Practices and features that many researchers have identified as “Olmec,” even when found outside of the Gulf Coast of Mexico, supposed by some to be the heartland of an Olmec culture, are often a minority within local assemblages with vast differences in style and form. This is the case in Honduras, where objects identified as “Olmec” were clearly locally made. Thus they cannot be explained simply in terms of the import to Honduras of “Olmec” objects made elsewhere. This paper seeks to address the question, “what did it mean to the inhabitants of Formative period Mesoamerican villages to make and use objects whose stylistic features made them stand out as different from others in their own communities?” Drawing on data from original fieldwork at multiple sites in Honduras and reanalysis of museum collections, this paper proposes a model for understanding this phenomenon rooted in social theories of materiality, the phenomenological experience of personhood, and the creation of identity through entanglement with things.
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