National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Sarah Clayton

Affiliation: University of Wisconsin - Madison

Sarah Clayton is Associate Professor with the Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin – Madison, and holds her Ph.D. from Arizona State University.  She specializes in the archaeology of Mesoamerican complex societies, urban landscapes and rural-urban dynamics, the collapse of states, domestic and mortuary ritual, and migration.  She currently directs the Chicoloapan Viejo Archaeology Project, a long-term study of the regional effects of the decline of the Teotihuacan state and the ways in which new communities form under conditions of conflict and political instability.


Teotihuacan emerged in central Mexico during the first millennium CE as one of the earliest major cities in the western hemisphere. For centuries, it prospered as the capital of a powerful state that dominated the surrounding region until its dissolution during the 500s CE. The breakdown of Teotihuacan left a fractious sociopolitical landscape in its wake, and the subsequent period was marked by instability, violent conflict, and large-scale migration. This was also a time of resilience and ingenuity, however, as people reconfigured social networks and created new communities. In this talk I examine these changes from the perspective of a settlement called Chicoloapan, located 40 km south of Teotihuacan. Chicoloapan grew rapidly in the generations surrounding the decline of Teotihuacan and continued to prosper as an autonomous settlement for several centuries. Its residents, which included established households and migrants from other areas, innovated novel forms of local leadership and adopted a variety of new practices. We detect these transformations archaeologically through changes in land use, architecture, and material culture. This talk will focus on the strategies that people implement to support themselves and to reformulate thriving communities under conditions of regional political instability and rapid change.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Clayton, Sarah C. 2020. The Collapse of Teotihuacan and the Regeneration of Epiclassic Societies: a Bayesian Approach. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 59:101203.

Clayton, Sarah C. 2016. After Teotihuacan: a View of Collapse and Reorganization from the Southern Basin of Mexico. American Anthropologist 118(1).

Cowgill, George L. 2015 Ancient Teotihuacan: Early Urbanism in Central Mexico. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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