Abstract: The End of Teotihuacan: Perspectives on Urban Life, Collapse, and Regeneration from beyond the Ancient Metropolis


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 state with far-reaching political influence. Teotihuacan flourished for several centuries before collapsing, by the CE 600s, for reasons that remain enigmatic. Although its monumental center has benefited from more than a century of archaeological research, investigations of daily life and social change in surrounding communities are rare by comparison. In this talk I discuss the archaeological reconstruction of household and community organization in the Basin of Mexico, beyond the margins of the capital city. I consider the process of urban decay and the ultimate political collapse of Teotihuacan from the vantage of its rural settlements, emphasizing the results of recent fieldwork at the site of Chicoloapan, 40km south of the capital. Chicoloapan evidently prospered in the generations following Teotihuacan’s collapse; its population was augmented by the arrival of immigrants from other areas, perhaps including refugees from the capital. Archaeological research at Chicoloapan significantly advances our understanding of both the timing and nature of Teotihuacan’s decline and the impact of these changes on members of its regional population.


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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