Archaeologists: Wealth Disparity Low Between Commoners, Elites In Ancient Teotihuacán
Adrian Aleman Martinez, a stocky man from the town of Teotihuacan in central Mexico, has been spending his summer walking from his house down a dirt road and through a brush of cactus plants to dig a hole in the ground.
On a recent day, he knelt on his right knee, gingerly scraped a trowel against the the bottom of the hole, and dumped dirt into a bucket.
“First thing you have to be is calm,” Aleman Martinez said. “You’ll be tempted to grab a pick and a shovel.”
They are not archeologists, but their work is vital in helping scientists decipher how people in this civilization lived from roughly 100 A.D. to about 600 A.D.In recent years, Aleman Martinez, whose friends call him Cow, has been working with Boston University anthropologist David Carballo. Aleman Martinez and other excavators have helped uncover the former homes and workshops of crafts people who worked with pottery or obsidian volcanic glass, revealing details about every-day life.
“Shoutout to all our guys here,” said Daniela Hernandez Sariñana, a Mexico City native and a doctoral candidate at Boston University. “They know their stuff.”
Recent findings have included luxury items such as murals, helping substantiate conclusions that wealth disparity between commoners and elites in Teotihuacan were among the lowest compared to contemporary ancient civilizations, as well as significantly lower than many societies today.
But they’ve figured out some things about that most people, whether commoners or elite, lived in large apartments with luxuries like murals and paintings. That suggests a lower wealth disparity than, for example, the Roman Empire, the Aztec Empire a thousand years later, or the United States today.
“It gives the message that such a thing is possible,” Smith said. “You can have a complex urban society without a high level of inequality. That’s the conclusion we get from Teotihuacan.”
The distribution of wealth in Teotihuacan will continue to be studied, Smith said. And Aleman Martinez and Carballo’s team will wrap up their current excavation this summer. Aleman Martinez is already looking forward to continuing next year, he said.
“We’re used to” finding ancient materials, Aleman Martinez said. “But it’s nice people from the outside can come and discover things we didn’t know about.”