VALLEY OF OAXACA: MONTE ALBAN IV (750 - 1000 A. D.) -V (1000 - 1520 A.D.)

Beginning about 750 A. D., the Valley of Oaxaca participates in a pan Mesoamerican socio-political restructuring -- sometimes (possibly misleadingly) referred to as the collapse of classic Mesoamerican civilization. Roughly what appears to have happened is this. Certain urban centers such as Teothihuacán in the Valley of Mexico, Tikal in the eastern lowlands and Monte Albán which had played a dominant , centralizing (though not completely isomorphic) political role in their respective region rather suddenly (over 1-200 years) ceased to play that role. Ultimately (by European contact in the 16th century) what replaces these centralized regional systems varies with the region, but initially the result appears to have been decentralization and political fragmentation in all cases.

What caused this socio-political restructuring is among the most problematic and heatedly discussed issues in Mesoamerican prehistory. Most explanations that have been offered consist of combinations of possible causal factors such as climate change, anthropogenic environmental degradation, disease, warfare, and social revolution. For now, we will just describe what appears to happen in the Valley of Oaxaca. As we move on to consider other regions, we will give more detailed consideration to some of these explanations.

This period (750 -1520 A.D.) falls mostly within the Post Classic Period. in the overall Mesoamerican developmental chronology. It is sometimes called the city-state stage because of predominance of small city- states, rather than large urban centers, in the political landscape. In the Valley of Oaxaca regional chronology this corresponds to the Monte Alba´n IV (750 - 1000 A.D.) and V (1000 - 1520 A.D.) phases.

Developments associated with the pan-Mesoamerican restructuring were reflected initially in a decline and significant change in the distribution of population In the Valley of Oaxaca during Monte Albán IV. By Monte Albán V population growth resumes and areas abandoned during IV are reoccupied. These same pan-Mesoamerican developments were reflected in profound changes in the nature of social integration both within the Valley of Oaxaca and in its external relations. Less profound, but significant changes were evident in social complexity.


As you look at the material for this session, keep these questions in mind:

Unless otherwise indicated, this discussion is based on material drawn from: Blanton et. al 82 , Kowalewski, et. al. 89, Blanton, et. al. 93.

Colorado School of Mines
Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies
Dr. Joseph D. Sneed