Surveillance, social control, and state integration: a GIS visibility analysis at the ancient Purépecha city of Angamuco, Michoacán, Mexico

Guttman, Morgan, author
Fisher, Chris, advisor
Tulanowski, Elizabeth, committee member
Leisz, Stephen, committee member
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The Purépecha Empire was a pre-Hispanic civilization that consolidated in the Lake Pátzcuaro Basin (LPB) of Mexico during the Mesoamerican Middle Postclassic Period (1100 – 1350 CE). The specifics of how the Purépecha Empire developed are poorly understood. This thesis focuses on visibility, and how it's manipulation in the built environment may have contributed to processes of social control and state integration in the LPB. At the ancient city of Angamuco, this study investigates whether Purépecha rulers may have used an ancient form of Panopticism (i.e., surveillance as a form of social control) to establish power and authority over pre-existing populations and integrate them into the emergent state. This study focuses on high-status structures at Angamuco (pyramids, elite complexes, ballcourt) and examines if they were made to be highly visible on the landscape in a way that would have been favourable for Panoptic surveillance. The visibility of the high-status structures was modelled in a GIS using LiDAR visualizations and several archaeological datasets. Viewsheds were generated from the high-status structures, then various attributes were recorded for the viewsheds within two independent study areas. The viewshed attribute data was then statistically compared to equivalent viewshed data from multiple samples of random points. The results show that high-status viewsheds were larger and encompassed greater areas of occupation and activity than we would expect from random chance. This suggests that visibility was important in determining the location of these structures, which fits with the idea of Panoptic planning. The results also show that intervisibility was important in the placement of high-status structures. More fieldwork is needed to ground-truth existing data and extend its coverage over larger areas of the site.
2023 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.
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