Collaborative Research: Urbanism, Neighborhood Organization, and Domestic Economy at the Tlajinga District, Teotihuacan, Mexico.

Project: Research project

Project Details


The archaeology of early urbanism provides deep historical context for an increasingly urbanized world. Dr. David M. Carballo and Dr. Kenneth G. Hirth will direct a collaborative three-year project involving an international team of interdisciplinary researchers at the ancient city of Teotihuacan, Mexico. During its height in the early first millennium AD Teotihuacan was the largest city in the Americas and one of the largest in the world. Today, being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited ruins in the Americas, Teotihuacan is of great interest to a broad audience.

Though Teotihuacan is famed for its high-level of civic planning, cosmopolitan populace, and broad economic reach, such issues require more intensive investigations within understudied portions of the city. Investigations of this project focus on the Tlajinga district, a cluster of neighborhoods to the south of Teotihuacan that was inhabited by a lower socioeconomic stratum of the city's populace, was the locus of intensive utilitarian craft production, and is bisected by the terminus of the city's central artery named the Street of the Dead by the later Aztecs. The Tlajinga district provides an opportune setting for examining issues of broad interest to social and behavioral sciences and represents a minimally explored portion of the city whose archaeological record is threatened by contemporary urbanization surrounding greater Mexico City. To date, only one of approximately 90 apartment compounds - the multi-family residential complexes of Teotihuacan - has been excavated.

Research goals of the project scale from the level of the household to the level of the urbanization of the city as a whole. One household activity of particular interest is the production of obsidian blades - the utilitarian cutting implement of the period - in one compound, and its implications for the organization of markets and interregional exchange. This compound will be excavated and the obsidian acquisition, production, and distribution system will be analyzed technologically and geochemically. At the district level, a complex consisting of likely temples around a plaza will be studied for a better understanding of administrative and religious activities that connected neighborhoods and articulated them with the urban fabric of the multi-ethnic city. And at the level of the entire city, excavations at the unexplored southern Street of the Dead will address when it was established and the degree of centralization involved in this major act of urban planning.

Research methods of the project include two seasons of horizontal excavations at three compounds and along the southern Street of the Dead; analysis of activity areas coupling floor-chemistry analyses and micromorphological studies; detailed materials analyses, including the technological sequence of obsidian-blade production; isotopic analysis of bones and geochemical analyses of artifacts; and extensive surface mapping and remote-sensing programs for neighborhood-scale spatial analyses. The project involves close collaboration between researchers from the US and Mexico as well as the training of undergraduate and graduate students from these two countries.

Effective start/end date6/1/135/31/17


  • National Science Foundation: $66,830.00


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