Networks, Cores, and Peripheries: New Frontiers in Interaction Studies

Document Type


Publication Date

September 2012


The terms "core," periphery," and "frontier" conjure up spatial distinctions correlated with divisions among societies based on size, economic organization, and power. Leaders of core states are generally presumed to dominate developments within the smaller, poorer, less powerful societies arrayed around them. Territorial distinctions thus have important behavioral consequences. How those outcomes are understood depends heavily on the theoretical framework in which cores, frontiers, and peripheries are modeled. This article reviews the most prominent of these conceptual structures and the mechanisms of intersocietal interaction that they highlight (diffusion, trade, exploitation, and hybridity). It calls for a new appraoch to the study of cores, peripheries, and frontiers that does not presupposed the existence of these entities and the nature of interregional interactions generally.


The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology