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Lithic Communities of Practice and Daily life in the Northwestern Maya Lowlands during the Late Classic (700-850 A.D.)

  • Author(s): Silva de la Mora, Flavio Gabriel
  • Advisor(s): Joyce, Rosemary A.
  • Shackley, Steven M.
  • et al.

This dissertation uses multiple lines of evidence to understand production, exchange and crafting in agrarian societies with a focus on the Northwestern Mayan Lowlands during the Late Classic Period (700-850 A.D). The organization of production in Pre-Columbian times is poorly understood, yet exchange is believed to be critical to the development of sociopolitical relations in ranked agrarian societies, like those in Mesoamerica. This dissertation will examine how the material culture of everyday activities, especially those related to production and exchange, manifests in the archaeological context and reflects communities of practice. It will evaluate two models of control of production and exchange of craft products, primarily lithic products (stone tools) in state-level societies using evidence from regional surveys, household excavation, and archaeometric studies of stone tools. One model proposes that with the development of sociopolitical hierarchies, elites monopolize or centrally control production and circulation of craft goods, even when these productive activities continue to be practiced in decentralized locations, such as dwellings. The second model suggests that craft producers working in decentralized locations may have controlled most or all of the organization of production and distribution of craft products.

Through extensive regional study, I mapped terrestrial and fluvial communication routes and their relationship to settlement pattern and site distributions. I established the least costly, and thus most likely patterns of travel in the region using analytic tools such as GIS. Including excavation at a major site, Chinikihá. Preliminary research established the presence of areas of production of chipped stone tools in an independent residence outside the palace zone. The excavations sought to understand domestic production and local patterns of production and exchange and tested theories around daily practice and social learning. The study includes a larger sourcing analysis of obsidian stone tools and debitage in done with Energy Dispersive X-RayFluorescence (EXDRF) to reconstruct the movement and exchange distribution. The resulting archaeological analysis and assemblages will reflect local techniques of production, the materials utilized, types of artifacts produced, and consumption practices that will result in a better understanding of the practices of procurement, production, exchange, consumption, social organization, and differentiation, as well as the communal practices in the region.

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