


  1. Torvinen (2018) - EPMA-WDS raw data for clay samples (2018)
  2. Torvinen (2018) - EPMA-WDS raw data for sherd samples (2018)