Wednesday, February 7, 2018

But what were they doing...

One of the ongoing questions at Calixtlahuaca has been the degree of specialized production at the site. This could either take the form of particular households that focused on producing high quantities of a particular type of good, or the entire site specializing in producing something for trade on a regional scale. We know that specialization at both of these levels occurs at sites in both the Basin of Mexico and in Morelos. Among many other cases, the site of Otumba included specialized workshops to produce obsidian tools, and a neighborhood that made clay figurines and spindle whorls (Charlton, et al. 1991; Parry 1990). Cuexcomate and Capilco in Morelos has site-wide specialization in cotton production, and some households also made amate-bark paper (Fauman-Fichman 1999; Smith and Heath-Smith 1993).

Calixtlahuaca has been frustrating in this regard – most of the standard lines of evidence for craft production have come back negative (Huster 2016:Chap. 5). Neither the survey nor the excavation located areas of intensive obsidian working. The INAA and petrographic data for ceramics showed a wide range of variation within the broader local groups, a pattern consistent with many small producers. We only located a couple of molds for making figurines or other small clay objects, and there are very few duplicates among the finished molded items among our collections. There are a few spindle whorls for cotton spinning, but the frequencies are far lower than in other areas where it was too also too cold to grow cotton.

I’m currently evaluating whether maguey (agave) production might be sitewide or regional-scale specialty. I had previously discarded it a household-level specialization, because pretty much all of the households had some evidence for maguey textile production and none of them stood out as unusual when compared within the site. However, when compared on a regional scale, some lines of evidence suggest that the amount of maguey processing was similar to sites such as Cihuatecpan or Tepetitlan (Cobean and Mastache 1999; Evans 2005), which researchers have argued were sites specializing in maguey products. This would be an interesting finding, because the usual explanation is that people in Central Mexico focus on growing maguey (and other cacti) in areas where it is too dry to reliably grow corn (Parsons and Darling 2000), and the number of cornfields I flailed through while surveying Calixtlahuaca would suggest that this is not the case there. The Codex Mendoza tribute lists for the provide also include both maguey fiber textiles (a fairly uncommon item, limited to a single geographic cluster of provinces) and unusually high quantities of corn (2 bins, rather than the usual one), which would suggest that the two crops were both economically important in the region.

One of the 2006 survey crews trying to figure out how to lay out a surface collection in the middle of a modern cornfield at the site.

Charlton, Thomas H., Deborah L. Nichols and Cynthia Otis Charlton
                1991       Aztec craft production and specialization: archaeological evidence from the city-state of Otumba, Mexico. World Archaeology 23:p. 98-114.

Cobean, Robert H. and Alba Guadalupe Mastache
                1999       Tepetitlán: A Rural Household in the Toltec Heartland / Tepetitlán: Un Espacio Doméstico Rural en el Area de Tula. Serie Arqueología de México. University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA and Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

Evans, Susan Toby
                2005       Men, Women and Maguey: The Houshold Division of Labor Among Aztec Farmers. In Settlement, subsistence, and social complexity : essays honoring the legacy of Jeffrey R. Parsons, edited by R. E. Blanton. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles.

Fauman-Fichman, Ruth
                1999       Postclassic Craft Prodution in Morelos, Mexico: The Cotton Thread Industry in the Provinces. Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh.

Huster, Angela C.
                2016       The Effects of Aztec Conquest on Provincial Commoner Households at Calixtlahuaca, Mexico. Doctoral Dissertation, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.

Parry, William J.
                1990       Analysis of Chipped Stone Artifacts from Otumba and Neighboring Rural Sites in the Eastern Teotihuacan Valley of Mexico. In Preliminary Report of Recent Research in the Otumba City-State, edited by T. H. Charlton and D. L. Nichols. vol. 3. University of Iowa, Department of Anthropology, Research Report, Iowa City.

Parsons, Jeffrey R and J Andrew Darling
                2000       Maguey (Agave spp.) utilization in Mesoamerican civilization: a case for precolumbian" Pastoralism". Boletín de la Sociedad Botánica de México (66):81-91.

Smith, Michael E. and Cynthia Heath-Smith
                1993       Rural Economy in Late Postclassic Morelos: An Archaeological Study. In Economies and Polities in the Aztec Realm, edited by M. G. Hodge and M. E. Smith, pp. 349-376. Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, Albany.