migration, Maya, Chichen Itza, Tula


Migration, as a theory to explain aspects in the archaeological record, has fallen out of favor in Mesoamerican archaeology, possibly due to a lack of a standard definition or description of migration. Migration as an explanation of change in Maya civilizations has been around since the 1950's and the culture-history era of American archaeology. Since the early 1990's, migration has been treated as a process, one that can be discerned in pre-literate cultures as well as historical ones. Models of the migration process are being developed and tested. One type of migration, elite dominance migration, is a particularly suitable process to study in Mesoamerica. A model of elite dominance migration might include the following attributes: advance contact by the migrating culture, migration to a center, maintenance of contact with the sending population, spatial concentration of the incoming population, migration of a selected population of elites, and a cause or push factor. To find these attributes, the receiving population is studied to determine if there are multiple changes in the material record consistent with an intrusion of an outside group. And, there should be a rough chronological correlation between the sending and receiving populations. The Maya site of Chichén Itzá is a classic case study, and provides a starting point as a possible receiving population of an elite dominance migration. There is an abundance of scholarship devoted to the question of the relationship between Chichén Itzá and Tula, Hidalgo, in Central Mexico. The iconographic similarities between the two sites are numerous and have been thoroughly discussed in the literature. But, there is much more evidence that should be examined in applying a model of elite dominance, such as architecture, artifacts (including ceramics and obsidian), burial and caching practices, and site configuration. Comparing all of these categories at the two sites, one reaches two conclusions: there are multiple lines of evidence for change in the material record across the spectrum of categories at Chichén Itzá, and, to a lesser extent, at Tula, Hidalgo, indicating a population intrusion. And, secondly, there are abundant similarities in architecture, caching practices, ceramics, and other aspects of the material record that support the assertion of strong contacts between the two sites. Applying the model of elite dominance migration to Chichén Itzá, the majority of the markers for this type of migration can be seen in the material record of the site, as well as the site of Tula, Hidalgo. Chichén Itzá has the attributes of a receiving population, with an elite dominance migration of Central Mexican people taking place there, either from Tula, Hidalgo or from a third, as yet unspecified site that impacted both Chichén Itzá and Tula.


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Graduation Date



Chase, Arlen


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program









Release Date

December 2008

Length of Campus-only Access


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Masters Thesis (Open Access)

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Anthropology Commons