Paper presented in New Definitions of Southeastern Mesoamerica: Indigenous Interaction, Resilience, and Change, Part 1 for the 79th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Austin, TX April 25, 2014


The late fifth century AD was a time of rapid transformation in non-­‐Maya southeastern Mesoamerica. From this time forward, the landscape of western Honduras would become filled with increasingly complex polities and rising populations. So too is there evidence for a distinctive change in material culture, such as the development of widely shared regional polychrome ceramic traditions and the stabilization of obsidian exchange networks. Arguably, more than any other period in prehistory, it is during the Late Classic that a unique cultural identity emerges from this part of southeastern Mesoamerica. In this paper we seek to answer the question, can we characterize the diverse peoples and communities of Late Classic western Honduras as belonging to a culture area of shared affiliation and concordant identities, or is “southeastern Mesoamerica” nothing more than a geographic designation, which encompasses a diversity of strategies just different enough to defy uniform classification? To address this question we place the findings of our own research in the broader context of the long-­‐term research projects conducted by our colleagues since the 1980s. In particular, we emphasize the inter-­‐valley interactions among these polities to illuminate the shared and divergent paths taken by these communities during this period.


Archaeological Anthropology