Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The analytic reconciliation of Classic Mayan elite pottery: Squaring pottery function with form, adornment, and residual contents
by Loughmiller-Newman, Jennifer Ann, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2012, 648; 3523926
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation presents a multidisciplinary means of determining the actual content (foodstuff, non-foodstuff, or lack of contents) of Classic Mayan (A.D. 250-900) vessels. Based on previous studies that have identified the residues of foodstuffs named in hieroglyphic texts (e.g. cacao), this study is designed to further investigate foodstuff residues in the elite vessels indicated by text or image to contain those residues, and the methods employed for residue characterization. Prior to studies utilizing residue analysis, the content of Classic Maya vessels largely had long been inferred largely by ethnographic analogy, associating specific vessel forms with specific uses based on ethnographic or ethnohistorical descriptions, and more recently by a synthesis of such analogical characterizations with insights from the texts and/or iconographic images adorning many elite vessels. These synthetic interpretations are referred to in this dissertation as analogical characterizations. Scientific verification of such inferences by residue analysis remains underemployed despite recent technological advances.

The nearly exclusive employment of analogical interpretations for interpreting vessels' uses and contents has been the root cause of the misdiagnosis of the functions of these and other associated archaeological materials. Without confirmation through objective means, these ascribed interpretations stem only from inferred behaviors rather than confirmation of actual behavior. Vessels frequently serve multiple functions both as containers and as cultural symbols, but vessel functions inferred analogically tend to be limited largely to a subset of their status as varied types of containers of various foodstuffs – cooking wares, storage wares, serving wares, and wares from which foodstuffs were consumed. This practice leaves scholars with artifacts and interpretations largely based on prior expectations or other uncritically a priori categorizations.

This thesis is designed to provide a method for answering the specific question of what (if indeed anything) was contained in these elite vessels. To interpret the results of this method, all available data regarding vessel form and technical properties, hieroglyphic text, iconographic decoration, ethnographic and ethnohistorical documentation of Mayan practices, and content residues (determined by organic and inorganic detection) were integrated, sometimes supplemented by experimental work making vessels to particular specifications and testing their properties.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Justeson, John S., Rafferty, Sean M.
Commitee: Masson, Marilyn A., Zagorevski, Dmitri
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 74/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Linguistics, Archaeology, Chemistry
Keywords: Archaeometry, Foodstuffs, Hieroglyphic, Iconography, Maya, Mesoamerica, Pottery
Publication Number: 3523926
ISBN: 9781267575784
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