At Home with the Aztecs
An Archaeologist Uncovers Their Daily Life
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
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
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
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
Our Laboratory in Yautepec
Flutes, Whistles, and Rattles
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
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