Mesoamerica is one of a several cradles of civilization in the world. In this book, Robert M. Rosenswig proposes that we understand Early Formative Mesoamerica as an archipelago of complex societies that interacted with one another over long distances and that were separated by less sedentary peoples. These early “islands” of culture shared an Olmec artistic aesthetic, beginning approximately 1250 BCE (uncalibrated), that first defined Mesoamerica as a culture area. Rosenswig frames the Olmec world from the perspective of the Soconusco area on Pacifica Chiapas and Guatemala. The disagreements about Early Formative society that have raged over the past 30 years focus on the nature of inter-regional interaction between San Lorenzo and other Early Formative regions. He evaluates these debates from a fresh theoretical perspective and integrates new data into an assessment of Soconusco society before, during, and after the apogee of the San Lorenzo polity.
Part I. An Early Formative Mesoamerican Problem: 1. Introduction; 2. Knowledge in an archipelago of complexity; 3. Mesoamerica's first style horizons and the 'Olmec problem'; Part II. Archaeological Data: 4. Settlement patterns and architecture; 5. Diet, food processing and feasting; 6. Representations and aesthetics; 7. Inter-regional exchange patterns; Part III. Deriving Meaning from the Archaeological Record: 8. Data and expectations; 9. Conclusions.
"Were the Olmec the 'mother culture' of Mesoamerica? Dr Rosenswig applies up-to-date archaeological data from Chiapas and Veracruz, Mexico, to test and evaluate the three most heavily debated theories concerning the role played by the Olmec in the rise of Mesoamerican civilization. The result is an even-handed and clearly presented discussion of the development and spread of social complexity in
Early Formative period Mesoamerica. All readers will find this book's insights and discussions valuable and thought-provoking."
David C. Grove, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
"This eloquently written and beautifully organized study of the rise of complex life in southeastern Mesoamerica demonstrates that major anthropological questions - and their possible answers - can arise from the excavation of even small sites. Rosenswig has given us a tour-de-force of anthropological archaeology, and a milestone in Mesoamerican research."
Michael D. Coe, Yale University
"Rosenswig documents his refreshing approach with important studies of ceramics, figurines, obsidian, and iconography … His compelling, innovative assessment is distinct from other significant works."