Social Change and the Evolution of Ceramic Production and Distribution in a Maya Community

Social Change and the Evolution of Ceramic Production and Distribution in a Maya Community

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 432
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    Social Change and the Evolution of Ceramic Production and Distribution in a Maya Community
    Book Description:

    How and why do ceramics and their production change through time? Social Change and the Evolution of Ceramic Production and Distribution in a Maya Community is a unique ethno-archaeological study that attempts to answer these questions by tracing social change among potters and changes in the production and distribution of their pottery in a single Mexican community between 1965 and 1997. Dean E. Arnold made ten visits to Ticul, Yucatan, Mexico, witnessing the changes in transportation infrastructure, the use of piped water, and the development of tourist resorts. Even in this context of social change and changes in the demand for pottery, most of the potters in 1997 came from the families that had made pottery in 1965. This book traces changes and continuities in that population of potters, in the demand and distribution of pottery, and in the procurement of clay and temper, paste composition, forming, and firing. In this volume, Arnold bridges the gap between archaeology and ethnography, using his analysis of contemporary ceramic production and distribution to generate new theoretical explanations for archaeologists working with pottery from antiquity. When the descriptions and explanations of Arnold's findings in Ticul are placed in the context of the literature on craft specialization, a number of insights can be applied to the archaeological record that confirm, contradict, and nuance generalizations concerning the evolution of ceramic specialization. This book will be of special interest to anthropologists, archaeologists, and ethnographers.

    eISBN: 978-0-87081-991-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology, Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
    Eleanor Wake

    This latest publication from the Mesoamerican Worlds series focuses on the Maya community of Ticul, which lies some sixty miles south of Mérida in the heart of the Puuc region of the Yucatán peninsula, Mexico. Ticul has been home to generations of potters, some of whom undoubtedly lived through, and perhaps worked at the behest of, the great Maya civilizations. (Archaeological evidence suggests that pottery was produced there as early as 600 B.C.) Nevertheless, like so many of its neighbouring towns and villages, Ticul entered the second half of the twentieth century as a rather provincial community, plying its still...

  6. Preface
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxvii-xxxii)
  8. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    Understanding the relationship of pottery and society is fundamental to archaeology. Inevitably, pottery, its production, and its distribution change through time, and these changes provide fruitful sources of data for making inferences about an ancient society. But how precisely do changes in ceramics and ceramic production reflect history and the social, political, and economic changes in a society? How are social changes materialized in the pottery of a society? This book attempts to provide some answers to these questions by examining the relationship of sociocultural change to the production and distribution of pottery in Ticul, Yucat�n, Mexico, over a period...

  9. CHAPTER TWO How Have the Population and Organization of Potters Changed?
    (pp. 31-92)

    From 1965 to 1997, Ticul has undergone many social changes. The population has almost doubled (Figure 2.1) and the transportation infrastructure has expanded, facilitating travel to Mérida and to communities in the interior of the peninsula. In 1965, travel to villages in the interior of Yucatán was difficult and lengthy given the geographical distance and quality of the roads. By 1997, many of the formerly unimproved roads were asphalt, which facilitated easy and quick access to these communities. During the same period, the Mexican government invested in additional infrastructure, such as schools, piped potable water, and electricity.

    In 1965, Yucatán...

  10. CHAPTER THREE How Have Demand and Consumption Changed?
    (pp. 93-126)

    Potters may be able to mine raw materials; mix them effectively; and fabricate, dry, and fire pottery successfully. But if they cannot turn their pots into food or into a commodity that can be exchanged for food (like money), they cannot provide for their basic needs and their economic future, as pottery is in jeopardy

    The process by which potters obtain food for their pottery has two different dimensions. First, there must be a consuming population that provides a demand for vessels. This demand is tied to the uses of the vessels and to the sociocultural values and the behavioral...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR How Has Distribution of the Pottery Changed?
    (pp. 127-152)

    Decisions about making pottery are affected not only by demand but also by the patterns of distribution. So in addition to assessing the demand for ceramic vessels among populations that value, desire, and consume those vessels, the potter must get them into the hands of these populations. This task is one of the most significant problems for the potter who is dependent on his craft for a livelihood. It is one problem that persisted through the duration of this study. Again and again, potters talked about the difficulty of selling their pottery; it is the single most significant reason that...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE How Has Clay Procurement Changed?
    (pp. 153-190)

    The uneven distribution of resources across the landscape is often regarded as critical in the development of craft specialization and the evolution of socioeconomic complexity. If resources are localized and restricted, it is argued, access to these resources is unequal and this differential access stimulates the development of craft specialization and economic interdependency (Costin 1991:14; Sanders and Price 1968:10). Applying this same explanation to ceramics, it seems that the existence of localized clay sources across the landscape with differential access by a population is essential for the development of specialized ceramic production. As access to clay sources became restricted and...

  13. CHAPTER SIX How Has Temper Procurement Changed?
    (pp. 191-220)

    Clay is not the only critical resource necessary to make pottery. Suitable clay for making pottery must be plastic enough to form a pot but not so plastic that the newly formed vessel will lose its shape. To achieve a middle ground between these two very real material constraints, the potter may need to alter the properties of the raw clay in order to successfully fabricate a vessel. The potter changes these properties by adding non-plastics (such as sand, chaff, or ground potsherds) or by adding a raw clay that contains non-plastics (Arnold 1985:21–32, 2000; Rice 1987:74–75, 406...

  14. CHAPTER SEVEN How Has Composition of the Pottery Fabric Changed?
    (pp. 221-228)

    The previous two chapters documented changes in the procurement of clay and temper. These changes indicate a common evolutionary trajectory toward increasing specialization, greater intensity of production, and more task segmentation. Can this trajectory be identified in the fired pottery? Are patterns of raw material procurement recoverable from the ceramics in the archaeological record? Is the expansion of the sources of raw materials over time reflected in changes in the composition of the pottery? This chapter answers these questions and attempts to assess whether the changes in the patterns of raw material procurement are reflected in the fired pottery.


  15. CHAPTER EIGHT How Has the Forming Technology Changed?
    (pp. 229-280)

    Forming a vessel is the most obvious step in changing a formless mass of clay into a useful object. Because clay is plastic, it would seem that the potter could form it into virtually any shape, using any number of techniques; indeed, archaeologists commonly assume that culture, ideas, and potters’ choices are freely expressed in the completed pot. This view of pottery has deep roots in American anthropology and archaeology (Arnold 1985:5–8) and is probably best expressed in Ruth Bunzel’s classic work, The Pueblo Potter:

    Owing to the plastic nature of the material, almost any conceivable form is possible....

  16. CHAPTER NINE How Has Firing Technology Changed?
    (pp. 281-308)

    In order to fix the shape of a clay vessel so that it will not revert again to a formless mass in the presence of moisture, the vessel must be fired. This process removes the remainder of the physically held water in the pottery after air drying and drives off the chemically held water in the molecular structure of the clay minerals (Arnold 1985:61–62; Kolb 1996; Rice 1987:63–65; Shepard 1956:81–91). At higher temperatures, the lattice structure of the clay minerals collapses and the particles fuse together, irreversibly fixing the form of the vessel (Rice 1987:90–94).


  17. CHAPTER TEN Conclusion
    (pp. 309-326)

    This chapter returns to the fundamental theme of this book concerning the relationship of pottery to social change. It summarizes the changes in the production and distribution of pottery since 1965 and reviews their implications for understanding the evolution of craft specialization. Finally, it assesses the use of ceramics as a surrogate index of social change and answers the question, What does pottery tell archaeologists about social change?

    To the skeptic who sees ethnoarchaeological data as not relevant for understanding the past, the Ticul data would seem to be a case in point. Now tied to capitalism and a cash...

  18. References Cited
    (pp. 327-344)
  19. Index
    (pp. 345-352)