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  • David Cheetham (a1)

Portable “Olmec-style” objects appeared in several regions of Mesoamerica near the end of the second millennium b.c., most frequently in the form of ceramic figurines and carved-incised pottery vessels. The origins of this early Olmec style and significance of its distribution are vigorously debated, with the role of the Gulf Coast Olmec archaeological culture and its largest center, San Lorenzo, especially controversial with respect to both issues. While recent chemical compositional analyses show that Olmec-style pots were exported from the Gulf Coast to several other regions of Mesoamerica, in each place beyond the Gulf Coast they are vastly outnumbered by locally-made versions that may or may not be faithful to Gulf Olmec stylistic canons based on vessel forms, technical style of manufacture, and design criteria. The extent of stylistic conformity between pots made in the Gulf Coast and distant regions has direct implications in terms of the geographic origin, apprenticeship, and cultural membership (innate ethnicity) of the potters who made the vessels. I consider these issues by comparing the designs and forms of excised (Calzadas Carved) pottery made at San Lorenzo and Cantón Corralito, a possible settlement enclave of Gulf Olmec peoples located in the Mazatan zone of Pacific Coastal Chiapas some 450 km from San Lorenzo.

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Jeffrey Blomster , Hector Neff , and Michael D. Glascock 2005 Olmec Pottery Production and Export in Ancient Mesoamerica as Determined through Elemental Analysis. Science 307:10681072.

David Cheetham 2009 Early Olmec Figurines from Two Regions: Style as Cultural Imperative. In Mesoamerican Figurines: Small-Scale Indices of Large-Scale Social Phenomena, edited by Christina T. Halperin , Katherine A. Faust , Rhonda Taube , and Auore Giguet , pp. 149179. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

John E. Clark 1997 The Arts of Government in Early Mesoamerica. Annual Review of Anthropology 26:211234.

Kent V. Flannery , and Joyce Marcus 2000 Formative Mexican Chiefdoms and the Myth of the “Mother Culture.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 19:137.

Pierre Lemonnier 1986 The Study of Material Culture Today: Toward an Anthropology of Technical Systems. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 5:147186.

Gil J. Stein 2000 Material Culture and Social Identity: The Evidence for a 4th Millennium b.c. Mesopotamian Uruk Colony at Hacinebi, Turkey. Paléorient 25:1122.

Gil J. Stein 2002 From Passive Periphery to Active Agents: Emerging Perspectives in the Archaeology of Interregional Interaction. American Anthropologist 104:903916.

James B. Stoltman , Joyce Marcus , Kent V. Flannery , James H. Burton , and Robert G. Moyle 2005 Petrographic Evidence Shows that Pottery Exchange between the Olmec and Their Neighbors was Two Way. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102:1121311218.

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Ancient Mesoamerica
  • ISSN: 0956-5361
  • EISSN: 1469-1787
  • URL: /core/journals/ancient-mesoamerica
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