Complexity, Hierarchy, and Scale: A Controlled Comparison between Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, and la Quemada, Zacatecas

Ben Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

62 Scopus citations

Abstract

Archaeologists have held a lengthy debate around the question of complex sociopolitical organización in the prehistoric American Southwest. Recent theory, though, urges scholars to unpack the properties of complexity. In this paper a southwestern regional center is compared with one on the northern Mesoamerican periphery in terms of properties generally associated with sociopolitical complexity: population size, labor investment in monumental construction, extent of road systems, mortuary practices, and symbolism of integrative facilities. Contrary to the conception of Mesoamerican societies as larger and more politically centralized, Chaco Canyon appears to have been organized at a larger scale than La Quemada. Yet it is argued that La Quemada was more hierarchically structured. Correctly evaluating complexity in both nature and degree is not only theoretically significant, but has implications for particular models of long-distance interaction between such large centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-749
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Volume60
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology

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