Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 June 2013
Over the past thirty years, Mayanists have increasingly discussed the relationships between large polities. Advances in our understanding of epigraphy have largely driven this increased focus. Yet in areas where the epigraphic record is less understood, as is the case with the northern Maya lowlands, archaeologists have turned to other data to piece together political relationships. These data often consist of architectural and ceramic styles. Models based on such data generally assume that styles of material culture will cluster among social groups that are more closely knit than others (familial or political ties) or will occur in an area after it has been subordinated by a particular polity. One case where such a model has been applied is the site of Yaxuna, which was connected to the metropolis of Coba by a 100 km-long causeway during the Late Classic period. The difference between this case and others is that not only do the two sites share some aspects of material culture during this period, but we can also physically see that the sites were integrated by an actual road. In most cases where stylistic models have been applied, the possible routes connecting sites do not preserve, making the correlation between styles and social interaction more speculative. In this paper, we reevaluate the Yaxuna-Coba case using a modal analysis of the Arena ceramic group shared by Yaxuna and Coba during that time. Our data suggest that one particularly important type (Arena Red) was produced in Yaxuna and exported in a limited range of forms down the causeway toward sites in Quintana Roo. Although several archaeologists have argued that the causeway represents the subordination of Yaxuna by an expanding Late Classic Coba polity, our data suggest that the resulting impact on material culture may be more complex than current models imply. Ceramic economies operating in a very limited fashion within or outside of spheres of political action may have been common among the Maya, although the idea that trade follows flag certainly appears to have existed in this case.