The archaeologically study of empires and imperialism in pre-hispanic central Mexico

Michael E. Smith, Lisa Montiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


The hegemonic-type empires of ancient Mesoamerica are difficult to study archaeologically because they left fewer material traces than more territorially organized empires such as the Inka or Roman cases. We present a material culture model for the identification of such empires using archaeological data. The model, based upon Michael Doyle's analytical approach to imperialism, is developed from historical and archaeological research on ancient empires from the Old World and South America. Empires can be identified from three types of evidence: characteristics of the capital city, evidence for varying types of political domination of provincial areas, and examples of the projection of influence in a larger, international context. We apply this model to archaeological data on three central Mexican cases- Tenochtitlan, Teotihuacan, and Tula. The results suggest that both Tenochtitlan and Teotihuacan ruled empires, whereas Tula did not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-284
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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