Ceramic Innovation And Interregional Interaction: A Study From Formative Cahal Pech, Belize
This thesis presents the results of the ceramic analysis of a sample of ceramics from the site of Cahal Pech, Belize, in an attempt to study the transition between the Cunil Ceramic complex and the Early Facet Jenney Creek/ Kanluk ceramic complex. The Cunil ceramics (1100-900 B.C.) are the earliest known ceramic complex discovered at Cahal Pech. This complex is immediately followed by the Early Facet Jenney Creek/Kanluk ceramic complex (c.a. 900-600 B.C.). Cunil ceramics served as mediums to display motifs considered to be Olmec-style or following a panMesoamerican style (Brown 2007; Awe 1992; Cheetham 1998). These motifs held symbolic and ideological meaning, and the ceramics bearing these decorations were meant to be displayed while serving food or drink (Brown 2007:9). The use of these pan-Mesoamerican concepts decreases significantly after the Cunil phase (Brown 2007: 9,) at a time when social differentiation starts to emerge in the Maya Lowlands and it can first be identified in the archaeological record (Healy et al. 2004; Brown 2007). This decrease in the occurrence of Cunil symbols also coincides with the emergence of the Early Facet Jenney Creek/ Kanluk Complex. These ceramics differ from the Cunil ceramics in decoration, surface treatment, materials used for their manufacture, and form. The presence of Olmec style motifs in Cahal Pech, without a doubt, indicates that the people of this site were involved in some type of regional interaction. The emergence of the Olmec civilization towards 1250 B.C. marks the first known development of a large-scale chiefdom or state polity in Mesoamerica (Cheetham iii 1998). Archaeological excavations at San Lorenzo, the seat of the Olmec civilization, produced information pointing to the existence of sustained trade networks with other regions of Mesoamerica. Findings of Olmec style motifs and ceramics also lend support to theories claiming the existence of extensive networks of exchange and interaction within the Maya region. During the transition from Cunil to Jenney Creek/Kanluk, not only did the residents of Cahal Pech cease to use Olmec motifs on serving vessels, but also the ceramics used at Cahal Pech changed significantly. Some ceramic groups maintained some continuity, but new, previously unknown groups emerged. Transformation in the ceramics produced by the inhabitants of Cahal Pech can inform the social changes that occurred during the transition between these two ceramic complexes from Cahal Pech, Cunil and Early Facet Jenney Creek/Kanluk. The query this project pursues addresses the influence of internal means for change in ceramic production, and well as the effect that Cahal Pech's involvement in a regional network had on its ceramic assemblage. Some questions this project addresses when examining the ceramic sample presented include: What local factors may have contributed to the development of new ceramic groups? Did new ceramic decoration and production techniques did in effect develop at Cahal Pech, or were such innovations introduced from neighboring areas? How do changes in the ceramics of Cahal Pech reflect social changes? The possibility that foreign ceramics were introduced to the Belize Valley raises the question of where these materials came from and who was involved in regional and long distance interaction with Cahal Pech, since the wide distribution of Olmec style materials suggests that people sustained trade and exchange networks over iv considerable distances. After detailing the findings from analysis of the ceramic sample, I consider how this ceramic sample points to the combination of internal and external catalysts for change in the production reflects in this ceramic sample. Engaging these issues might help to determine the role that Cahal Pech played at a local level, and furthermore on a regional level. v
Belize; Formative; Ceramics; Interaction; Mesoamerica
Henderson, John S.
Gleach, Frederic Wright; Khatchadourian, Lori
Master of Arts
dissertation or thesis