Method and Theory in American Archaeology

By Gordon R. Willey; Philip Phillips | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
Postclassic Stage

DEFINITIONS

The Postclassic stage in Middle America and Peru is marked by the breakdown of the old regional styles of the Classic stage, by a continuing or increased emphasis upon urban living, and, inferentially, by tendencies toward militarism and secularism. Concerning the leveling of stylistic regionalism, we have observed that diffusion between regions in the Classic stage both in the central Andes and in Middle America was either the not easily detectable movement of technological ideas and isolated elements or the trade in actual objects and manufactures. In the Postclassic we see the wide, interregional transferences of total art and architectural styles. The mechanisms behind these transferences are debatable, but it is reasonable to interpret many of them as actual movements of large groups of people often accompanied by military force. These trends toward militarism and large-scale warfare are reflected in the archaeological record by late Postclassic stage increases in fortifications and fortified communities in many Middle American and Peruvian regions. The implications for a gradually increasing secularization of culture and society in the Postclassic are less direct. We would, however, argue that a decrease in the number, size, and elaboration of pyramid mounds and other kinds of religious structures is one clue to the waning of religious authority. Another is the aesthetic decline from Classic standards which characterizes much of Postclassic art in Peru and Middle America. In some regions this tendency is seen in standardization and mass production

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