Mapping out Pottery Production and Exchange in the Late Classic Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Over the past two decades, our understanding of craft production and exchange in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico has changed dramatically, in part owing to new excavations, and in part to the re-analysis of existing collections using robust chemical and mineralogical techniques. This symposium presents current research efforts to document the sources of pottery production during the Late Classic or Xoo phase (ca. 550-850 AD), and to track the movement of ceramic vessels from producers to consumers based on their trace-element composition. As part of a large regional study, natural clays were sampled throughout the Valley of Oaxaca and characterized via INAA to document spatial variability in clay composition. Over 1300 ceramic vessels from key Late Classic sites (including Monte Albán, Jalieza, and Dainzu-Macuilxochitl) have been similarly analyzed, and their locus of production determined based on similarities to clays and ceramic production debris. These trace-element studies provide a rigorous means for monitoring both the spatial organization and intensity of exchange among communities, and greatly enhance our understanding of the ancient Zapotec economy during the decline and/or political reorganization of the Zapotec state.

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  • Documents (5)

  • Ceramic Paste Distribution and Market Exchange in the Tlacolula Valley, Oaxaca, Mexico. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ronald Faulseit. Gary Feinman. Linda Nicholas.

    Over four decades ago, economic anthropologists recognized the importance of marketplace exchanges in the contemporary Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico, but the historic roots of this region’s exchange system were less clear. Was the Oaxaca market system a product of recent capitalism, Spanish Conquest, Aztec imperialism, or were underpinnings even deeper in the past? Here, we examine INAA studies of ceramic assemblages from two Classic-period (ca. AD 200-850) sites in the Tlacolula arm of the Valley of...

  • Ceramic Production and Distribution in Classic Period Monte Albán, El Trapiche and Lambityeco (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Robert Markens. Cira Martínez López. Marcus Winter.

    This paper explores the organization of ceramic production and distribution in the Valley of Oaxaca during the Late Classic period (650-850 CE) by considering the evidence for pottery manufacture as well as the results of neutron activation analysis of pottery samples at three valley sites: Monte Albán in the central part of the valley, El Trapiche in the Etla arm and Lambityeco in the Tlacolula arm. More specifically, we examine evidence bearing on the intensity and scale of pottery production...

  • From Clay Survey to Ceramic Provenance: Establishing a Ceramic Geography for the Late Classic Valley of Oaxaca (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Leah Minc.

    As an overall introduction to this session, this paper introduces our methodology for establishing ceramic provenance within the geologically complex Valley of Oaxaca. Natural clays have now been sampled from more than 300 locations throughout the valley, and their chemistry analyzed via INAA. Spatial averaging was used to create a series of smoothed contour maps showing how clay composition varies over space, and to generate a continuous reference grid of element concentrations against which...

  • Rural Craft Production and Market Participation in Late Classic Oaxaca: A Case Study from Yaasuchi (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jeremias Pink.

    Many models of the Zapotec economy during the Classic Period (AD 200 – 850) have relied on an assumption of mutual dependence between rural farmers and urban craft specialists, yet little research has focused explicitly on the economic behavior of rural households. To address this assumption, over 300 archaeological ceramics from the rural site of Yaasuchi - including samples from two domestic structures and a ceramic firing feature - were characterized via INAA to establish provenance. Results...

  • Zapotec Economy in Late Classic Jalieza: Through the Lens of Ceramic Annalysis (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sarah Walker. Leah Minc. Christina Elson.

    The site of Jalieza, during the Late Classic, was the second largest community in the Valley of Oaxaca. But in spite of its position in the regional settlement hierarchy, the position of this site in the regional economic system is largely unknown. To ascertain this, we have examined patterns of ceramic consumption and exchange utilizing three contexts of an elite house, a semi- elite house, and a systematic surface survey to obtain 250 samples of ceramics from household and ritual vessels....