The Beginnings of Mesoamerican Civilization: Inter-Regional Interaction and the Olmec

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Mesoamerica is one of several cradles of civilization in the world. In this book, Robert M. Rosenswig proposes that we understand Early Formative Mesoamerica as an archipelago of complex societies that interacted with one another over long distances and that were separated by less sedentary peoples. These early "islands" of culture shared an Olmec artistic aesthetic, beginning approximately 1250 BCE (uncalibrated), that first defined Mesoamerica as an area of culture. Rosenswig frames the Olmec world from the perspective of the Soconusco area of Pacific Chiapas and Guatemala. The disagreements about Early Formative society that have raged over the past thirty years focus on the nature of interregional interaction between San Lorenzo and other Early Formative regions. He evaluates these debates from a fresh theoretical perspective and integrates new data into an assessment of Soconusco society before, during and after the apogee of the San Lorenzo polity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Were the Olmec the 'mother culture' of Mesoamerica? Dr. Rosenswig applies up-to-date archaeological data from Chiapas and Veracruz, Mexico, to test and evaluate the three most heavily debated theories concerning the role played by the Olmec in the rise of Mesoamerican civilization. The result is an even-handed and clearly presented discussion of the development and spread of social complexity in Early Formative period Mesoamerica. All readers will find this book's insights and discussions valuable and thought-provoking." -David C. Grove Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,

"This eloquently written and beautifully organized study of the rise of complex life in southeastern Mesoamerica demonstrates that major anthropological questions -- and their possibl eanswers -- can arrise from the excavation of even small sites. Rosenswig has given us a tour-de-force of anthropological archaeology, and a milestone in Mesoamerican research." -- Michael D. Coe, Yale University

“Rosenswig documents his refreshing approach with important studies of ceramics, figurines, obsidian, and iconography.....His compelling, innovative assessment is distinct from other significant works” -Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521111027
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2009
  • Pages: 396
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert M. Rosenswig is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University at Albany - SUNY. His research interests include the emergence of socio-political complexity and the origins of food production. He carries out fieldwork in the Soconusco region on Mexico's Pacific coast, in northern Belize and in the Atlantic watershed of Costa Rica, and has published numerous articles on the origins of agriculture and the development of socio-political complexity in Mesoamerica.
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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3

2 Knowledge in an archipelago of complexity 13

3 Mesoamerica's first style horizons and the "Olmec problem" 47

4 Settlement patterns and architecture 105

5 Diet, food processing and feasting 132

6 Representation and aesthetics 175

7 Inter-regional exchange patterns 227

8 Data and expectations 259

9 Conclusion 291

App. 1 Temporally secure excavation contexts at Cuauhtemoc with detailed ceramic data 315

App. 2 Temporally secure excavation contexts at Cuauhtemoc without detailed ceramic data 320

References cited 325

Index 361

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