Tierras Largas

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Tierras Largas is a formative-period archaeological site located in the Etla arm in the Valley of Oaxaca in Mexico. It is considered to be one of the first villages where sedentism originated in the Oaxaca area. The name is Spanish for “Long Lands”.

Archaeological site Place in which evidence of past activity is preserved

An archaeological site is a place in which evidence of past activity is preserved, and which has been, or may be, investigated using the discipline of archaeology and represents a part of the archaeological record. Sites may range from those with few or no remains visible above ground, to buildings and other structures still in use.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the tenth most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Village Small clustered human settlement smaller than a town

A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town, with a population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. Though villages are often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighborhoods. Villages are normally permanent, with fixed dwellings; however, transient villages can occur. Further, the dwellings of a village are fairly close to one another, not scattered broadly over the landscape, as a dispersed settlement.



Tierras Largas is categorized as a smaller, hamlet village in its region. Located on fertile soils, it was a farming village that contributed resources to the larger governing chiefdom of San José Mogote, 10 kilometers north of Tierras Largas. Tierras Largas has seven sub-phases (one of the phases which shares the same name) spread over the Early and Middle Formative periods. There are no signs of population expansion in Tierras Largas. [1] The site is known to excavators for its house clusters, which are common amongst smaller villages in the Oaxaca Valley.

Hamlet (place) small settlement in a rural area

A hamlet is a small human settlement. In different jurisdictions and geographies, hamlets may be the size of a town, village or parish, be considered a smaller settlement or subdivision or satellite entity to a larger settlement. The word and concept of a hamlet have roots in the Anglo-Norman settlement of England, where the old French hamlet came to apply to small human settlements. In British geography, a hamlet is considered smaller than a village and distinctly without a church.

Agriculture Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs, sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

A chiefdom is a form of hierarchical political organization in non-industrial societies usually based on kinship, and in which formal leadership is monopolized by the legitimate senior members of select families or 'houses'. These elites form a political-ideological aristocracy relative to the general group.


Tierras Largas was not a largely populated village in mesoamerica. Throughout its seven phase lifespan, the village housed a small farming community that would provide agriculture including maize, avocados, beans, and squash for the larger nearby village of San José Mogote. [2] This small farming community neither grew nor shrunk drastically in size, and throughout each of its phases, the village had a consistent number of houses.

Mesoamerica Cultural area in the Americas

Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica, and within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas. In the 16th century, European diseases like smallpox and measles caused the deaths of upwards of 90% of the indigenous people. It is one of five areas in the world where ancient civilization arose independently, and the second in the Americas along with Norte Chico (Caral-Supe) in present-day Peru, in the northern coastal region.

Maize Cereal grain

Maize, also known as corn, is a cereal grain first domesticated by indigenous peoples in southern Mexico about 10,000 years ago. The leafy stalk of the plant produces pollen inflorescences and separate ovuliferous inflorescences called ears that yield kernels or seeds, which are fruits.

Avocado species of plant

The avocado, a tree with probable origin in South Central Mexico, is classified as a member of the flowering plant family Lauraceae. The fruit of the plant, also called an avocado, is botanically a large berry containing a single large seed.


Many forms of art have been recovered from Tierras Largas, “people used imported shell to make beads, and pendants”. [3] Most small villages had pottery vessels that had either earthquake or lightning motifs on them. Almost all pottery vessels with motifs recovered from Tierras Largas favoured earthquakes and had them and earth related motifs on them. [4]

Motif (visual arts) in the visual arts, individual design element, alone or combined to produce a pattern

In art and iconography, a motif(pronunciation)  is an element of an image. A motif may be repeated in a pattern or design, often many times, or may just occur once in a work.

Artifacts found at the site

Deer A family of mammals belonging to even-toed ungulates

Deer are the hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the fallow deer, and the chital; and the Capreolinae, including the reindeer (caribou), the roe deer, and the moose. Female reindeer, and male deer of all species except the Chinese water deer, grow and shed new antlers each year. In this they differ from permanently horned antelope, which are part of a different family (Bovidae) within the same order of even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla).

Bone rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates

A bone is a rigid organ that constitutes part of the vertebrate skeleton. Bones protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells, store minerals, provide structure and support for the body, and enable mobility. Bones come in a variety of shapes and sizes and have a complex internal and external structure. They are lightweight yet strong and hard, and serve multiple functions.

In feature 57a: [8]

Mano (stone) hand-held stone tool used with a metate or quern to process or grind food by hand

A mano is a ground stone tool used with a metate to process or grind food by hand.

Metate Mesoamerican quern or milling-stone

A metate or metlatl is a type or variety of quern, a ground stone tool used for processing grain and seeds. In traditional Mesoamerican culture, metates were typically used by women who would grind lime-treated maize and other organic materials during food preparation. Similar artifacts are found all over the world, including China.

In House 1: [9]

Out of all the stone found at Tierras Largas, 20% was obsidian. [10]

Tierras Largas Phase

The Tierras Largas Phase is from 1500BC-1150BC. During this time, there were numerous sedentary farming villages located throughout the Valley of Oaxaca. At this time, most settlements were located on low, well-drained piedmont ridges or spurs adjacent to both the fertile zone of high alluvial soils and the major river channels. Tierras Largas phase settlements can be found throughout all three arms of the Valley of Oaxaca, but it is most prominent in the northern arm, the Etla arm. The largest community recognized in the Etla arm is San José Mogote. It is during this phase that we see buildings which are nonresidential, public constructions. “Based on the analyses of the Tierras Largas phase burials, houses, and storage pits, there is no indication that either ranking or socially determined inequality or stratification existed at this time”. [11]

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Kent Vaughn Flannery is a North American archaeologist who has conducted and published extensive research on the pre-Columbian cultures and civilizations of Mesoamerica, and in particular those of central and southern Mexico. He has also published influential work on origins of agriculture and village life in the Near east, pastoralists in the Andes, and cultural evolution, and many critiques of modern trends in archaeological method, theory, and practice. At the University of Chicago he gained his B.A. degree in 1954; the M.A. in 1961 and a Ph.D. in 1964. From 1966 to 1980 he directed project “Prehistory and Human Ecology of the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico.” dealing with the origins of agriculture, village life, and social inequality in Mexico. He is James B. Griffin Professor in the Dept. of Anthropology at the University of Michigan.


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Richard E. Blanton is an American anthropologist, archaeologist, and academic. He is most renowned for his archaeological field and theoretical research into the development of civilizations in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, particularly those from the central Mexican plateau and Valley of Oaxaca regions. Blanton taught at Rice University and Hunter College of the City University of New York before joining the faculty at Purdue University in 1976. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Purdue's College of Liberal Arts.

Robert Norman Zeitlin is an American professor emeritus of anthropology at Brandeis University. He has a B.A. in psychology from Cornell University, a B.S. in aeronautical engineering from Boston University, an M.A. in anthropology from City University of New York, and a M.Phil. and Ph.D. in anthropology from Yale University.

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Coxcatlan Cave is a Mesoamerican archaeological site in the Tehuacán Valley of Puebla, Mexico. It was discovered by Richard MacNeish in the 1960s during a survey of the Tehuacán Valley. It was the initial appearance of three domesticated plants in the Tehuacan Valley and allowed an evaluation to be done again of the overall temporal context of the plant domestication in Mexico. In addition to plants, Coxcatlan Cave also provided nearly 75 percent of the classified stone tools from excavation.

Gheo-shih, which translates to “River of the Gourd Trees” in the Zapotec language, is an open-air site found in the Oaxaca Valley that holds what is considered as the earliest representation of civic-ceremonial architecture. Within this site is a cleared area lined by boulders that is thought to have been used for rituals, dances or athletic competitions. This site could have held 25-30 people and is believed to be a congregation site for microbands during the rainy seasons of the Archaic period.


  1. Toby Evans 2008, p.145
  2. Blanton 1993, p.54
  3. Joyce 2010, p.86
  4. Toby Evans 2008, p.149
  5. Flannery, Kent V. and Jeremy A. Sabloff 2009, p.36
  6. Flannery, Kent V. and Jeremy A. Sabloff 2009, p.37
  7. Flannery, Kent V. and Jeremy A. Sabloff 2009, p.40
  8. Flannery, Kent V. and Jeremy A. Sabloff 2009, p.37
  9. Flannery, Kent V. and Jeremy A. Sabloff 2009, p.43
  10. Earle, Timothy K. 2009, p.250
  11. Blanton 1993, p.55