How can we understand the social organization of an ancient city? One important way is by looking at the neighborhood. Neighborhoods are geographic areas within a city where people engage in daily face to face interaction (Smith 2010; Smith and Novic n.d). This definition works particularly well for archaeologists, because we can identify neighborhoods as a groups of houses based on the spatial proximity of the houses to each other. More interesting then simply identifying neighborhoods is finding it out what the people were like within in them.
Neighborhoods come in a wide variety of social forms. Throughout history, neighborhoods have shown various degrees of social clustering (of which social segregation is a type). Neighborhoods can be clustered along variables such as class, religion, place of origin, race, occupation, and position within the political hierarchy (Rapoport 1980; Garrioch and Peel 2006). Social clustering in many instances is viewed as a problem in modern urban environments. The ideal neighborhood is thought of as being one that contains a mixture of social and economic statuses (Congress for the New Urbanism 1996). A common assumption is that preindustrial cities were organized in such a way as to fit the neighborhood ideal. Whether or not this is true is yet to be determined through more research and analysis.
At Calixtlahuaca, we have twenty probable neighborhoods. I identified these by looking at the distribution of sherds across the landscape. Areas with a sherd density of three sherds per square meter or greater were assumed to be areas of more intense occupation. Here households would have been in close proximity to other households and formed the foundation of a neighborhood.
How were neighborhoods at Calixtlahuaca organized? Were they clustered or did they fit the modern neighborhood ideal? These are the questions that my research addresses. I'll look at 1) whether neighbors were procuring goods from the same production source, 2) whether they had shared tastes for the same styles and forms of ceramics, 3) whether they shared domestic ritual practices, and 4) whether there was similarities in wealth among people in the same neighborhood. I'll be sure to let you all know my results when I get them!
Congress for the New Urbanism
1996 Charter of the New Urbanism, Vol. 2008: Congress for the New Urbanism.
Garrioch, David, and Mark Peel
2006 Introduction: The Social History of Urban Neighborhoods. Journal Of Urban History 32(5):6
1980 Neighborhood Homogeneity or Heterogeneity: The Field of Man-Environment Studies. Architecture and Behavior 1(1):65-77.
Smith, Michael E.
2010 The Archaeological Study of Neighborhoods and Districts in Ancient Cities Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 29(2):137-154
Smith, Michael E., and Juliana Novic
n.d. Neighborhoods and Districts in Ancient Mesoamerica In Neighborhoods in Mesoamerican Cities: The Assessment of Intermediate Units of Spatial and Social Analysis. L. Manzanilla, M.E. Smith, and C. Arnauld, eds. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press.