Verónica Pérez Rodríguez
Interests: Ecological and Environmental Anthropology; Mesoamerican Archaeology; Complex Societies and Urbanism; Landscape and Regional Studies; Agriculture and Terracing.
In my research I employ an ecological and historical perspective to study social complexity, urbanism, and agriculture in Mesoamerica. By looking beyond the single archaeological site and instead focusing on settlement patterns, regions, and the surrounding landscape archaeologists are able to look at large-scale spatial and temporal patterns of social organization, land use, and their environmental impact. My work so far has focused on the highland region of the Mixteca Alta in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.
The Mixteca Alta is a fascinating place to work in for many reasons, from the emergence of the ancient ñuu to the decipherment of the Mixtec codices and writing system. One of the less obvious reasons is that the region’s environment presents a series of challenges to agriculture. The Mixteca Alta’s high elevation, varying temperatures, topography, seasonal rain, and aridity patterns make agriculture a difficult proposition and yet early agricultural villages flourished there in the Formative period. These societies eventually gave way to early urban centers and later on to the famous cacicazgos or ñuu that were the stuff of legend and the subject of fascinating Mixtec codices. This highland region, which has not received as much scholarly attention as the neighboring Valley of Oaxaca, developed an interesting pattern of urbanism in hilltop urban centers that integrated elaborate terrace systems in their layout.
In recent and previous studies I have sought to integrate archaeological methods, including GIS with ethnography, ethnohistory, soil and geomorphological studies to look closely at the development of agricultural landscapes and urban centers in the Mixteca Alta. My current research at Cerro Jazmín investigates highland urbanism and its use of green and agricultural spaces, especially terracing in their layout. By working with geomorphologists and other scholars this research also investigates the environmental impact and potential sustainability of this form of urbanism. My hope is that what we learn about successful and failed attempts of urbanism in the past can inform current attempts to live in cities successfully and sustainably.
To learn more about the Cerro Jazmín Archaeological Project follow the link to the project’s website.