Household organization and the dynamics of state expansion: The late classic-terminal classic transformation at 00Xuenkal, Yucatan, Mexico

T. Kam Manahan, Traci Ardren, Alejandra Alonso Olvera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


While changing views of the sociopolitical history of the northern Maya lowlands now recognize that Chichen Itza's emergence as a major polity on an unprecedented scale occurred during the Terminal Classic period, rather than the Early Postclassic period, the ramifications of significant chronological overlap between Chichen Itza's rise and the demise of neighboring polities have been largely unexplored. The ancient Maya center of Xuenkal, located in the Cupul region about 45Â km northeast of Chichen Itza, is one of the few known interior sites to contain substantial (and discrete) Cehpech and Sotuta occupations. The Proyecto Arqueológico Xuenkal (PAX) was initiated in 2004 to elucidate Chichen Itza's role in the history of the Cupul region and what role local Xuenkal elites may have played in negotiating regional political dynamics. As with many surrounding centers, it appears that Xuenkal's occupational history reached its zenith with the Late Classic-Terminal Classic Cehpech ceramic sphere. However, unlike neighboring sites associated with Cehpech, such as Ek' Balam or Yaxuna, Xuenkal also contained a substantial Sotuta settlement concentrated within the site core during the Terminal Classic period. These populations adapted into an evolving regional economy by dramatically increasing household production as compared to Late Classic groups. While Sotuta households were tightly integrated into Chichen Itza's regional economy, evidence for their direct state control is not readily apparent. We suggest that the relationship between Chichen Itza and regional communities was more dynamic than current models contend, and that Chichen Itza's political machinations across the peninsula must be considered in local contexts that varied across households, communities, and regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-364
Number of pages20
JournalAncient Mesoamerica
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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