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Methodological Issues in the Provenance Investigation of Early Formative Mesoamerican Ceramics

  • Hector Neff (a1), Jeffrey Blomster (a2), Michael D. Glascock (a3), Ronald L. Bishop (a4), M. James Blackman (a4), Michael D. Coe (a5), George L. Cowgill (a6), Richard A. Diehl (a7), Stephen Houston (a8), Arthur A. Joyce (a9), Carl P. Lipo (a10), Barbara L. Stark (a6) and Marcus Winter (a11)...


A recent study of Early Formative Mesoamerican pottery by instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) yielded surprising results that prompted two critiques in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The INAA study indicated that the Olmec center of San Lorenzo was a major exporter of carved-incised and white pottery and that little if any pottery made elsewhere was consumed at San Lorenzo. The critiques purport to "overturn" the INAA study and demonstrate a more balanced exchange of pottery among Early Formative centers. However, the critiques rely on a series of mistaken claims and misunderstandings that are addressed here. New petrographic data on a small sample of Early Formative pottery (Stoltman et al. 2005) are potentially useful, but they do not overturn INAA of nearly 1000 pottery samples and hundreds of raw material samples.

Una investigación reciente de la cerámica del período Formativo Temprano de Mesoamérica se realizó por medio de análisis a través de activación de neutrones (INAA). El estudio produjo resultados sorprendentes, que provocaron dos críticas que fueron publicados en la revista Proceedings of the Nacional Academy of Sciences. El estudio por INAA indicó que el centro Olmeca de San Lorenzo exportaba cantidades apreciables de cerámica tallada-incisa y de pasta blanca, pero que la cantidad de cerámica producida en otras regiones que llegaba a San Lorenzo no alcanza el nivel de detección. Las críticas supuestamente anulan el estudio por INAA y demuestran un patrón de circulación de cerámica más equilibrado entre los centros del Formativo Temprano. Sin embargo, las críticas dependen en una serie de errores y faltas de entendimiento que se explica aquí. Nuevos datos petrográficos obtenidos de una muestra pequeña de la cerámica del Formativo Temprano (Stoltman et al. 2005) son potencialmente de interés, pero no anulan los resultados de INAA de casi 1000 tiestos y cientos de muestras de barros crudos.



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