Rural ceramic production, consumption, and exchange in late classic Oaxaca, Mexico : a view from Yaasuchi Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/gq67jv53g

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  • The Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico was home to one of the most intensively-studied archaic states in the New World. Centered at the hilltop city of Monte Albán, the Zapotec State first arose around 500 BC and eventually encompassed much of the present-day state of Oaxaca. But by the Late Classic (AD 550 - 850), the state began to dissolve from a regional power into a series of autonomous city-states. The organization of the Zapotec economy in the centuries preceding state decline has been alternatively characterized as a state administered system or a commercial market economy, but most work hinges upon a continued assumption of mutual dependence between rural agricultural producers and urban manufacturers of craft goods. Yet little empirical research has focused on the economic behavior of households in rural communities. To address these assumptions, over 300 archaeological ceramics from the rural site of Yaasuchi were submitted for compositional analysis using INAA at the OSU Archaeometry Laboratory in order to establish provenance. These ceramics were drawn from two Late Classic domestic structures, a ceramic-production firing feature, and surface collections taken throughout the site. Together, they provide insight into patterns of production, consumption, and exchange at a small, rural community in Monte Albán’s hinterland. Comparisons of these data to compositional information from a large database of clays and ceramics from throughout the region show that as much as 90% of Yaasuchi ceramics were produced on site and exchanged between households. Of the remaining 10%, one third were produced in communities near Monte Albán while the remainder came from sources closer to Yaasuchi. These results suggest that Yaasuchi households were not dependent on exchange in urban centers for access to ceramics. Nor however, were they divorced from the regional economy. Rather, households employed a range of economic strategies to fulfil domestic needs, including craft production for intra-site and regional exchange. I argue that this pattern of economic behavior is consistent with a view of the Late Classic economy in which the growing autonomy of sub-regional polities resulted in an incompletely integrated, overlapping market network. The structure of this exchange system would have impacted the reliability of markets as both a source of goods and income, discouraging rural participation in regional exchange.
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