Empires at Home

My current book project is titled Empires At Home: The Materiality Of Household Production And Consumption At Postclassic and Colonial Xaltocan, Mexico.

Spanish motif Aztec IV sherd

This research reframes our understandings of macro-level economic processes to include the daily material practices of ordinary people and the social relationships that drive production and exchange. The book applies this approach by reconstructing diachronic and synchronic variation in commoner households at Xaltocan: it explores how one household altered their economic strategies across changing social, political, and economic contexts with the rise of the Aztec empire and the arrival of the Spanish, comparing this household with site-level trends evident in surface collections and test pits, and it examines variation between contemporaneous early colonial period households. To do so, multiple lines of evidence are combined: extensive, detailed excavations of houses, precise chronologies built using Bayesian statistical modeling of radiocarbon dates, contextual analysis of artifacts recovered in sealed domestic middens, and petrographic and chemical provenance analyses of ceramics from these middens. This comparative household approach reveals a remarkable degree of variation not visible at the broad site level. For example, one early colonial household experimented with newly arrived Spanish glazing technology and European motifs, while their neighbors consumed solely indigenous wares. The book also reveals that many changes previously interpreted as effects of Aztec imperialism, such as ethnic shift and a narrowed focus on textile production, actually pre-date the empire and thus reflect anticipatory strategies of commoner agents. This monograph is the one of the first of its kind to reconstruct long-term indigenous histories that span the arbitrary pre-Hispanic/colonial divide.

Completion of this monograph is supported by a Wenner Gren Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship, which will allow me to take a year-long sabbatical from Wichita State University.

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