Mesoamerican Archaeology: Theory and Practice / Edition 1

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Offering an alternative to traditional textbooks, Mesoamerican Archaeology: Theory and Practice places the reader in the middle of contemporary debates by top archaeologists actively exploring the major prehispanic societies of Central America.

  • Offers a comprehensive introduction to the archaeology of Mesoamerica by focusing on key time periods, sites, and the issues these times and places require us to confront.
  • Examines key moments in the Mesoamerican historical tradition, from the earliest villages where Olmec art flourished, to the Aztec and Maya City-states that Spanish invaders described in the 16th century.
  • Engages the chronological benchmarks of precolumbian social development in Mesoamerica, such as the transition to village life, emergence of political stratification, and formation of Mesoamerican urban centers.
  • Includes an extensive introduction by the editors that situates contemporary Mesoamerican archaeology in the broader terms of the social politics of archaeology.

For further resources to use with this book - including study questions, maps and photographs - visit the website at

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is not the same old culture history but a respectable compilation of recent fieldwork and analysis within a framework of innovative problem-oriented research. Joyce's introductory chapter is a synthetic tour de force." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"With specially commissioned essays by leading scholars, this is an excellent up-to-date introduction to Mesoamerican archaeology." Oxbow Books

"In this volume archaeologists have, at last, a textbook on Mesoamerica that combines recent data with current social thought. The chapters are beautifully written and provocative, giving deeper insight into Mesoamerican cultural diversity without simplifying 5000 years into a single story. Hendon and Joyce have chosen contributors who are not just specialists, but who are some of the most exciting thinkers of our generation." K. Anne Pyburn, Indiana University

"Mesoamerican Archaeology: Theory and Practice is an outstanding book. It is exactly what we’ve needed in the field for a very long time and should be used by everyone teaching a course in Mesoamerican archaeology. Hendon and Joyce have done an outstanding job of integrating fresh essays by leading scholars into a text that is both theoretically informed and empirically up to date. The combination of theory and data make it an indispensable work." Michael Love, California State University, Northridge

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Julia A. Hendon is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Gettysburg College. She is a Maya archaeologist with field experience since 1980 in Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, and is the former editor of Anthropological Literature: An Index to Periodical Articles and Essays (1988–1996).

Rosemary A. Joyce is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. She has been engaged in archaeological fieldwork in Honduras since 1977. Her most recent publications include: Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesoamerica (2001), The Languages of Archaeology (2002), and Embodied Lives: Egypt and the Ancient Maya (editor, with Lynn Meskell, 2003).

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Table of Contents

Series Editors' Preface



List of Figures

List of Contributors

1. Mesoamerica: A Working Model
Rosemary A. Joyce, University of California, Berkeley

2. Mesoamerica Goes Public: Early Ceremonial Centers, Leaders, and Communities
John E. Clark, Brigham Young University

3. Shared Art Styles and Long-Distance Contact in Early Mesoamerica
Richard G. Lesure, University of California, Los Angeles

4. Governance and Policy at Classic Teotihuacan
Saburo Sugiyama, Aichi Prefectural University, Japan

5. Social Identity and Daily Life at Classic Teotihuacan
Linda Manzanilla, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico

6. Social Diversity and Everyday Life within Classic Maya Settlements
Cynthia Robin, Northwestern University

7. Classic Maya Landscapes and Settlement
Wendy Ashmore, University of California, Riverside

8. Sacred Space and Social Relations in the Classic Valley of Oaxaca
Arthur A. Joyce, University of Colorado

9. The Archaeology of History in Postclassic Oaxaca
John M. D. Pohl, University of California, Los Angeles

10. Meaning by Design: Ceramics, Feasting and Figured Worlds in Postclassic Mexico
Elizabeth M. Brumfiel, Albion College

11. The Rural and Urban Landscapes of the Aztec State: Regional Perspectives and the Basin of Mexico Settlement Pattern Project
Deborah L. Nichols, Dartmouth College

12. Postclassic and Colonial Period Sources on Maya Society and History
Julia A. Hendon, Gettysburg College



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