Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Arthur A. Joyce

Second Advisor

Douglas B. Bamforth

Third Advisor

Elspeth R. M. Dusinberre


This study explores the negotiation of ideas regarding political authority and identity in the lower Río Verde Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico, during the late Terminal Formative period (100–250 CE), through comparative analysis of vessel sherds recovered from ritual feasting middens. The study sample includes 1,342 sherds from five Chacahua phase (100–250 CE) middens excavated in 2003 and 2012: four from the acropolis at Río Viejo and one from a monumental earthen platform at Yugüe. By considering the nature of ritual feasting practices at both sites through a poststructural lens, this thesis identifies a series of patterns suggesting that emerging notions of regional political authority at Río Viejo did not extend to outlying sites. Public feasting practices continuously reified the Late Formative (400–150 BCE) tradition of embedding notions of shared, communal identity and authority within individual sites across the lower Verde. The inhabitants of Río Viejo, particularly elites, may have imparted ideas of regional identity and authority centered around their city through feasts attended by people from outlying settlements. Instead of incorporating these new ideas into their own local practices, I argue that Yugüe and other communities occupying the hinterland around Río Viejo preserved their traditional, communal identities and associated feasting rituals throughout the late Terminal Formative period, indirectly contributing to the eventual collapse of Río Viejo as an urban center in the lower Verde.