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The Isthmus and the Valley of Oaxaca: Questions about Zapotec Imperialism in Formative Period Mesoamerica

  • Robert N. Zeitlin (a1)

Recent archaeological and epigraphic research suggests the existence of what could be Mesoamerica's first conquest state, centered at Monte Albán, the major Late Formative period Zapotec site in the Valley of Oaxaca. This paper explores the idea of an early Zapotec empire by examining evidence from one of Monte Albán's outlying regions, the southern Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The study is framed in terms of three hypothetical models of political and economic interaction, any one or combination of which could conceivably account for ancient Zapotec relationships with the southern Isthmus and its other hinterland regions.


Las investigaciones recientes arqueológicas y epigráficas sugieren la existencia de lo que puede haber sido el primer estado de conquista, cuyo centro fuera Monte Albán, el sitio mayor del período Formativo Tardío. Este artículo explora la idea de un imperio antiguo zapoteco a través de una revisión de las evidencias derivadas de una de las regiones marginales de Monte Albán, el Istmo sur de Tehuantepec. El estudio está estructurado con tres modelos hipotéticos de las interacciones políticas y económical. Uno de los tres modelos, o una combinación de ellos, pueda dar explicaciones sobre las relaciones del estado zapoteco antiguo con el Istmo sur y con las otras regiones marginales del mismo.

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W. T. Sanders , and D. L. Nichols 1988 Ecological Theory and Cultural Evolution in the Valley of Oaxaca. Current Anthropology 29 : 3380.

R. S. Santley 1980 Disembedded Capitals Reconsidered. American Antiquity 45 : 132145.

M. Wallrath 1967 Excavations in the Tehuantepec Region, Mexico. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 57, pt. 2. Philadelphia.

J. F. Zeitlin 1978b Changing Patterns of Resource Exploitation, Settlement Distribution, and Demography on the Southern Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico. In Prehistoric Coastal Adaptations : The Economy and Ecology of Maritime Middle America, edited by B. L. Stark and B. Voorhies , pp. 151181. Academic Press, New York.

R. N. Zeitlin 1978 Long-distance Exchange and the Growth of a Regional Center : An Example from the Southern Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico. In Prehistoric Coastal Adaptations. The Economy and Ecology of Maritime Middle America, edited by B. L. Stark and B. Voorhies , pp. 183210. Academic Press, New York.

R. N. Zeitlin 1983 Review of The Cuicatlan Canada and Monte Alban : A Study of Primary State Formation, by C. S. Spencer. American Antiquity 48 : 646647.

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American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
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