At Home with the Aztecs : An Archaeologist Uncovers Their Daily Life book cover
1st Edition

At Home with the Aztecs
An Archaeologist Uncovers Their Daily Life

ISBN 9781138100749
Published March 2, 2016 by Routledge
158 Pages

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Book Description

At Home with the Aztecs provides a fresh view of Aztec society, focusing on households and communities instead of kings, pyramids, and human sacrifice. This new approach offers an opportunity to humanize the Aztecs, moving past the popular stereotype of sacrificial maniacs to demonstrate that these were successful and prosperous communities. Michael Smith also engagingly describes the scientific, logistic and personal dimensions of archaeological fieldwork, drawing on decades of excavating experience and considering how his research was affected by his interaction with contemporary Mexican communities. Through first-hand accounts of the ways archaeologists interpret sites and artifacts, the book illuminates how the archaeological process can provide information about ancient families. Facilitating a richer understanding of the Aztec world, Smith’s research also redefines success, prosperity and resilience in ancient societies, making this book suitable not only for those interested in the Aztecs but in the examination of complex societies in general.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Rusty Nails, Stone Walls and a Drum

The Aztecs: Bloodthirsty Savages or Just Regular Folks?

Who Were the Aztecs, Anyway?

Aztec Families and Households

Aztec Communities

My Journey to Aztec Households and Communities

Chapter 2. The Discovery of Aztec Peasants

The Invisible Aztec Peasant

Background to the Fieldwork

Getting into the Field

Digging Houses at Capilco

More Houses at Cuexcomate

"Any Idiot Knows These Walls were Foundations for Adobe Bricks!"

The Village of Tetlama

Where are all the Bodies?

Celebrating the End of the World

Farming the Hillsides

The Rainy Season Begins and the Excavation Ends

Chapter 3. Reconstructing Daily Life

Our Lab in the Emperor Maximilian’s Stable

Hand-Made Tortillas

The Artifacts of Daily Life

Access to Markets

The Hidden Realm of Domestic Ritual

Rich and Poor

Changes in Rural Society

Chapter 4. A High Quality of Life

Wealthy Households

Household Choice and the Diversity of Goods

External Social Networks

Aztec Summer Camp

The Mexica Imperial Protection Racket

The One Percent and the Ninety-Nine Percent

Successful Rural Households

Chapter 5. Excavations in an Urban Community

Urban Survey: Knocking on Doors and Being Chased by Dogs

The Site is Invaded by a Squatters Settlement

We Excavate Anyway

An Elite Residence

Burial of the Dead

Irrigation and Urban Agriculture

Excavation in the Churchyard

Chapter 6. Urban Life

Daily Life

Our Laboratory in Yautepec

Flutes, Whistles, and Rattles

Obsidian Workshops

Scientific Studies of Trade

Life in the Big City

Cortés and the Spanish Conquest

Chapter 7. Resilient Communities

What is a Community?

The Calpolli: Key to Community Success

Responsive Local Government: The City-State

Chapter 8. Lessons From the Dirt

A New View of Aztec Society

Why were these Households and Communities Successful?

Sustainable Smallholder Agriculture

A New Archaeology of Households and Communities

The Aztecs and the Urban Revolution

Lessons for Communities Today

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Michael E. Smith is one of the leading international authorities on the Aztecs, with extensive experience excavating at Aztec sites. He is currently a Professor of Archaeology in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University.


*** Winner of the Society of American Archaeology 2017 Book Award - Popular ***

"Resisting the trappings of ‘monumental archaeology’– a fixation on kings, priests, pyramids, and bloody ceremonies that has for so long dominated scholarly discourse – Michael E Smith instead focuses on the life of the ‘ordinary’ Aztec, diving into trash heaps and exploring households in order to investigate the humble communities that actually made up the largest part of Aztec society... Through his remarkably engaging narrative, Smith often weaves personal anecdotes and methodological insights, drawing the reader into the hot Mexican dirt right alongside him."— Current World Archaeology

"Smith is one of the preeminent authorities and archaeologists of the Aztec, and his compassionate rendition in this instance is a welcome contribution. In this eminently readable, engaging account, he weaves a wondrous archaeological tapestry of the unsung heroes and prosperous peasant communities whose resilience, determination, and cultural knowledge stand in stark contrast to the myths and misgivings that today cloud the interpretation of thousands of years of Mesoamerican civilization and civility. Summing up: Essential"— R. G. Mendoza, CHOICE Reviews