Monday, October 5, 2015

Reconstructing life in an ancient city

Teotihuacan shows off the best archaeological research in the two major approaches to fieldwork at ancient cities: monumental archaeology and social archaeology. Recent and continuing excavations of the main pyramids by my ASU colleague Saburo Sugiyama and by Mexican archaeologist Sergio Gómez are uncovering new information about the ancient religion and politics of the city. This is the monumental approach. I'll talk about this work in a future post.

And current work by David Carballo and Kenneth Hirth in the Tlajinga area of Teotihuacan showcases the advances and accomplishments of the social archaeology approach.

(((WONK ALERT !!!  I use the term "social archaeology" here to describe analyses of ancient social patterns using rigorous methods.  I do NOT use the term in its idiosyncratic postmodern definition that refers to subjective and speculative interpretations of the archaeological record, as exemplified by papers in the "Journal of Social Archaeology" and other works of that ilk. In my usage here, social archaeology focuses on excavation of houses and analyses of the conditions and activities of ancient households, especially non-elites. If you want to know why I don't like the alternative, postmodern meaning of "social archaeology" concept, see this post in Publishing Archaeology)))

Here, I want to point to an excellent description of the current Tlajinga project that focuses on households and obsidian tool production in domestic contexts. Check out the new article, "Lessons from Teo," in the Boston University Research magazine. It is quite good! The artifact analyses of that project are being done in the ASU Teotihuacan Research Laboratory.  I wish we had more university PR departments that produce stories as intelligent, literate, and exciting as this one. My hat is tipped to David Carballo for telling the story of the Tlajinga excavations, and to the Boston University writing and filming crew for doing such a good job communicating that story.

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