Keitlyn Elizabeth Alcantara Russell

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Vanderbilt U.

Grant number

Gr. 9448

Approve Date

April 25, 2017

Project Title

Alcantara Russell, Keitlyn E., Vanderbilt U., Nashville, TN - To aid research on 'The Diet of Sovereignty: Bioarchaeology in Tlaxcallan,' supervised by Dr. Tiffiny Tung

Preliminary abstract: This project focuses on the rise and expansion of the Late Postclassic (AD 1325–1519) Aztec Empire in Mesoamerica through a novel bioarchaeological investigation of one community that resisted imperial incorporation and another that was economically integrated. As the Aztec empire grew, it confronted Tlaxcallan and Cholula, two competitive market centers and central nodes in the trade network that connected the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley to the Gulf Coast. By the end of the Postclassic (c. AD 1460) Cholula was at least partly incorporated into Aztec political-economic networks, while Tlaxcallan resisted incorporation, even while surrounded by Aztec allies and experiencing an imperially-driven economic blockade. Narratives as to how and why Tlaxcallan remained unconquered rely on propagandistic Aztec accounts, yet they neglect the role that Tlaxcallan played in maintaining autonomy. This project aims to document how varied contexts of interaction with empire are reflected in community health, exposure to violence, and diet at the urban core of Tlaxcala and a comparative population from imperially-incorporated Cholula. Through dietary isotopic analyses (13C and 15N) and recreation of local food webs, results will clarify the political, economic and social contexts that led these two centers of trade to meet such different ends when facing imperial expansion. The results of this study will inform theoretical conversations regarding local capacities for resistance and the creation of alternative political and economic strategies that perforate the fabric of imperial hegemony.