Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Arthur A. Joyce

Second Advisor

Payson D. Sheets

Third Advisor

Gerardo Gutiérrez

Fourth Advisor

James Cordova

Fifth Advisor

Jeffrey P. Blomster

Abstract

In this dissertation I address the timing of and interrelatedness between initial Early Formative period (2000-1500 BCE) transitions in residential mobility, subsistence, and social organization in Mesoamerica. I approach these topics using evidence from the La Consentida Archaeological Project (LCAP), a multi-season field and laboratory investigation of the site of La Consentida on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, Mexico. Based on six radiocarbon dates (1947-1530 cal B.C.), La Consentida represents the earliest village site ever discovered in coastal Oaxaca, and likely in much of Pacific coastal Mexico. According to these dates, the site has produced some of the earliest ceramics and mounded earthen architecture known in Mesoamerica. In this dissertation, I argue on the basis of changes over time in earthen architecture, ground stone tools, and house construction that the community grew more sedentary over the course of site occupation. Based on studies of faunal remains, human dental pathologies, isotopic indicators, and food processing technology, I conclude that the community ate a broad diet but consumed more maize than did contemporaneous groups in other Early Formative period occupation areas, such as the Soconusco region of Chiapas and Guatemala. Culinary preferences may have changed at La Consentida, however, with a shift over time from consuming maize in beverage form to processing flour on stone mills that prompted increasing dental attrition. Anthropomorphic ceramic figurines from the site demonstrate a diversity of social roles, suggesting that the community was heterarchically complex from very early in its history. Obsidian sourcing and evidence of ceramic formal and decorative styles similar to those from other Formative period sites in West Mexico, the Valley of Oaxaca, and Central Mexico indicate La Consentida's broad interaction sphere. The very early dates associated with ceramic vessel fragments from La Consentida may complicate current models for the adoption of ceramic technology in Mesoamerica by suggesting an early tradition developing along the western Pacific coast that was contemporaneous with the Soconusco region's Barra phase (1900-1700 cal B.C.). These various lines of evidence demonstrate that La Consentida was a community in transformation during one of the most fundamental moments of socioeconomic change in the ancient Americas. Research at La Consentida is relevant to key archaeological debates concerning Archaic to Formative period transitions in settlement, subsistence, and social organization. Evidence from the site is beginning to support arguments for gradual adoption of sedentism, early consumption of significant quantities of maize, and the importance of heterarchical distinctions in the birth of Mesoamerican social complexity.

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