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Spindle Whorls from El Palmillo: Economic Implications

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Lacey B. Carpenter
Affiliation:
Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, 1109 Geddes Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079 (lcar@umich.edu)
Gary M. Feinman
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Field Museum, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605 (gfeinman@fieldmuseum.org)
Linda M. Nicholas
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Field Museum, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605 (lnicholas@fieldmuseum.org)

Abstract

We analyze household inventories from eight excavated residences at El Palmillo (Oaxaca, Mexico) with a focus on a large sample of spindle whorls. Measurement of the whorls provides a basis to suggest that a variety of fibers were spun in these Classic period households; however, the particular mix of fibers varied in each residence. The distribution of whorls by size and production technique was compared with the spatial patterning of other tool classes related to cloth production to illustrate that each household participated with differing intensity in the various steps of the cloth-making process while also being involved in other economic pursuits. The domestic multicrafting, along with the clear procurement of domestic goods through intra- and extracommunity transfers, is indicative of economic practices that incorporate both interdependence and flexibility to operate in a socioeconomic setting prone to fluctuations in both demand and climatic conditions such as those found in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. The model generated from this bottom-up analysis illustrates the limitation of the command-oriented models of the prehispanic Mesoamerican economy and sheds new light on craft specialization and economic strategies that vary not only between elite and nonelite families but among commoner households as well.

Analizamos los complejos de artefactos de ocho residencias excavadas en El Palmillo (Oaxaca, México) enfocando sobre una colección grande de malacates. Las medidas variables de los malacates indican que los habitantes de estas casas del periodo Clásico hilaron una variedad de fibras; sin embargo, las fibras específicas utilizadas no eran exactamente las mismas en cada residencia. La distribución de los malacates por tamaño y técnica de producción fue comparada con la distribución de otras clases de herramientas relacionadas con la producción de tela para ilustrar que cada casa participaba con intensidad diferente en las varias etapas del proceso de hacer la tela al mismo tiempo que estaba involucrada en otras actividades económicas. La evidencia de que las casas se ocupaban en artesanías múltiples y claramente procuraban bienes domésticos por transferencias al interior y exterior de la comunidad indica que seguían una estrategia económica que incorporaba tanto interdependencia como flexibilidad para actuar en un ambiente socioeconómico propenso a fluctuaciones en la demanda y condiciones climáticas impredecibles, tales como las que se encuentran en el Valle de Oaxaca, México. El modelo generado por este análisis de casas revela las limitaciones de los modelos tradicionales que proponían que la economía mesoamericana prehispánica fue dirigida y centralizada. También proporciona nuevo conocimiento sobre la especialización artesanal y las estrategias económicas que variaban no solamente entre la elite y las otras familias, pero también entre las casas de la gente humilde.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © 2012 by the Society for American Archaeology.

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