The present study seeks to analyze and interpret the ceramic material obtained during the first season's work of the National Geographic Society-Smithsonian Institution joint archeological expedition to Tres Zapotes, State of Veracruz, Mexico. The work of this season was primarily exploratory in nature. Refined stratigraphic investigation was not attempted. It was felt more desirable, as a beginning, to perform as many sampling operations as possible in order to learn fully the character of the site, leaving for a second season the task of determining whether more precise field methods might yield significant results. The interpretations offered are consequently based more upon typological than upon stratigraphic considerations. Nevertheless, certain broad stratigraphic implications emerged in the course of the excavations which have not been lost sight of in the presentation of results. These implications appear to justify arranging the pottery under three general heads indicative of the level at which each of the groupings occurred; namely, Middle Tres Zapotes A, Middle Tres Zapotes B, and Upper Tres Zapotes. This particular terminology has been chosen in the light of the second season's work, which, while confirming the basic stratigraphic categories postulated here, revealed, further, the existence of a deeper and presumably earlier level than any herein considered, which it is proposed to call Lower Tres Zapotes. By adopting designations which can be used in subsequent reports, much unnecessary confusion will be avoided.
In the belief that copious illustration is of greater importance in a report on ceramics than literary elaboration, the text material has been kept at a minimum consistent with the inclusion of the pertinent facts. Description of the pottery is presented in outline form to facilitate quick reference. The terms used in referring to vessel forms have been chosen in accordance with the definitions proposed by Vaillant (1927) in his doctoral dissertation, subject to the minor modifications introduced by the Ricketsons in their report on Uaxactun, Guatemala, Group E, 1926-1931. In addition, the term olla bowl, already familiar to students of Southwestern archeology, has been employed to designate a vessel which conforms to the definition of an olla, except that the height, instead of being approximately equal to the diameter, is definitely less than the diameter. Wares are classified on the basis of surface color or slip. In accordance with the recommendation of Benjamin March (1934), colors have been referred to the standard samples to be found in A Dictionary of Color (Maerz and Paul . . .