Postclassic Ceramic Database

About the Project

Technical Discusion



The National Science Foundation

The Project

The goal of this project is to investigate socioeconomic (and thereby sociopolitical) relations in the Late Postclassic (post A.D. 1200) Maya lowlands through stylistic and technical analyses of two widespread ceramic categories that were excavated from ritual contexts: red-slipped pottery (redwares) and incense burners (incensarios). In addition, ceramic molds used to form the effigy faces of incensarios, occasionally recovered in the excavations, also will be studied. More specifically, the objectives are to:

  1. Categorize the technological and stylistic choices (technological styles) that were compatible with and reinforced Postclassic Maya identities;
  2. Identify the direction and extent to which Postclassic Maya from north-central Yucatán, Belize, and Guatemala were moving artifacts and/or their ideology across the landscape;
  3. Address the advantages and disadvantages of the type-variety classification system when examining Postclassic Maya interactions across the landscape;
  4. Establish a publicly accessible ceramic database with stylistic, mineralogical, and trace chemical data that will advance the discussion of ceramic typology, manufacture, and distribution.

Analyses will focus on the technological and stylistic characteristics of two categories of pottery commonly used in rituals and excavated from ceremonial contexts: redwares and incensarios consisting of vase-like receptacles with attached human- or deity-figure effigies (as well as the effigy molds). These two categories of pottery were selected because they are found throughout the northern and southern Maya lowlands in the Late Postclassic and Colonial periods (A.D. 1200—1700) and because they are most commonly associated with Postclassic rituals (i.e. New Year ceremonies) and sociopolitical identity. In addition, they were chosen because subdivisions (such as pottery type) of the two artifact categories have general trends throughout the Maya lowlands, but also have regional paste, slip, and decorative paint differences (technological styles) that cannot be detected without archaeometric techniques. It is this unexplored variability that will allow for a better understanding of the complexity of the interactions between Postclassic Maya of north-central Yucatán, Belize, and Guatemala.