Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Arthur A. Joyce
Payson D. Sheets
This dissertation examines the political organization of the first complex polity in the lower Río Verde Valley on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, Mexico during the Terminal Formative Period (150 BCE-250 CE). During this time, political complexity in the region culminated in the emergence of a political seat of power at the site of Río Viejo at ca. 100 CE. However, the incipient polity collapsed little more than a century later. While traditional models of political organization in early complex polities might assume that secondary communities represented an administrative hierarchy through which leaders at Rio Viejo governed the region, current evidence does not suggest a strong degree of regional integration during the Terminal Formative. Examining political integration in the Río Viejo polity allows us to explore an instance where regional rulership may have been tenuous and short-lived rather than strong and historically durable. Rather than assuming integration in the hinterland, the project makes the rural community of Cerro de la Virgen the focus through large-scale excavations of the site’s public architecture and examines the social and material relations that constituted meaningful collectivities at the so-called “margins” of the polity. Though people were tied together through cultural institutions, rules, and obligations that went beyond economic commitments to elites, this research pushes integration a step further by considering the complex relationships between humans and the material world that enabled and constrained social life. Results of the project indicate that strong affiliations to local communities were facilitated by communal religious practices in public buildings, which likely prevented the development of regional political authority.
Brzezinski, Jeffrey Scott, "Terminal Formative Religion and Political Organization on the Coast of Oaxaca, Mexico: the Perspective from Cerro De La Virgen" (2019). Anthropology Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 88.