Early Pottery in the Tropics of Panama (Ca. 4,500-3,200 B.P.): Production Processes, Circulation, and Diagenesis
Technology and function
Degree of sedentism
AdvisorSchiffer, Michael B.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 15-Aug-2013
AbstractDespite the association of the first pottery with food production and sedentism, case studies show hunter gatherers with different degrees of sedentism commonly adopted ceramics. Monagrillo ware (∼ 4500-3200 BP), central Panama, early in Central America, was made by egalitarian slash and burn farmers, cultivating domesticated seed and root crops. People occupied inland rockshelters and coastal shell middens. Their degree of sedentism is debated. It is unclear whether they were sedentary both in the inland and the coast exchanging resources or whether inland people visited the coast during dry periods. Their pottery functions are not well understood. I provenanced and studied production processes and diagenesis of Monagrillo pottery combining life history approach and archaeometric methods. I assessed the degree of sedentism of people and inferred vessel functions producers expected. I studied diagenesis because it probably affects analytical results. My study showed that pottery was produced and used in the foothills and on the coast, possibly, in the plains, of the seasonally dry Pacific side of Panama. This suggested that people were sedentary in areas surrounding Parita Bay. Vessels from the Pacific foothills were transported to perennially wet Caribbean slopes; where production was difficult due to precipitation. According to technical choices made, I infer that potters in the Pacific foothills opted for useful and dependable designs, for cooking. Transportability and resistance to weathering were also important. Pacific coastal producers may have chosen designs for cooking-related attributes, but not transportation. Finally, a Pacific plains intermediate site had a high proportion of vessels from both the Pacific foothills and the coast and had a high proportion of decorated sherds. This site may have had special functions such as for meeting, feasting, and exchange. All producers shared manufacturing techniques indicating relatedness. Sherds excavated from the Caribbean zone and the Pacific coast had different diagenetic patterns suggesting climatic differences; this identification helped source pottery. My work contributes to knowledge about pottery origins and degrees of sedentism, technical choices made to reach functional needs, and climatic impact on production and post-depositional changes.
Degree ProgramGraduate College