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Networks of Power

Networks of Power: Political Relations in the Late Postclassic Naco Valley

Edward Schortman
Patricia Urban
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 277
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  • Book Info
    Networks of Power
    Book Description:

    Little is known about how Late Postclassic populations in southeast Mesoamerica organized their political relations. Networks of Power fills gaps in the knowledge of this little-studied area, reconstructing the course of political history in the Naco Valley from the fourteenth through early sixteenth centuries. Describing the material and behavioral patterns pertaining to the Late Postclassic period using components of three settlements in the Naco Valley of northwestern Honduras, the book focuses on how contests for power shaped political structures. Power-seeking individuals, including but not restricted to ruling elites, depended on networks of allies to support their political objectives. Ongoing and partially successful competitions waged within networks led to the incorporation of exotic ideas and imported items into the daily practices of all Naco Valley occupants. The result was a fragile hierarchical structure forever vulnerable to the initiatives of agents operating on local and distant stages. Networks of Power describes who was involved in these competitions and in which networks they participated; what resources were mustered within these webs; which projects were fueled by these assets; and how, and to what extent, they contributed to the achievement of political aims.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-063-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Davíd Carrasco and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma

    Ever since 1943, when Paul Kirchhoff gave us the first general description of Mesoamerica as a culturally integrated region, archaeologists and scholars have been excavating the territory and filling in the map using new combinations of methods and theories. This work of expanding and deepening our knowledge of Mesoamerican peoples has been carried out by, among other publications, the expansive Handbook of Middle American Indians, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures, numerous journals, articles, and scores of monographs revealing the history and structure of city-states, cultural regions, and regional interactions while also exploring ways to construct more useful chronologies and...

  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  7. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    This volume deals with Late Postclassic (AD 1300–1523) developments in the Naco valley, northwestern Honduras, based on studies carried out at Sites PVN 144 and PVN 306. Consideration of this material is designed to redress three imbalances. The first two are spatial and temporal in scope, whereas the third pertains to the realm of archaeological concepts. Southeast Mesoamerica (adjoining portions of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), we argue, has suffered from benign neglect by archaeologists, especially when compared with the much better studied Maya lowlands immediately to the west. This is especially the case for the last Precolumbian centuries,...

  8. TWO The Interpretive Structure
    (pp. 27-44)
    Hayden Schortman

    This volume focuses on the ways universal processes of political centralization and hierarchy construction played out within the specific culture-historical context of the Roble phase Naco valley. Our general contention is that the valley’s late prehistoric political structure was, at any one time, a dynamic configuration shaped by the actions of diverse people engaged in ongoing, unresolved efforts to claim preeminence or to undermine the pretensions of those staking such claims. In the process, people organized themselves into networks, the members of which contested for material and conceptual assets crucial to their political projects. These schemes were variably successful, resulting...

  9. THREE Activity Structures and Networks at Site PVN 306
    (pp. 45-92)

    Site PVN 306 is located 2 km northeast of, and outside, the Naco valley on the north bank of the Rio Chamelecon (see figure 1.2). The narrow passage the Chamelecon cuts here is bounded by steep slopes on the north and south. Site PVN 306 is bordered by the river on the south and occupies a relatively broad terrace of that watercourse, which slopes up gradually from south to north. When first investigated in 1988, Site PVN 306 was divided between cattle pasture and cultivated fields on the eastern margin of the town of Brisas del Valle. Since that time...

  10. FOUR Activity Structures and Networks at Site PVN 144
    (pp. 93-124)

    Most of the nineteen surface-visible structures, 2.5 m and less in height, that comprise Site PVN 144 are organized into two distinct sectors, each characterized by very different organizing principles (figure 4.1). The largest buildings, Strs. 144-1/3, 5, 8/12, and 18, are arranged in a roughly circular pattern around a large patio (57 m × 71 m). Building orientations vary from 296 degrees 30 minutes to 11 degrees. Structure 144-19 was mapped as a low, amorphous construction situated within the plaza on its west side. The much smaller Strs. 144-13/15 sit atop the summit of a 0.7-m-high platform (Str. 144-16)...

  11. FIVE Activity Patterning at Roble Phase Naco
    (pp. 125-144)

    The site of Naco has long been identified in the ethnohistoric and archaeological literature as a major political and population center that served as an entrepôt in interregional exchange (e.g., Chamberlain 1966; Strong, Kidder, and Paul 1938; Wonderley 1981). Direct investigation of the site prior to 1977, however, was limited to test excavations undertaken over the course of ten days in 1936, during which five constructions in Naco’s center were cleared to varying extents (Strong, Kidder, and Paul 1938: 27–34). Anthony Wonderley’s systematic mapping and excavation at Naco during 1977 and 1979 provided a far more comprehensive account of...

  12. SIX Power in the Roble Phase Naco Valley
    (pp. 145-158)

    In this chapter we review the evidence for differential control over labor among population segments who resided at Sites PVN 144, PVN 306, and Naco. Once again, we argue that people achieve political preeminence not as individuals but as parts of groups whose members are united in their pursuit of common goals. What we are looking for in the Naco valley’s late prehistoric archaeological record is evidence for those networks and some indication of how successful their participants were in achieving prominence or in undermining the pretensions of others. Chapters 7–9 take up the issue of what resources members...

  13. SEVEN Crafts and Power
    (pp. 159-180)

    Competitions for power can be waged through the strategic manipulation of key physical resources. Among these assets are those fashioned by craft specialists. Insofar as some participants in a network gain privileged control over raw materials needed to fashion items desired by all, techniques essential to the production process, the means by which finished items are distributed to consumers, and the use of these objects, they can advance claims to power over others (Costin 1991, 2001; Hayden 1995; Schortman and Urban 2004b). Those who regulate any strategic point(s) in the production-distribution-consumption cycle of a generally desired good can reward those...

  14. EIGHT Ritual, Ideology, and Power
    (pp. 181-202)

    The assets involved in power struggles range from tangible items employed in the quest for survival to those concepts and symbols used to create and convey a sense of the world and a person’s place in it (Giddens 1984: 38, 258–261). In chapter 7 we considered how resources ranged toward the material end of that continuum, specifically craft products, might have figured in processes of hierarchy building and political centralization. Here we turn to the ways abstract premises and their means of expression in physical forms were employed in political contests. Specifically, we argue that those seeking power face...

  15. NINE Networks and Social Memory
    (pp. 203-218)

    Chapters 7 and 8 outline the tangible and conceptual resources deployed by those who sought power at Roble phase Sites PVN 144, PVN 306, and Naco. The networks created in part through the strategic use of those assets linked contemporaries of different political ranks. Preeminence is greatly strengthened, however, if power differences are rooted in the past (Alcock 2000; Bloch 1977a, 1977b; Casey 1987; Hendon 2000; Schank and Abelson 1995). Insofar as rulers can fashion credible narratives linking their present prerogatives to ancient precedents, they can clothe dynamic and contingent power relations within timeless schemes that encourage acceptance of that...

  16. TEN Conclusions
    (pp. 219-244)

    A society, as defined here (see chapter 2), is a territorially bounded network of networks. Members of a society together, if variably, participate in a common web that has distinguishable, if ever mutable and porous, physical limits (Wolf 1982: 18, 2001). A society incorporates and subsumes localized nets, such as house groups and households. Its borders are also transcended by networks that link some of its members with compatriots living in other societies. The important point is that residents of a specific area participate in a web that subsumes smaller domestic nets and define themselves in part through participation in...

  17. Reference List
    (pp. 245-270)
  18. Index
    (pp. 271-278)