Between 3500 and 500 BC, the social landscape of ancient Mesoamerica was completely transformed. At the beginning of this period, the mobile lifeways of a sparse population were oriented toward hunting and gathering. Three millennia later, protourban communities teemed with people. These essays by leading Mesoamerican archaeologists examine developments of the era as they unfolded in the Soconusco region along the Pacific coast of Mexico and Guatemala, a region that has emerged as crucial for understanding the rise of ancient civilizations in Mesoamerica. The contributors explore topics including the gendered division of labor, changes in subsistence, the character of ceremonialism, the emergence of social inequality, and large-scale patterns of population distribution and social change. Together, they demonstrate the contribution of Soconusco to cultural evolution in Mesoamerica and challenge what we thought we knew about the path toward social complexity.
Richard G. Lesure is Associate Professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Interpreting Ancient Figurines: Context, Comparison and Prehistoric Art and Settlement and Subsistence in Early Formative Soconusco: El Varal and the Problem of Inter-site Assemblage Variation.
Chapter 1. Early Social Transformations in Soconusco: An Introduction Richard G. Lesure Part I: Archaic to Formative: Transformations in Subsistence Chapter 2. A Gender-Based Model for Changes in Subsistence and Mobility during the Terminal Late Archaic Period on the Coast of Chiapas, Mexico Barbara Voorhies and Douglas J. Kennett Chapter 3. Evidence for the Diversity of Late Archaic and Early Formative Plant Use in the Soconusco Region of Mexico and Guatemala Michael Blake and Hector Neff Chapter 4. Archaic to Formative in Soconusco: The Adaptive and Organizational Transformation Richard G. Lesure and Thomas A. Wake Part II: Emergent Complexity: The Archaeological Records of Early Political Centers Chapter 5. Building History in Domestic and Public Space at Paso de la Amada--An Examination of Mounds 6 and 7 Michael Blake Chapter 6. Paso de la Amada as a Ceremonial Center Richard G. Lesure Chapter 7. A History of Disaster and Cultural Change in the Coatan River Drainage of the Soconusco, Chiapas, Mexico Gerardo Gutierrez Chapter 8. La Blanca and the Soconusco Middle Formative Michael Love and Julia Guernsey Part III: Beyond the Individual Study Area: Grappling with Issues of Scale Chapter 9. Early Formative Transitions in Settlement and Subsistence at Chiquiuitan, Guatemala Molly Morgan Chapter 10. Jocotal Settlement Patterns, Salt Production, and Pacific Coast Interactions Mary Pye, John Hodgson, and John E. Clark Chapter 11. An Early Mesoamerican Archipelago of Complexity Robert M. Rosenswig Chapter 12. Concluding Thoughts: Macro-Regional Synthesis in the Archaeology of Early Mesoamerica Richard G. Lesure