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4658 - Classic Veracruz Rising in the Western Tuxtla Mountains

In the Tuxtla Mountains of southern Veracruz, Mexico, the onset of the Classic Period is more often associated with the site of Matacapan and its Teotihuacan connection than with an autochthonous cultural development. Prior studies suggest that Matacapan arose in a sparsely occupied portion of the upper Rio Catemaco Valley following volcanic activity ca. AD 250-300. Within the western Tuxtlas, therefore, the subsequent Classic Period is best known through the filter of its external Teotihuacan ties.

Ongoing research at the site of Teotepec, located only 10 km northeast of Matacapan, offers a striking and intriguing counterpoint to this narrative. By AD 400 Teotepec was among the region's largest sites; nonetheless, its material culture reflects neither overt Matacapan dominance nor appreciable Teotihuacan influence. Rather, surface and subsurface data suggest that Teotepec's Classic Period occupation was built upon broader regional foundations, extending back to the Early Formative Gulf Olmec.

Thus, it is now clear that Classic Period Matacapan did not emerge within a relatively empty cultural landscape. Rather Matacapan and Teotepec developed simultaneously, yet independently, within the Rio Catemaco corridor. These new data afford a fresh perspective on the region's politico-economic environment at the onset of the Classic Period. This paper examines the nature of possible interactions between Matacapan and Teotepec and considers the local cultural climate that gave rise to “Classic Veracruz” as expressed in the western Tuxtla Mountains.

Keywords: Teotepec, Matacapan, Veracruz, Tuxtlas, Classic Period

Author: Arnold, Philip (Loyola University Chicago, Ud States of Am / USA)

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