Books : reviews

Michael E. Smith, Marilyn A. Masson.
The Ancient Civilizations of Mesoamerica: a reader.
Blackwell. 2000

Twenty-three of the most influential essays by leading scholars are brought together in this reader, revealing the rich variety of cultures and societies that existed in ancient Mesoamerica. Expert editorial introductions explain the context and significance of the contributions, and extensive bibliographies facilitate further research.

This illustrated volume includes the results of the most up-to-date research on a wide range of social practices, cultures, and time periods. Among the subjects addressed are social, economic, and political organization, as well as religion and ideology. The readings are arranged thematically rather than by region in order to compare the main characteristics of Mesoamerican city and rural life, and to bring out both the unity and diversity of these ancient peoples.

Michael E. Smith.
The Aztecs.
Blackwell. 2003

Michael E. Smith.
Aztec City-State Capitals.
University Press of Florida. 2008

Aztec City-State Capitals advances Mesoamerican scholarship by focusing attention on the urban centers outside the empire’s capital of Tenochtitlan. Dozens of smaller cities were central hubs of political, economic, and religious life, integral to the grand infrastructure of the Aztec empire. Through this detailed examination, Michael E. Smith demonstrates the synchronicity of politics and urban design within the Aztec realm.

Michael E. Smith.
The Comparitive Archaeology of Complex Societies.
CUP. 2012

Michael E. Smith.
At Home with the Aztecs: an archaeologist uncovers their daily life.
Routledge. 2016

At Home with the Aztecs provides a fresh view of Aztec society, focusing on households and communities instead of kings, pyramids, and human sacrifice. This new approach offers an opportunity to humanize the Aztecs, moving past the popular stereotype of sacrificial maniacs to demonstrate that these were successful and prosperous communities. Michael Smith also engagingly describes the scientific, logistic and personal dimensions of archaeological fieldwork, drawing on decades of excavating experience and considering how his research was affected by his interaction with contemporary Mexican communities. Through first-hand accounts of the ways archaeologists interpret sites and artifacts, the book illuminates how the archaeological process can provide information about ancient families. Facilitating a richer understanding of the Aztec world, Smith’s research also redefines success, prosperity and resilience in ancient societies, making this book suitable not only for those interested in the Aztecs but in the examination of complex societies in general.