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The Origin of Puuc Slate Ware: New Data from Sayil, Yucatan, Mexico

  • Michael P. Smyth (a1), Christopher D. Dore (a2), Hector Neff (a3) and Michael D. Glascock (a3)


This paper reports results of the first neutron-activation analysis (NAA) of ancient pottery wares and clays from the Puuc region of Yucatan. Based on ceramics from Sayil, this investigation seeks to expand exploration into the nature of commercialization during the Terminal Classic period (A.D. 800–1000). This research sought to: (a) establish the chemical composition of major Puuc wares, (b) begin to define potential raw materials and production loci at Sayil, and (c) explore the question of whether Sayil was a major producer and exporter of ceramic wares. Compositional analysis reveals that three of the four major Puuc wares (Puuc Slate, Puuc Unslipped, and Puuc Red) exhibit some degree of chemical distinctiveness, suggesting discrete production units. Compositional analysis of clays from Sayil and Loltun Cave indicates that Puuc Slate and Puuc Red Ware are compatible with clays locally available at Sayil, supporting local production of these wares, whereas Puuc Unslipped Ware initially appears to be closer compositionally to clays from Loltun. In addition, Puuc Slate is an important ware found throughout northern Yucatan that shows evidence of large-scale production at Sayil. This analysis represents the first steps of a comprehensive investigation into the Maya economy of Terminal Classic Yucatan.

Este artículo reporta los resultados del primer análisis de activación de neutrones de las cerámicas antiguas y arcillas de la región puuc de Yucatán. Basada en las cerámicas de Sayil, esta investigación busca expander la exploración dentro de la naturaieza de la comercialización durante el período clásico terminal (800-1000 d.C). Este investigación (a) busca establecer la composición química de las cerámicas predominantes en el Puuc, (b) empieza definir las probables materiales primas y lugares de producción en Sayil, y (c) explora la pregunta si Sayil fue un productor y exportador importante de cerámicas. El análisis composicional revela que tres de las cuatro cerámicas predominantes del Puuc (Puuc Pizarra, Puuc Sin Engobe, y Puuc Roja) muestran distinta composición química, sugeriendo unidades de producción discretas. El análisis composicional de arcillas de Sayil de la gruta de Loltun indica que la Puuc Pizarra y la Puuc Roja son compatibles con las arcillas de Sayil, apoyando la producción local de estas cerámicas, mientras la Puuc Sin Engobe parece inicialmente ser composicionalmente más parecida a las arcillas de Loltun. Además, la Puuc Pizarra es una cerámica importante encontrada en todas partes del norte de Yucatán, lo que muestra evidencia de la gran escala de producción en Sayil. Este análisis representa los primeros pasos de una investigación comprensiva de la economia maya del clásico terminal de Yucatán.



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The Origin of Puuc Slate Ware: New Data from Sayil, Yucatan, Mexico

  • Michael P. Smyth (a1), Christopher D. Dore (a2), Hector Neff (a3) and Michael D. Glascock (a3)


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