Image - Cacao Pod Vessel - K6706 © Justin Kerr FAMSI © 2000:
Glenn Stuart

Archaeological Palynology of Teuchitlán
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Figure 7: Pyramid 2 showing some of the excavation trenches.

Research Year:  1999
Culture:  Aztec
Chronology:  Late Post Classic
Location:  Jalisco, México
Site:  Teuchitlán

Table of Contents

Field Strategies
Circle 1: Patio
Circle 2: Pyramid
Circle 2: Platform 1
Circle 2: Platform 3
Circle 2: Platform 9
Lab Strategies
List of Figures
List of Tables
Sources Cited


A contingency grant was obtained from the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. to collect sediment samples for palynological analysis from the archaeological site of Teuchitlán in Jalisco, México, and to aid in establishing a sampling design for collection of palaeoethnobotanical data from archaeological sites in the region. Teuchitlán (Weigand, 1985; 1993a) is one of the large ceremonial centers located in an approximately 300 square kilometer area that forms the geographic core for the Teuchitlán Tradition (Figure 1). The site of Teuchitlán (Figure 2) also contains the largest and perhaps the best example of the Guachimonton-complex architectural pattern – the elaboration of surface architecture into radially symmetrical concentric circles centered by a conical pyramid – that characterizes the Teuchitlán Tradition (Figure 3). But the Teuchitlán Tradition is not defined solely on the basis of an architectural pattern. It is also within the Teuchitlán Tradition that the settlement system attained maximum complexity, and sites their largest size. Additionally, maximum population and population density were achieved, ballcourts reached monumental configurations, long-distance trade and mining intensified, ideological and socio-political systems attained maximal complexity and stratification (Weigand, 1993a; 1996), craft production was at its most specialized (Soto de Arechavaleta, 1982), codical writing displayed on pseudo-cloissonné pottery may have developed (Graham, n.d.), and wetland agriculture apparently flourished (Weigand, 1993b).

The study of these wetland agricultural systems, through analysis of architectural form of system features plus detailed analyses of their palynological assemblages, forms the basis of my own research in the study area. But, as comprehensive as the palynological data set for the wetland agricultural systems is, my analysis of the wetland agriculture was limited by the lack of comparative data from contemporaneous non-wetland archaeological contexts as funding limitations and permit restrictions prevented recovery of pollen samples from non-wetland agricultural fields, ceremonial centers, or habitation sites. Therefore the invitation to participate in the Teuchitlán project represented an outstanding opportunity to augment existing data.

The Teuchitlán project, under the direction of Dr. Phil Weigand of El Colegio de Michoacán and the Museum of Northern Arizona and Efraín Cardenas Garcia of El Colegio de Michoacán, represents the first major excavation research project conducted within the study area. Visiting the site while their first phase of the excavation was at its apex enabled me to obtain samples from a wide range of structures, features, and chronological contexts. It was assumed that analysis of some of the samples collected at Teuchitlán would provide pollen samples contemporaneous with those of the wetland systems, but from depositional contexts subject to different pollen production, dispersal and preservation patterns. Comparing and contrasting the data sets from the two sorts of contexts would facilitate demarcation of the latter and therefore aid in the identification of a palynological signature for wetland agricultural systems, one of the main goals of my research.

However, analysis of pollen samples from the site of Teuchitlán was not limited to providing comparative material for wetland agriculture research. It was thought that the Teuchitlán data would also provide a fair representation of the sort of pollen data that might occur at archaeological sites within the region, thereby serving as a pilot study upon which to base future expectations. Although detailed palynological analysis of the Teuchitlán samples was not planned, it was nevertheless thought that at least some data pertinent to reconstruction of vegetation patterns at and near the site, human – land relationships, and possible impacts the occupants of Teuchitlán had on their environment would be generated. It was also thought likely that samples from archaeological contexts would aid in documenting functional differences between architectural features, and possibly help in establishing their relative chronologies (cf. Stuart and Schoenwetter, n.d.). And finally, being able to see how the above ground architecture related to subsurface archaeological manifestations would aid in creating a sampling design for collection of palaeoethnobotanical samples from future excavations at Teuchitlán, and possibly other sites within the study area.

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Submitted 10/01/2000 by:

Arizona State University

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