AUSTIN, Texas For centuries, the fate of the original Otom inhabitants of Xaltocan, the capital of a pre-Aztec Mexican city-state, has remained unknown. Researchers have long wondered whether they assimilated with the Aztecs or abandoned the town altogether.
According to new anthropological research from The University of Texas at Austin, Wichita State University and Washington State University, the answers may lie in DNA. Following this line of evidence, the researchers theorize that some original Otomies, possibly elite rulers, may have fled the town. Their exodus may have led to the reorganization of the original residents within Xaltocan, or to the influx of new residents, who may have intermarried with the Otom population.
Using ancient DNA (aDNA) sampling, Jaime Mata-Mguez, an anthropology graduate student and lead author of the study, tracked the biological comings and goings of the Otom people following the incorporation of Xaltocan into the Aztec empire. The study, published in American Journal of Physical Anthropology, is the first to provide genetic evidence for the anthropological cold case.
Learning more about changes in the size, composition, and structure of past populations helps anthropologists understand the impact of historical events, including imperial conquest, colonization, and migration, Mata-Mguez says. The case of Xaltocan is extremely valuable because it provides insight into the effects of Aztec imperialism on Mesoamerican populations.
Historical documents suggest that residents fled Xaltocan in 1395 AD, and that the Aztec ruler sent taxpayers to resettle the site in 1435 AD. Yet archaeological evidence indicates some degree of population stability across the imperial transition, deepening the mystery. Recently unearthed human remains from before and after the Aztec conquest at Xaltocan provide the rare opportunity to examine this genetic transition.
As part of the study, Mata-M
|Contact: Jaime Mata-Mguez|
University of Texas at Austin