The Nevado de Toluca volcano

PaleoWest’s Dr. Angela Huster Embarking on Project Studying Facets of Aztec Imperialism in the City of Tlacotepec, Mexico

Feb 1, 2023

The modern town of Santiago Tlacotepec sits within the Toluca Valley, two hours west of Mexico City. Like other Mexican cities and towns, it has a rich history stretching back thousands of years. Archaeological work in Tlacotepec last occurred in the 1890s, reportedly suffering from questionable management and practices including heavy bribery. Despite these troubles, the artifacts unearthed at the time remain a primary source of information about the Toluca Valley area.

The Toluca Valley witnessed profound political and ethnic change as the region shifted from being controlled by the Matlatzinca people to the Aztecs and then the Spanish. PaleoWest Senior Archaeologist and Principal Investigator Angela Huster, Ph.D., is now carrying out the first contemporary archaeological work in Tlacotepec in over 100 years, examining sociopolitical factors including the extent of Tlacotepec itself, the extent of any ethnic neighborhoods, and residents’ response to being conquered by the Aztecs and then the Spanish. On a broader level, this project reprises questions from a previous project where Dr. Huster worked at the site of Calixtlahuaca; her work in Tlacotepec seeks to understand if the changes observed in Calixtlahuaca translated to smaller towns such as Tlacotepec or were limited to major cities.

This project comprises a two-month intensive surface survey of the Post-classic (Aztec) site of Tlacotepec, with concurrent artifact analysis. As an area physically adjacent to but culturally and linguistically distinct from the Basin of Mexico core of the Aztec Empire (Triple Alliance), the Toluca Valley offers a unique set of opportunities to study multiple aspects of Aztec imperialism. This project will focus on economic integration in the context of imperial control, and cultural integration in the context of ethnically mixed communities.

Similar to Dr. Marion Forest, whose project is outlined here, Dr. Huster leverages PaleoWest’s research leave policy, which allows qualified staff members to take time off to conduct independent research. PaleoWest is proud to support its team in their personal academic interests and looks forward to learning more about future projects.

This project is being funded by an H and T King grant from the Society for American Archaeology.

Pictured: The Nevado de Toluca volcano from the project site.