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.


The first millennium CE witnessed the growth and decline of Teotihuacan, one of North America’s earliest major cities and the capital of an unprecedentedly powerful regional state. Teotihuacan flourished for many centuries before collapsing by 600 CE, for reasons that remain enigmatic. Although the monumental center has benefited from more than a century of research, archaeological investigations of surrounding communities are rare by comparison. In this talk I discuss the decline of Teotihuacan from the perspective of a settlement called Chicoloapan, located 40km to the south. Fieldwork at Chicoloapan is advancing our knowledge of the timing and nature of Teotihuacan’s decline and the impact of this process on surrounding communities. This research also provides an opportunity to examine the ways in which new communities take shape in the context of regional political crisis. Chicoloapan grew rapidly in the generations following the dissolution of Teotihuacan. 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 not only on collapse, but on the process of rebuilding and the strategies that people implemented to support themselves and to peaceably coexist at a time of significant change.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

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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