Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Judith F. Zeitlin

Second Advisor

Rosalyn Negron

Third Advisor

Heather Trigg


Cuisine refers to the ethnically idiosyncratic food choices and the manner and methods in which these foods are prepared and served. In this investigation I will explore traditional Zapotec cuisine and its early colonial changes and continuities on Mexico's Isthmus of Tehuantepec by examining available food sources, food preparation techniques and equipment, and food serving traditions evidenced at the archaeological site of Rancho Santa Cruz. In order to achieve this I developed a two-fold analysis. The first component was the analysis of the Vocabulario en Lengua Zapoteca published by Fray Juan de Córdova in 1578. This historical dictionary provides an extensive view of the indigenous practices and lifestyles through the translation of concepts and ideas from the Zapotec language to Spanish. The second part consists of analysis of the Rancho Santa Cruz site ceramic assemblage, dating to the early colonial period (c. 1600-1750). This ceramic assemblage was examined using both a type-variety analysis and a consumer-oriented analysis. Both archaeological and linguistic sources provided information on cooking and serving techniques, foodstuffs, and other related cuisine activities.

Finally, I was able to observe the different kinds of challenges and opportunities a colonial household faced, such as the introduction of new animals, plants, cuisine styles, eating habits, cooking equipment and technology. Zapotec cuisine became a dynamic one after the Spanish conquest, one in which new food sources were adapted and incorporated with traditional cooking styles and methods.