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3250 - Hierarchy and heterarchy in the Prehispanic Tarascan world: transformation within tradition

The Tarascan (purépecha) cultural tradition has lasted at least 3000 years, during which major social, political, and economic transformations occurred, culminating in the powerful, centralized kingdom that met Cortés. While previous studies have considered why, when, and where these changes happened, this paper will propose two significant processes of human behavior, hierarchy and heterarchy, that explain how they took place (and continue to occur). Archaeological and ethnohistoric studies of settlement patterns, tributary and market systems, and social class structures document the timing, spatial distribution, and nature of hierarchy in the evolution of societies in central and northern Michoacán. What is not explained by this approach is how and why ethnic boundaries are maintained through time and space. In the case of the purépecha, a significant question is how both the language and ethnicity was maintained over milenia when surrounded by large populations of nahua speakers and population migrations from the north and east. The role of heterarchical relationships among individuals and communities in the maintenance of ethnic inclusion and multiethnic interactions will be documented from the ethnographic and ethnohistoric records and proposed as a major process producing what is observed in the archaeological record.

Keywords: Tarascan/purepecha, hierarchy, heterarchy

Author: Pollard, Helen Perlstein (Michigan State University, Ud States of Am / USA)

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