Advances in City-State Research, with an Example from Mesoamerica

Abstract

The last 20 years have seen advances in the understanding of city-states, especially in ancient Greece, where textual information fuels new theories about institutions and the ancient economy. Archaeological research makes significant contributions with data comparable across multiple city-states on settlement patterns, urban and rural development, political and ritual activities, and other materializations of institutionalized behavior. Using a new corpus of 74 city-states from Oaxaca, Mexico, I show that city-states differ from one another in patterned ways, and I argue that this variation depends on internal factors such as the social mode of production and external factors including place in regional and interregional exchange.

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Acknowledgments

This research would simply be impossible without full-coverage regional archaeological surveys. I thank the project directors (and their crews) who devoted years to planning and doing the surveys and publishing the data. In order of appearance, they are Ron Spores, Richard Blanton, Bruce Byland, Charles Spencer and Elsa Redmond, Gary Feinman and Linda Nicholas, Laura Finsten, and Andrew Balkansky. For their inspiration or much needed, not always heeded, advice, I thank the editor, Gary Feinman, and Richard Blanton, Jessica Dijkman, Edward Harris, Naomi Norman, Chris Pool, Jackie Saindon, David Small, and several anonymous reviewers.

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Kowalewski, S.A. Advances in City-State Research, with an Example from Mesoamerica. J Archaeol Res 28, 3–52 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10814-019-09130-z

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Keywords

  • City-states
  • Urbanization
  • Ancient economy
  • Postclassic Mesoamerica
  • Oaxaca
  • Archaeological survey