Networks, Cores, and Peripheries

Edward Schortman and Patricia Urban

in The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195390933
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Networks, Cores, and Peripheries

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  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology by Region
  • Historical Archaeology


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The terms “core,” “periphery,” and “frontier” conjure up spatial distinctions correlated with divisions among societies based on size, economic organization, and power. Leaders of core states are generally presumed to dominate developments within the smaller, poorer, less powerful societies arrayed around them. Territorial distinctions thus have important behavioral consequences. How those outcomes are understood depends heavily on the theoretical framework in which cores, frontiers, and peripheries are modeled. This article reviews the most prominent of these conceptual structures and the mechanisms of intersocietal interaction that they highlight (diffusion, trade, exploitation, and hybridity). It calls for a new approach to the study of cores, peripheries, and frontiers that does not presuppose the existence of these entities and the nature of interregional interactions generally.

Keywords: core; periphery; frontier; territory; intersocietal interaction; diffusion; trade; exploitation; hybridity

Article.  4709 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology by Region ; Historical Archaeology

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