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Standardization, Labor Investment, Skill, and the Organization of Ceramic Production in Late Prehispanic Highland Peru

  • Cathy L. Costin (a1) and Melissa B. Hagstrum (a2)

Specialization encompasses many ways to organize craft production, ranging from small, household-based work units to large workshops. Distinctive types of specialization develop in response to various social, economic, and environmental factors, including the demand for crafts, the social relations of producers, and the support base for artisans. These factors in turn influence manufacturing technology. Thus, different types of specialization can be characterized by a “technological profile,” which reflects relative labor investment, skill, and standardization. An analysis of Prehispanic ceramic technology in the central sierra of Peru demonstrates how these technological profiles can be used to identify the ways ceramic production was organized to provision consumers with utilitarian and luxury pottery. As we demonstrate in our analysis of pottery recovered in the Yanamarca Valley, utilitarian Wanka-style cookwares and storage jars were produced by independent household-based artisans, while imperial Inka-style jars were produced by locally recruited corvee labor working for the state.


La especialización económica incluye múltiples estrategias para organizar la producción de bienes. Estas estrategias abarcan desde pequeñas unidades domésticas, hasta talleres de producción. Diferentes y bien definidas formas de especialización se desarrollan en respuesta a factores sociales, económicos y ambientales cómo la demanda por los bienes producidos, las relaciones sociales establecidas entre los productores y las bases socioeconómicas de soporte de los artesanos. Estos factores, a su vez, influencian la tecnología de producción. Diferentes tipos de especialización económica pueden estar caraterizados por "perfiles tecnológicos " que reflejan la inversión relativa de trabajo, la habilidad de los productores, y la regularización de los productos. El análisis del aspecto tecnológico de una serie de alfares prehispánicos tardios de la sierra central del Perú demuestra como los “perfiles tecnológicos” pueden ser usados para identificar las formas en que la producción de cerámica estuvo organizada para proveer cerámica utilitaria y suntuaria a los consumidores. El caso que se analiza en detalle es el de los Wanka de la sierra central del Perú. En esta sociedad, ollas y otras formas utilítarias, así como grandes jarras de almacenamiento, fueron producidas en el estilo local Wanka por artesanos independientes cuyo nivel de producción no sobrepasó la unidad domestica de producción. Por otro lado, la producción de “aríbalos” en el estilo Inka imperial estuvo a cargo de trabajadores tributarios reclutados localmente pero que trabajaron directamente para el estado Inka.

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