An integrative approach to the analysis of the late Preclassic ceramics at Lamanai, Belize
Powis, Terry George
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This dissertation presents results from the analysis of the Late Preclassic ceramics at the Maya site of Lamanai, located in northern Belize, Central America. The collection analyzed dates from ca. 400 B.C. to A.D. 250 and consists of two functionally complete complexes (Lag and Zotz). Three temporal divisions are determined (the Lag Ceramic Complex and the early and late facets of the Zotz Ceramic Complex), and are identified within what is called the Chicanel Ceramic Sphere. The methodology employed on this collection of 140 whole and complete vessels is the type:variety-mode system. Although the methodology is based on the basic tenets of this taxonomic system, a new presentation format is used for the ceramic type descriptions which involve a focus on the intra-site location (i.e., context) of each vessel or set of vessels. In this way, the contextual units maintain or preserve the groupings of vessels that had meaning to the Maya at the time of deposition. In this study, an integrative approach is used which combines a number of different analytical techniques, including taxonomic, modal, contextual, functional, and technological. The first three techniques are used to classify and describe the pottery. Vessel function is another critical aspect of the research. Vessel forms identified at Lamanai such as bowls, dishes, plates, jars, buckets, and vases had a number of uses and they included cooking, food preparation, food serving and eating, liquid storage, liquid transport, and ritual. Using archaeological, ethnographical, and ethnoarchaeological studies, an examination was made of how different segments of Lamanai’s population (elites and commoners) used their pottery in daily social and ritual activities. A technological (petrographic) analysis was also conducted on a limited number of vessels. The analysis is a preliminary step toward understanding changes, at both the local and nonlocal level, that took place with regard to source clay, paste recipe, and slip technology. Taken in concert, these different approaches provide a better reconstruction of both ceramic and cultural developments during the Late Preclassic period. The culture-historical interpretations are not only Lamanaispecific, but can be applied to other sites in the region and elsewhere in the Maya lowlands.