Archaeology dissertation


In 2002, I finished a dissertation in Anthropology at the University of Georgia. In true academic style, I called it Concordant Change and Core-Periphery Dynamics: A Synthesis of Highland Mesoamerican Archaeological Survey Data. Download information is below.

Here’s the abstract:

This study synthesizes quantitative data from 20 archaeological surveys scattered across 80,000 km2 of highland Mesoamerica, and uses those data to examine macroregional-scale interaction and integration, concluding that this very large area behaved as system with integrated parts (regions). I argue that variations among contemporaneous regions (measured by population density, distribution, depth of settlement hierarchy, etc.) stemmed from the varying roles of cores and peripheries (cores have higher populations, higher population densities, and more urbanization, and peripheries have the opposite).

The study area spans the highland region from the greater Basin of Mexico southeast to the greater Oaxaca Valley area. The 20 regional surveys contribute basic data (site size, periodization, civic-ceremonial architecture) on over 14,000 components. The study examined seven periods, roughly equivalent to Early Formative through Early Classic, Epiclassic, and Late Postclassic.

Integration is evident in concordant or coordinated changes across the study area in, e.g., overall population (including both growth and contraction), urbanization, internal settlement hierarchy, and fortifications. Contemporaneity among the regions is established through ceramic crossties and trade wares. Times when more regional phases aligned indicate more integration; periods such as the Terminal Formative and Epiclassic have poorer inter-regional alignment, or less integration.

This synthesis allows examination of how civilizations grow. Previous syntheses have focused on only core regions and/or not been quantitative. I conclude that Gordon R. Willey was correct that there were periods of greater and less integration and interaction, but that market exchange was the basis for the interaction (Willey argued it was ideology). I conclude that William T. Sanders was correct that regional interactions were important in the highland sociopolitical evolution, but that interaction within the highlands were the most important (Sanders argued that it was highland-lowland interaction).

These data reveal several striking patterns, including: Early and Middle Formative populations were highest in the southern Basin of Mexico and Mixteca Alta; community size tended to increase and settlement hierarchy tended to deepen over time, except in the Epiclassic; ratios of mounds/person were highest in the south in the early periods; and, ball court construction was earliest in the southeastern study area.

Sorry, the entire dissertation is rather large (9.2 MB in Acrobat PDF format), but I don’t have time right now to divide the PDF into chapters. Send me comments, criticisms, whatever wisdom you have.

Click here to download 9.2 MB PDF of entire dissertation.

  • Front matter (title page, abstract, table of contents, etc.)
  • Ch 1. Introduction
  • Ch 2. Theoretical Background and Concepts
  • Ch 3. Study Area and Environmental Setting
  • Ch 4. Chronology and Database
  • Ch 5. Settlement Patterns
  • Ch 6. Civic-Ceremonial Architecture
  • Ch 7. Settlement Pattern Data and Analysis
  • Ch 8. Civic-Ceremonial Architecture Data and Analysis
  • Ch 9. Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited