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Getting Closer to the Source: Using Ethnoarchaeology to Find Ancient Pottery Making in the Naco Valley, Honduras

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Samuel V. Connell
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles and Cotsen, Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, CA 90095; currently at U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii 96853

Abstract

The problem of finding the locations of ceramic production has limited interpretations of prehispanic Mesoamerican economies. A new method for locating pottery-making is offered that emphasizes ties between the process of clay extraction and the manufacture of ceramic goods at the same clay source. Observations at modern brick and roof tile-making factories (tejeras) in the Naco Valley, Honduras, show that an effective arrangement for intensive production of ceramic goods is to create the finished product at the clay source. The major topographic transformations caused by clay extraction at tejeras, such as borrow pits and escarpments, are also signatures of prehistoric clay removal and, in many cases, can contribute to the identification of ancient pottery-making locations. A potential production locus was identified at the previously unremarkable and peripheral Site 108, where excavations successfully uncovered a prehistoric pottery workshop. By expanding the scope of our research methodologies, in this case actually implementing ethnoarchaeological understandings to the archaeological record, and by gathering more evidence for ancient pottery production, in this case at clay sources in rural areas, we are better positioned to understand the complexities of Mesoamerican economies.

Un modelo ampliamente reconocido plantea dos niveles distintos de las economías alfareras de Mesoamérica: la fabricación y distribución de artículos de lujo patrocinada por las elites y la producción doméstica e intercambio de vasijas de uso común. La dificultad de ubicar los sitios de producción ha restringido las posibilidades de someter este modelo a prueba. En reacción a ello ofrecemos un nuevo procedimiento para identificar la producción de cerámica, haciendo hincapie en el vínculo entre la extracción intensiva de arcilla aluvial y la fabricación de artículos cerámicos en el lugar mismo del yacimiento. El descubrimiento de un número mayor de sitios de producción en los confines de los grandes centros de población nos permitirá ampliar los modelos de economías alfareras. Observaciones en las actuales fábricas de ladrillos y tejas en el Valle de Naco en Honduras señalan la elaboración del producto acabado en el yacimiento de arcilla como un arreglo eficaz para la producción intensiva de artículos cerámicos. Las importantes alteraciones que la extracción de la arcilla ocasiona en la topografía de estos lugares sugiere un procedimiento idóneo para la identificación de antiguos sitios de producción. Algunos elementos del paisaje visibles en un recorrido de superficie, tales como fosos y escarpas de contornos irregulares, son huellas reveladoras de la extracción prehistórica de arcilla y, en muchos casos, pueden ser indicios de la antigua producción de cerámica. Con base en estas suposiciones, decidimos efectuar sondeos en un posible lugar de producción, identificado en un reconocimiento previo de las fuentes de arcilla de todo el valle. Excavaciones en el periférico sitio 108, previamente considerado insignificante, en un área del Valle de Naco conocido como el Rancho Manacal, revelaron un área de taller cerámico, ubicado encima de un montículo de barro de origen natural, con huellas de su extracción en tiempos prehistóricos. El artículo describe una serie de descubrimientos hechos en el sitio 108, entre otros las estructuras de un taller, un elemento para la cocción de la cerámica, abundantes tiestos, varios tipos de artefactos de lítica pulida usados para tratar el barro, el desgrasante y los pigmentos, así como los frecuentes hallazgos de concreciones de los pigmentos. Ampliando la envergadura de nuestros procedimientos de investigación y arrojando más datos sobre la antigua producción de cerámica, en este caso en las fuentes de arcilla en áreas rurales, estamos en mejores condiciones de apreciar las complejidades de economías antiguas. El saber que la producción de cerámica se lleva a cabo en la fuente de la arcilla ofrece un "contexto ideal" para comprender la antigua economía alfarera.

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Copyright
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 2002

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