While scholars actively search for material and symbolic indications of Olmec influence outside the Gulf Coast, few have taken a close look at the variation and intricacies of Early Formative period material culture within the Gulf Coast region. The increasing body of data on houses in the Olmec heartland is beginning to allow comparisons and new kinds of analyses not previously possible in Olmec studies. Excavated materials from San Lorenzo phase (1200–900 b.c., radiocarbon years; 1400–1000 b.c.) households at El Remolino in the San Lorenzo region are analyzed in a preliminary attempt to evaluate the particulars of a San Lorenzo Olmec domestic assemblage in order to provide a baseline for future research. I compare quantities of different artifact classes, vessel forms, vessel orifice diameters, and pottery decoration to arrive at an understanding of a modest Olmec household inventory. Through this analysis, I argue that several of the San Lorenzo horizon markers cited as evidence of Olmec influence or migration elsewhere in Mesoamerica are quite rare in the Olmec heartland itself. Both Calzadas Carved and Limón Carved-Incised pottery decorations1 occur only in minute quantities (<1%) in the Remolino (and San Lorenzo) assemblage, and hollow white-ware figurines are entirely absent at this nonelite context. Except for its location 5 km from San Lorenzo, El Remolino would not qualify as an Olmec site based on the lack of artifact markers emphasized by archaeologists working outside of the Gulf Coast. I argue that we need a better idea of the range of Gulf Coast Olmec variation before we delve too far into discussions of Gulf Coast influence.
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