Early Formative Pottery Trade and the Evolution of Mesoamerican Civilisation

By Sharer, Robert J. | Antiquity, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Early Formative Pottery Trade and the Evolution of Mesoamerican Civilisation


Sharer, Robert J., Antiquity


A recent commentary by Hector Neff in Antiquity (80: 714-16) continues a debate concerning Early Formative pottery exchange and its role in the development of Mesoamerican civilisation. The debate was sparked by a report of an INAA analysis of a non-random sample of 944 pottery samples from 16 Mesoamerican sites to determine sources for the production of several pottery types (Blomster et al. 2005; Neff et al. 2006a: 111). The report concluded that the Olmec site of San Lorenzo exported pottery to several contemporary non-Olmec sites, but that these non-Olmec sites did not import pottery from San Lorenzo or exchange pottery with each other. These conclusions were used to make several claims in support of the idea that all Mesoamerican civilisations originated from the Olmec--the core tenet of the so-called 'mother culture' model.

Although Neff (2006:714) states that the INAA results 'clearly favours' the 'mother culture' position, our critiques have pointed out the fallacies of this claim (Flannery et al. 2005; Sharer et al. 2006), including petrographic data (Stoltman et al. 2005) that support pottery trading patterns contrary to the conclusions made by Blomster, Neff and Glascock (2005). As a result, Neff has moderated the original claim of exclusive one-way trade of pottery at San Lorenzo, so that it is now acknowledged that 'a few' pots were traded into the site (Neff 2006: 715).

Neff and his colleagues continue to imply that my colleagues and I are being unscientific by not accepting their evidence (Neff et al. 2006a: 116; Neff 2006: 715). To the contrary, critiquing new data and the conclusions derived from them are an essential part of science. Neff (2006: 715) also mistakenly believes our critique was motivated by a desire to deny 'empirical patterns that don't fit our preconceptions'. While some of my colleagues have reservations about INAA (see Flannery et al. 2005; Stoltman et al. 2005), I along with most of my colleagues agree that the INAA results reported by Blomster, Neff and Glascock (2005) imply that San Lorenzo traded a lot of pottery (Sharer et al. 2006), as Neff and his colleagues have previously recognised (Neff et al. 2006a: 113). On the other hand we continue to have reservations about reliance on a single line of evidence to support models of ancient cultural processes--multiple sources of consistent evidence are preferable for deriving inferences from archaeological data. It is obviously better to combine and compare results of INAA, petrographic, and typological analyses to identify ancient pottery manufacturing sources, rather than rely on only one of these techniques. We also have serious reservations about the adequacy of the INAA sample, for while Neff (2006: 714) states these samples came from 'key early Formative centres throughout Mesoamerica', in fact the majority of key Mesoamerican sites and regions were not sampled, including most sites in the Valley of Mexico, and sites in Guerrero, Morelos, Puebla and the entire Maya area.

From my perspective the central issue in our critique of the original report (Blomster et al. 2005) is not the INAA results, but the conclusions drawn from these results. This is because the support for the 'mother culture' model advocated by Blomster, Neff and Glascock (2005), and more recently by Neff (2006), is ultimately founded on an untested assumption, namely that Olmec civilisation and ideology were diffused into non-Olmec regions via pottery decorated by carved-incised 'Olmec-style motifs' from the Gulf Coast Lowlands. Based on this assumption, a single line of INAA evidence showing that San Lorenzo traded a lot of pots to several other Early Formative sites is seen as support for the 'mother culture' model. It is also important to note that this support is based on only 16 samples of the carved-incised pottery vessels on which 'Olmec motifs' were supposedly diffused from the Gulf Coast (1.7 per cent of the INAA sample; see Neff et al. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Early Formative Pottery Trade and the Evolution of Mesoamerican Civilisation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.