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Ancient Maya Pottery

Classification, Analysis, and Interpretation

Edited by James John Aimers

Publication Year: 2013

The ancient Maya produced a broad range of ceramics that has attracted concerted scholarly attention for over a century. Pottery sherds--the most abundant artifacts recovered from sites--reveal much about artistic expression, religious ritual, economic systems, cooking traditions, and cultural exchange in Maya society.

Today, nearly every Maya archaeologist uses the type-variety classificatory framework for studying sherd collections. This impressive volume brings together many of the archaeologists signally involved in the analysis and interpretation of ancient Maya ceramics and represents new findings and state-of-the-art thinking. The result is a book that serves both as a valuable resource for archaeologists involved in pottery classification, analysis, and interpretation and as an illuminating exploration of ancient Mayan culture.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

List of Figures

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pp. vii-ix

List of Tables

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pp. x

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pp. xi-xii

A decade ago, when we decided to start the Maya Studies series with the University Press of Florida, we did so with two specific targeted books in mind. The first of these was a volume that synthesized all of the results of the various archaeological projects that were then taking place in central Belize; that volume...

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pp. xiii-xv

Most of the chapters in this volume originated as papers presented at two electronic symposia held at the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) meetings in 2005 and 2007, and all deal in one way or another with type: variety-mode method and theory.1 I organized the 2005 symposium because I was struggling...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-10

The ancient Maya produced a broad range of pottery, which has attracted concerted scholarly attention for nearly a century. The authors of the chapters in this volume address a range of issues around the classification, interpretation, and analysis of ancient Maya pottery linked in one way or another to the type...

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2. Type-Variety: What Works and What Doesn’t

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pp. 11-28

The type-variety system has been used for pottery classification in the Maya area for nearly half a century, surviving—or “doomed to success” (Adams 2008)—despite recurrent attacks. The type-variety approach works well at what it was originally intended to do—structure descriptions of...

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3. Types and Traditions, Spheres and Systems: A Consideration of Analytic Constructs and Concepts in the Classification and Interpretation of Maya Ceramics

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pp. 29-45

Types and spheres have been some of the most, if not the most, common constructs employed in the analysis and interpretation of ceramic complexes from the Maya lowlands, and they have served well both as a means for categorizing the contents of individual site assemblages and for exploring and...

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4. Interpreting Form and Context: Ceramic Subcomplexes at Caracol, Nohmul, and Santa Rita Corozal, Belize

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pp. 46-73

The vast majority of artifactual materials recovered at Maya sites are broken sherds recovered from the fills of stratigraphic excavations. While whole vessels are incorporated into ceramic analysis, they are generally less plentiful than pottery sherds and, thus, are less likely to be the primary unit of ceramic...

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5. Ceramic Resemblances, Trade, and Emulation: Changing Utilitarian Pottery Traditions in the Maya Lowlands

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pp. 74-90

This chapter examines the role of exchange and emulation in assessing resemblances among regional ceramic assemblages. I review changing assumptions about the nature of ceramic production and distribution in light of recent research. Interest in exchange has tended to center on widely distributed...

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6. Type-Variety on Trial: Experiments in Classification and Meaning Using Ceramic Assemblages from Lamanai, Belize

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pp. 91-106

Excavations at Lamanai since 1974 have produced an exceptional collection of pottery from the Terminal Classic and Postclassic periods (circa A.D. 960– 1450), including several masterpieces of Maya art (Pendergast 1983/84). To date, however, published pottery (for example, Graham 1987; Pendergast 1982)...

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7. Establishing the Cunil Ceramic Complex at Cahal Pech, Belize

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pp. 107-120

When Awe (1992) first began intensive archaeological research at Cahal Pech in the 1980s, the primary goals of the project were to determine the nature of Preclassic Maya culture at the site and to more clearly define Formative period developments in the upper Belize River valley. At the time, the...

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8. Technological Style and Terminal Preclassic Orange Ceramics in the Holmul Region, Guatemala

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pp. 121-141

One of the purposes of this volume is to address ancient Maya ceramic exchange and interaction using concepts of style and the application of multiple analytical methods to ceramic data sets. Style in archaeology is a thorny issue, and many scholars have had great difficulties setting forth a working...

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9. Acanmul, Becán, and the Xcocom Phenomenon through a Type-Variety Looking Glass: Resolving Historical Enigmas through Hands-On Typological Assessments

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pp. 142-162

The ruins of Acanmul lie approximately 25 kilometers northeast of Ciudad Campeche and 15 kilometers inland from the present Campeche coast (figure 9.1). It is a medium-size regional center of the type and magnitude classified as a “Rank 2” site by Nicholas Dunning (1992: 88–91, table 5.3), including among...

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10. Looking for Times: How Type-Variety Analysis Helps Us “See” the Early Postclassic in Northwestern Honduras

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pp. 163-184

Let us begin by making clear what we intend to accomplish in this chapter: we will not discuss the theory or practice of typology in general or of type-variety analysis in particular.1 In short, this is not a meditation on classification. Instead, it is an account of how the type-variety approach was used to examine...

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11. Slips, Styles, and Trading Patterns: A Postclassic Perspective from Central Petén, Guatemala

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pp. 185-202

The techniques that various sociopolitical groups of Postclassic Maya in central Petén used to slip their vessels reflect differences in resources, manufacturing recipes, and decorative programs. Through visual and chemical analyses of the slips and paints used by these groups (primarily the Itza and the Kowoj), I...

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12. Mayapán’s Chen Mul Modeled Effigy Censers: Iconography and Archaeological Context

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pp. 203-228

Full-figure effigy censers are best known from Mayapán, a major regional capital in the lowland Maya area during the Late Postclassic period. The southern boundaries of this polity are not certain but may well have included Petén, where ceramics and architecture show some specific overlaps with Mayapán...

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13. Problems and Prospects in Maya Ceramic Classification, Analysis, and Interpretation

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pp. 229-238

In various ways, the chapters in this book examine the use of pottery in interpretations of the lives of ancient Maya people. In the spirit of the symposia from which most of them are derived, each chapter addresses issues of general method and theory related to type-variety and modal classification with specific...


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pp. 239-280


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pp. 281-282


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pp. 283-293

Further Reading

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pp. 294

E-ISBN-13: 9780813042572
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813042367

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 13 b&w photos, 45 drawings, 11 tables
Publication Year: 2013