La Venta, Tabasco: a Study of Olmec Ceramics and Art

By Philip Drucker | Go to book overview

THE CERAMICS OF LA VENTA

By PHILIP DRUCKER


INTRODUCTION

The following pages deal with the various La Venta wares and their vertical distributions in the stratigraphic sections, and with figurines and other minor objects. Because of the fragmentary nature of the pottery, and its consistently poor state of preservation, it has been necessary to group it into several rather large and clumsy classes; I have tried, however, to make clear when a "ware" seems to be a pretty clean-cut unit, and when it consists of several different, but overlapping, subgroups. I have also tried to avoid some of the pitfalls into which I tumbled in discussing the ceramics of Tres Zapotes--one of my blunders, that relating to the Fine Paste wares, I have attempted to correct. In general, however, the taxonomy of the La Venta wares is rather like the one set up for the Tres Zapotes material, in spite of all efforts to establish as refined and precise a classification as possible. In part this is due, in addition to the very apparent fact that the materials from the two sites are quite similar, to the fact that the local pottery is not only drab but poorly standardized. Examples may be found within the group I have designated Coarse Brown ware that vary widely in color, texture, hardness, and surface finish (or what is left of the last named). Yet when a sizable lot of sherds are laid out, one can arrange a complete series from one to the other extreme in which the individual sherds vary almost imperceptibly one from the next. I could find no way to divide such series into several distinct "wares." Similar drab and unlovely pottery is found, I gather, in other parts of Mesoamerica, but in few other places is it the only material available for ceramic classification. If painted pottery occurred in fair preservation and moderate abundance, it might be preferable to base the classification and the interpretations as to culture growth at the site on it, paying but slight attention to the dilapidated plain wares. Lacking such material, however, it becomes necesary to use the plain wares, sorting them into such divisions as can be consistently used, and which accomodate the bulk of the material, and then as a check plotting the vertical distributions of the various classes to see if they yield meaningful curves. In defense of my rather broad ware categories, it may be said that they will be

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La Venta, Tabasco: a Study of Olmec Ceramics and Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Letter of Transmittal ii
  • Contents iii
  • Illustrations v
  • Foreword ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I: Excavations and Artifacts 4
  • Structural Investigations in 1943 34
  • The Ceramics of La Venta 80
  • Part II: the Sculptor's Art 152
  • The Stone Monuments 173
  • Stylistic Characters of the Sculptures 185
  • Summary 204
  • Appendix - Technological Analyses 234
  • Bibliography 241
  • Index 249
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