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Archaeology Brown Bag
December 10, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
“Pots and Politics: Ceramic Exchange and State Formation in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico”
Dr. R. Jason Sherman
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Friday, December 10th, 2021
12:00 -1:00 PM
Sewell Social Science Building, Room 5230
The evolution of the Zapotec state—centered at the site of Monte Albán in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico—is one of the best documented cases of primary state formation, consolidation, and decline in the world. Ceramic studies have long played a key role in archaeologists’ understanding of political and economic developments in the Oaxaca Valley. Recently, a collaborative research project examined the dynamic relationship between ceramic exchange and political conflict, social negotiation, and ideology during the period when the Zapotec state formed. Compositional analyses were conducted on clay samples collected throughout the valley, as well as hundreds of sherds from various Formative (700 BC– AD 200) sites. Data from these analyses were used to identify probable ceramic production loci, trace the movement of vessels from producers to consumers, and model the different forms of exchange through which pottery was distributed. The results of this research accord with earlier models positing the development of market exchange in the valley, at least of utilitarian vessels. However, market networks fluctuated through time due to political fragmentation and conflict prior to the subjugation of the entire valley by Monte Albán. At the same time, the distribution of some finer pottery via non- market forms of exchange, such as gift-giving and direct acquisition from sponsored potters, helped to build and maintain political alliances, as well as reinforce—and in some cases resist—increasing social differentiation within the Zapotec state.
Archaeology Brown Bag Lecture Series
UW-Madison Department of Anthropology