Household intensification and agrarian states : excavation of houses and terraced fields in a Mixtec cacicazgo
Perez Rodriguez, Veronica
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This is a study of agricultural intensification on the household scale in a Mixtec cacicazgo of Oaxaca, Mexico, during the Postclassic period (AD 800-1521). Through archaeological, ethnohistorical, and ethnographic methods this study investigates the roles of the state and the independent farming household in the emergence and operation of intensive agricultural systems-agricultural terracing. It is argued that Robert Netting’s agrarian smallholder model may characterize the social organization of intensive agricultural production in Prehispanic Mixtec society, and that intensification may have functioned without state direction. The application of the agrarian smallholder model in Prehispanic Mesoamerica is significant in that it suggests that long-lasting and environmentally sustainable methods of intensive agricultural production may operate at the household and community levels. This study followed a program of mapping, surface collecting, and excavation at a rural agricultural settlement, part of the Prehispanic kingdom of Teposcolula. Two houses, twenty contour terraces, and one lama-bordo (agricultural) terrace were excavated. The artifact and architectural data are reported fully in this dissertation. The results suggest that Mixtec commoners had an independent and active role in agricultural intensification. Commoners enjoyed residential stability and had access to some luxury items, suggesting they had well-established usufruct or tenure rights over their houses and lands, and were able to benefit from their own production. Excavations show that the lama-bordo terraces could have been built through household-level labor and organization. This study is the first systematic excavation of non-noble Postclassic Mixtec households and lama-bordo terraces. The excavations revealed information on terrace construction. The household artifact assemblage represent a specific, single-component occupation probably dating to the latest Postclassic. The results of this study compliment archaeologically our understanding of the cacicazgo as a prevalent political institution in Mesoamerica.