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Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 313–364 | Cite as

The Casas Grandes Regional System: A Late Prehistoric Polity of Northwestern Mexico

  • Michael E. Whalen
  • Paul E. Minnis
Article

Abstract

Casas Grandes, or Paquimé, is located in northwestern Chihuahua, Mexico, although it is one of the pueblo-style cultures that are best known from the adjacent southwestern U.S. At its apogee (ca. A.D. 1200–1450), Casas Grandes has been characterized as the largest and most complex prehistoric community in the puebloan world. It is further famous both as the center of one of the major interaction systems of the region, as well as a link between the cultures of Mesoamerica and those of the U.S. Southwest. Despite its acknowledged status as one of late prehistoric North America's few indigenous complex societies, the Casas Grandes polity has been so little studied that most aspects of its size, structure, level of centralization, and mode of operation remain obscure. The writers' work in Chihuahua has been designed to remedy this situation. In contrast to the original and highly influential interpretation that has prevailed for the last 25 years, the work reported here argues that the Casas Grandes polity, like its Chacoan and Hohokam counterparts of the adjacent southwestern U.S., existed at an intermediate level of sociopolitical complexity, so that it was not able to exert a uniform hegemony even over its near neighbors. Envisioned instead is a less comprehensive, less centralized situation of irregular control in a politically unstable context.

pueblo societies cultural evolution regional systems political structure southwestern U.S. northern Mexico 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael E. Whalen
    • 1
  • Paul E. Minnis
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of TulsaTulsa
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of OklahomaNorman

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