The move to Monte Albá
Submitted by Ron Catterall. This is the outcome of a long wait in the restaurant at the airport, looking across a lot of good farm land to Monte Albán.
Why should anyone move away from good farm land with plenty of water to the top of a high and very dry hill? I see several possible reasons:
FEAR: of attack by someone stronger than yourself, whom you also know (experience?) to be interested in attacking you (I must have something he wants!) A hill top is a prime site under attack. One would expect evidence of defensive strategies right from the earlist times.
OBSERVATION: Watch out for someone/something. Could be linked to FEAR if it is watching out for attackers. Could also be watching out for possible sources of tribute coming through the valley. Extraction of tribute would not require defensive strategies, you are already in a position to extract tribute. You are an aggressor, not a defender.
PRESTIGE: self-aggrandisement, monarch of all I survey. I am socially higher than all you, I am authority, you will work for me, bring me food and drink etc. you will look up to me both physically and socially. This is essentially an extension and affirmation of pre-existing social ranking, not the start of it.
REJECTION: social outcasts from San José Mogote moved up to Monte Albán as a defensive measure against the ruling classes at San José Mogote. Not strong enough to build defensive structures - and what was worth the effort of conquest if they had nothing.
REBELLION: Perhaps rather than 'cast out' by the ruling classes at San José Mogote, they were a powerful splinter group, rivalling the establishment at San José Mogote for power and prestige. Could be that the establishment was in decay.
POLITICAL COALESCENCE: agreement between growing pseudo-states in the 3 arms of the valley leading to political agreement (possibly for common defense, but against whom?) and the establishment of a new political capital on neutral ground. But was it really neutral ground?
It seems clear that the defensive structures only appeared in late Monte Albán I, so we should probably rule out FEAR as the motive for the move. Similarly it does not seem to be the neccessity to watch out (OBSERVATION) for enemies. If efficient extraction of tribute was the motive, then this implies considerable social cohesion prior to the move: tribute must have contributed significantly to resources, and the valley residents were sufficiently organized to recognize the common good. Implies that social organization was highly developed in late Rosario at San José Mogote. The search for PRESTIGE also suggests a high level of social structure at San José Mogote prior to the move. Both REJECTION and REBELLION suggest that political power and social stratification were well developed at San José Mogote. All the examples given of the dis-embodied capital arose out of tensions between rival sites of more or less equal power. There is no evidence for this in the Valley of Oaxaca.
PRESTIGE and REBELLION appear to be be the most likely reasons for the establishment of a cohesive group on Monte Albán around 500 BCE. Perhaps REBELLION is the most likely, fuelled by population growth and domination of nearby villages at San José Mogote, but the rise of a new and very powerful leader might have been sufficient to initiate the move. Both PRESTIGE and REBELLION should be reflected in a drop in population at San José Mogote, possibly more so in the case of PRESTIGE.
On balance I prefer ther idea of a rebellious splinter group at San José Mogote, possibly small, but highly motivated and eventually successful. Has anyone already considered this possibility?