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Palace and Home: Creating and Maintaining an Elite Identity at Postclassic Xaltocan

Kirby Farah, University of California, Riverside, Summer Fellow 2015–2016

My time at Dumbarton Oaks was focused on enriching the data I gathered in archaeological excavations at Xaltocan, Mexico, and on writing my dissertation. My dissertation concentrates on successive elite residences at Postclassic Xaltocan, and specifically considers the domestic practices that took place in these residences and how these practices and use of space changed over time. Ethnohistorical records and archaeological reports from comparable sites in the Basin of Mexico were fruitful resources. Practices of remembering became one focal point for my research, and I examined how elites at Xaltocan chose to build and rebuild their residences as political and social circumstances shifted through time. This research developed into broader questions about place-making and community-wide perceptions of elite residences as both centers of power and houses where mundane activities took place. Another research avenue focused on alternative methods for defining class relationships through the lens of material culture. I searched for models that pushed beyond the deeply entrenched elite-commoner dichotomy to explore other methods for understanding the subtle complexities of relationships between the rulers and the ruled. In the case of my own research, this is especially important because architectural differences between elite residences and commoner residences were vast, but associated artifacts were quite similar. My dissertation will explore this incongruence and its greater meaning.