Ancient Maya Trade and Communication as Evidence by Petrographic and Iconographic Analysis of Unit-Stamped Pottery

Author(s): E. Cory Sills; Heather McKillop; Linda Howie

Year: 2015


The Paynes Creek salt works of southern Belize were a massive industry for the production of salt for trade with inland Maya consumers during the Classic period (A.D. 300-900). The salt workers lived elsewhere, perhaps at the nearby trading port of Wild Cane Cay, which was a large contemporary settlement. The infrastructure of production includes wooden buildings preserved below the sea floor. The majority of artifacts recovered from survey and excavations consist of briquetage—locally-made pottery used to evaporate brine in pots over fires to make salt. A minor component of the ceramic assemblage consists of unit-stamped pottery which has a distribution from the south coast and inland sites of southern Belize, to sites in adjacent Guatemala, including Seibal, Altar de Sacrificios, and sites in the Petexbatun. We discuss the iconographic, spatial, and petrographic evidence of unit-stamped pottery from the Paynes Creek salt works. The compositional characteristics of the pottery are compared with various potential geological sources to help identify where pots were made. In the absence of salt, we use unit-stamped pottery as a proxy for helping to reconstruct the Paynes Creek salt production and identify the inland consumers of this basic biological necessity.

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Cite this Record

Ancient Maya Trade and Communication as Evidence by Petrographic and Iconographic Analysis of Unit-Stamped Pottery. E. Cory Sills, Linda Howie, Heather McKillop. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396587)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;