Sedentism, Site occupation and Settlement Organization at La Joya, A Formative Village in the Sierra De Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz, Mexico

Valerie J. McCormack

PhD Thesis 2002

This dissertation documents the transition to settled life and formation of multifamily corporate groups at the Formative village of La Joya, Sierra De Los Tuxtlas , Vera Cruz, Mexico (1300 B.C.- A.D. 350). During the Formative period complex socities emerged throughout Mesoamerica, but not all socities evolved at the same rate. This is the case for the southern Gulf Coast region where chiefly societies emerged at San Lorenzo by 1200 B.C., but not until c. 400 B.C. in the Tuxtlas. The development of new social conventions to integrate societies in sedentary villages lays a foundation of new social inequality. In addition, the formation of multifamily corporate groups creates and institution that may permit transferring wealth, power, and prestige to future generations. Examining the transition to sedentism and the formation of multifamily corporate groups at La Joya ultimately contributes information on why geographically close and culturally related societies evolved at different rates.

Fieldwork involved the collection of an extensive subsurface sample from La Joya. Analysis focuses on spatial patterns, ground stone tool design and intra-site assemblages to determine residence patterns and the presence of multifamily corporate groups. The results of this study indicate that a residentially mobile population occupied La Joya between 1300-1150 B.C. Sedentism in the Tuxtlas occurred following a volcanic eruption that reduced habitable land and when the productivity of maize increased to form a substantial and reliable substance base. Following the transition to sedentism, community organization fluctuates between multifamily corporate group and nuclear family sized housholds. These changes in community organization are related to local population levels and the availability of agricultural land.

A comparison of aquatic resources zones and productive agricultural land in the Tuxtlas and the region around San Lorenzo shows that the distribution of resources influenced Early Formative socities. The comparison reveals that the exploitation of the two zones requires mobility in the Tuxtlas, but permits sedentism near San Lorenzo. In addition the juxtaposition of resources near San Lorenzo would encourage sorporate group formation.