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Quantitative Measures of Wealth Inequality in Ancient Central Mexican Communities

  • Michael E. Smith (a1), Timothy Dennehy (a2), April Kamp-Whittaker (a3), Emily Colon (a4) and Rebecca Harkness (a5)...

Issues of social and economic inequality are increasingly becoming areas of study for archaeologists; however, little work has been done on the uniform application of analytical methods. Here we assess the use of the Gini index for determining wealth inequality in eight Prehispanic central Mexican contexts. We analyze house size at the Late Postclassic sites of Capilco (village), Cuexcomate (town), and Yautepec (city), all in the state of Morelos. Agricultural field sizes for two communities described in a Nahuatl-language census immediately after the Spanish conquest are also analyzed. Our final context is the Xolalpan phase apartment compounds at Teotihuacan. Using these case studies we discuss methodological issues concerning the use of Gini indices to infer social inequality with archaeological data. We find that the Gini index, when applied following the proposed methodological standards, serves as a useful tool for the quantification of inequality across multiple archaeological case studies.

Los temas sobre la desigualdad social y económica se están convirtiendo de manera progresiva en campos de investigación de la arqueología; sin embargo, es muy poco el trabajo que se ha realizado en torno a la aplicación uniforme de métodos analíticos. En este caso evaluamos el uso del índice Gini para determinar la desigualdad de la riqueza en ocho contextos prehispánicos del Centro de México. Analizamos el tamaño de la casa en los sitios del Posclásico Tardío de Capilco (una aldea), Cuexcomate (pueblo) y Yautepec (ciudad), todos en el estado de Morelos. También se analizan las extensiones de los campos agrícolas de dos comunidades descritas en un censo en lengua náhuatl po terior a la conquista española. Nuestro contexto final obedece a los complejos de apartamentos de la fase Xolalpan en Teotihuacán. Utilizando estos estudios de caso discutimos los problemas metodológicos que conciernen al uso de los índices Gini para inferir la desigualdad social con datos arqueológicos. Encontramos que el índice Gini, cuando se aplica siguiendo los estándares metodológicos propuestos, sirve como una herramienta útila para la cuantificación de la desigualdad a partir de múltiples estudios de caso arqueológicos.

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