Class notes 1/24/10 – 1/30/10

Maya – Olmec Civilizations

The emphasis this week was on the development of complex societies during the Archaic period in Pacific Coastal and Gulf Coast Mexico – in essence this question addresses the history of the “Mokaya” and the “Olmec”.  I’ve put quotation marks around both these cultural groups because the search for the evidence of these people archaeology is really just the search for social and political complexity in the material record.  It is at this point in time that we begin to allow “difference to enchant” – the beginnings of public architecture, agriculture, and differentiation in the material record at around 1500 BC all point to one thing,  the development of complex societies.

While there are many books on the Classic Maya,  no extensive literature exists on the rise of states and the rise of hierarchy.  Maya archaeology developed during a time when culture-history was the focus of anthropological inquiry – the task was essentially to assign a name and organizational structure to a set of artifacts.  But this is not necessarily the case – complexity as a concept can exist independently of ethnicity and culture – interaction can occur, ideas can transfer, bodies can change without imperial or massive cultural shifts.

Sites like Mazatan have evidence of the first public architecture, happening most likely as “big men” gain the necessary goods to have communities do labor for them. Using excess labor to make public labor projects takes idle hands to make a product that is not liquid.  Liquid assets can be traded and used in a variety of ways.  Public labor projects take labor and make it an immovable yet representative of object. An important application of this is in the Lower Mississippi Valley – mound building was extensive beyond compare in the LMV,  but there was no Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.  Why?  I think because chiefs or big men or aggrandizers, etc, did not want people to to make liquid assets (palettes, gorgets, beads, etc) that could potentially be used against them in trade or power relations.

Environmental Anthropology

The Development of Western Civilizations

By the PPNB,  shit gets complex. Big villages,  agriculture,  and public buildings.  Waay before the “olmecs”.

Lithic Analysis

Again,  making a stone point or tool is difficult, but it isn’t actually so bad if you don’t think too hard about it.  While I really haven’t made anything useful,  I did successfully make a bunch a flakes easily enough this week.


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