Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology (PhD)

Degree Level





Wesley Stoner

Committee Member

Vining, Benjamin

Second Committee Member

Kowalski, Jessica


Ethnohistory, Mesoamerica, Political Economy, Spatial Analysis, State Formation, West Mexico


This dissertation seeks to understand the political and economic relationships in the organization and use of neighborhood public space at the archaeological site of Angamuco in Michoacán, Mexico. Ethnohistoric sources describe multiple distinct social classes for the P’urépecha people at the time of European contact, but they are ambiguous about the exact political and economic relationships among them. There is some description of how these different interest groups articulated at the level of the city-state, but there is not much information on the internal dynamics of neighborhood or district-level subdivisions of the city-state. The discovery of the remains of a probable granary near a small temple in a plaza in 2014 by the LORE:LPB project suggests an avenue of research that could elaborate these relationships. The storage of grain in a public place provides a window through which to investigate the political and economic relationships operating within subdivisions of the city. Using a combination of collective action theory and heterodox Marxian political economy informed by ethnohistoric evidence, this dissertation proposes three competing hypotheses that could explain the organization of neighborhood public space and the resources, such as granaries, contained within these spaces. Seven different urban neighborhoods in Angamuco were selected for this study, including candidates associated with two different urban cores. Areas were chosen through visual inspection of lidar data and investigated through a combination of survey, geophysical prospection, and spatial analysis to assess visibility and accessibility of the spaces and resources associated with them. Based on the results of this first phase of research, five of these areas were targeted for excavation. A preliminary materials analysis was conducted to sort the various neighborhoods into a relative chronology. Each neighborhood was then examined in comparison to the three competing hypotheses on the configuration of the political economy in these spaces. The results of this study show two distinct patterns for neighborhoods: one for elites and one for commoners. Public space in commoner neighborhoods throughout the city seem to best conform with the model of a “club good,” which is managed collectively by a social group but with access restricted to those outside the group. Elite areas seem to construct similar space to be private, and the placement of granaries near small temples or shrines is associated with this latter pattern. In older areas near the second urban core, these patterns are distinct. In those neighborhoods which date to later phases of occupation near the southern core, the two patterns become superimposed onto the same spaces. This could reflect an elite colonization of public space. There is at least some evidence for conflict emerging as a result of this colonization, as the most recent of the neighborhoods in this study shows evidence for multiple competing interest groups each modifying the space for their own, conflicting agendas. This has implications for the formation of the Late Postclassic imperial state, which ideologically justified its existence as a way to hold local elites accountable for the benefit of the common people.