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Excavators working in a ceremonial plaza group in the Classic period Lowland Maya city of Caracol, Belize, encountered thousands of pieces of chert and obsidian scattered above a royal tomb. A recent analysis of the chert from this context confirms that the assemblage included pieces from each stage of reduction in the production of blades. Taken together, the quantity of both chert and obsidian makes it the largest reported collection of lithic debitage found at the site and provides insight into the techniques of lithic crafters at Caracol. In this article, we consider the sequence of actions involved in the burial of a high-ranking individual and suggest that the layering of flaked stone above the tomb is reminiscent of other reported above-tomb contexts in the Maya Lowlands. Further, a technological analysis of this collection produced results similar to analyses of assemblages typically found in crafting-intensive residential groups. This finding suggests that lithic crafters throughout the city of Caracol donated flaked stone material for funerary events, providing a protective layer and sealing the grave below.
In premodern economic systems where the social embedding of exchange provided actors with the ability to control or monopolize trade, including the goods that enter and leave a marketplace, “restricted markets” formed. These markets produced external revenues that could be used to achieve political goals. Conversely, commercialized systems required investment in public goods that incentivize the development of market cooperation and “open markets,” where buyers and sellers from across social sectors and diverse communities could engage in exchange as economic equals within marketplaces. In this article, we compare market development at the Late Postclassic sites of Chetumal, Belize, and Tlaxcallan, Mexico. We identified a restricted market at Chetumal, using the distribution of exotic goods, particularly militarily and ritually charged obsidian projectile points; in contrast, an open market was built at Tlaxcallan. Collective action theory provides a useful framework to understand these differences in market development. We argue that Tlaxcaltecan political architects adopted more collective strategies, in which open markets figured, to encourage cooperation among an ethnically diverse population.
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