This archaeological study applies a world-systems-based approach in evaluating regional economic interaction among independent polities. It focuses specifically on interaction between local polities and Teotihuacan-affiliated populations in the Western Tuxtlas Region of the Gulf Coast of Veracruz, Mexico during the Early Classic and Middle Classic periods (A.D. 300-650). Changes in regional economics followed the founding of the Teotihuacan-linked center of Matacapan in the Catemaco River Valley. To assess these changes, this research characterizes the consumption of Matacapan-produced imports in two independent neighboring polities to reconstruct regional distribution networks and assess Matacapan’s impact on the region.
The Central Highland capital of Teotihuacan had variable influence throughout Mesoamerica. One pronounced occurrence of this influence has been identified at Matacapan, which displays strong material culture and architectural connections to Teotihuacan. This research therefore employs a modified world-systems framework which removes the assumption of hierarchy and instead focuses on regional interaction within the periphery. It views the establishment of regional distribution networks centered at Matacapan that articulate with the two neighboring polities as a form of incorporation, the process wherein external groups are brought into a system.
To assess incorporation, four potential Matacapan-centered networks are analyzed. These networks consist of the distribution of two ceramic types and obsidian blades produced from two sources. Artifacts from survey, surface collection, and excavation were subjected to ceramic analysis, lithic analysis, petrography, neutron activation analysis, and X-ray fluorescence analysis to identify source, form, and production technology. These data aid in determining network participation in each polity. By assessing importation in these local polities, the form and degree of their incorporation will be identified.
Incorporation of indigenous polities into regional networks was not uniform within the Western Tuxtlas Region. Two Matacapan-centered networks were identified, and they differ in form and extent. One indigenous polity, Teotepec, participated in both networks while the other, Totocapan, participated in one. I argue that Teotepec’s incorporation into a second network was strategic in that it was mutually beneficial to both involved parties. Additionally, indigenous Tuxtlas’ polities were able to negotiate interaction with their Teotihuacan-affiliated neighbor for desired goods without forfeiting political or cultural autonomy.