Reconstructing networks of ceramic production and distribution

Reconstructing networks of ceramic production and distribution by LA-TOF-ICP-MS and NAA characterization of clays and ceramic styles from the central coast of Peru

The project goal is to reconstruct the networks of ceramic production and distribution in the late Horizon (1440-1532 AD) of Peru’s central coast through compositional analysis of 617 samples from: 1) pre-Hispanic clay sources in the Chillon, Rimac, Lurin, Chilca and Asia river basins, as well as Santo Domingo de los Olleros, a community of traditional potters in the region, and 2) the archaeological sites at Pachacamac, Pueblo Viejo, and Huaycan de Cieneguilla in the Lurin basin (Figure 1). The identity of indigenous groups in Lurin, such as Ychsma and Caringa, in the context of a society as fluid and complex as Inca and early Colonial societies would not be reflected directly in the styles of decorated ceramics but in the organization and construction of domestic structures, the location of settlements and sacred places, the form and styles of vessels used to prepare and store foodstuffs, funerary practices, etc. Decorated ceramic styles would be more reflective of the range of social contacts and the political position negotiated and displayed by their users. Contrary to the usual interpretation in central coast archaeology of the last few decades, the distribution of ceramic styles would not define ethnic frontiers, nor conform with precision to hypothetical Inca administrative units. The project tests these statements through the comparison of hypothetical political frontiers and the networks of ceramic production and distribution in the Late Horizon.

Thus far, we have analyzed over 617 pottery and clay samples with LA-TOF-ICP-MS, and for comparison, 117 of those with NAA. The analyses define three main chemical groups (Figures 2-4), which were contrasted with the location of clay sources and with paste (Figure 5) and style categories defined previously by conventional analytical methods to identify production centers (Figure 6). The results suggest that a range of ceramic production choices across production centers: some were conservative, with a restricted repertoire of pastes, forms, and styles, while others were far more cosmopolitan, adopting a broader suite of forms and pastes, and producing pieces that imitate foreign styles. This stylistic variability was not the result of local, small scale exchange at the community or settlement level. On the contrary, it reflects the movement of products as part of the imperial tribute system and of artisans as part of the imperial policy of forced re-settlement. There are no unequivocal indicators of ethnic identity judging from the stylistic and technological properties of the pottery. On the other hand, a centralized system of production can be ruled out, even though Inca domination of the region might lead to expect the contrary. Pottery distribution suggests indeed that the sites studied were supplied by a decentralized system of production and distribution, organized by the hegemonic political power. Barter seems to hay played a lesser role.

In the short term, with the analysis of several dozen clay simples –ongoing—we will be able to determine the approximate location and extent of ceramic production centers and distribution areas, to be contrasted with ethnic and political frontiers hypothesized by archaeologists. 

(Poster presentado en la Conferencia Internacional de Espectroscopía Spectra 2009)

Por: Krzysztof Makowski (PUCP); Ivan Ghezzi (PUCP-IDARQ); Hector Neff (IIRMES, USA); Michael Glascock (MURR, USA); Daniel Guerrero (UNMSM); Gabriela Oré(PUCP-IDARQ).