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Contribution to Book
The Tarascan (Purépecha) Empire
Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology Faculty Publications
  • Anna S. Cohen, Utah State University
  • Christopher T. Fisher, Colorado State University
Document Type
Publication Date
Oxford University Press

At the time of European contact, western Mexico was dominated by the Tarascos, who spoke a language called Purépecha. Never defeated by the bordering Aztec Empire, the Purépecha Empire instituted a bureaucratic system that was designed to extract tribute from subjects and to control political, economic, and social life throughout their territory. Archaeological research shows that existing societies in west Mexico were quickly co-opted by Purépecha tribute-based and ideological systems. This chapter reviews the traditional model of Purépecha development by incorporating archaeological research from both the Pátzcuaro Basin imperial core region and elsewhere in the empire. Recent work indicates that there was a spectrum of state–local relations that were more complicated than the ethnohistoric record suggests. In particular, new data from the Pátzcuaro Basin of Michoacán show how the Purépecha developed over a long trajectory in western Mexico, engaging in a series of negotiations with large urban centers.

Citation Information
2016 Cohen, A.S. and Fisher, C.T. The Tarascan (Purépecha) Empire. In Handbook of Aztec Studies, edited by D.L. Nichols and E. Rodríguez-Alegría, pp. 543-556. Oxford University Press, New York.