Production, exchange, and social identity: A study of Chupadero black-on-white pottery (New Mexico)

Tiffany C. Clark
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University
July, 2006


Regional production and exchange of ceramic goods are integral to economic systems and political and social processes. Archaeological study in the American Southwest has traditionally focused on understanding the organization of a single component (production or distribution) within a regional ceramic economy. In recent years, however, researchers have suggested that a more integrated approach to the study of production and exchange is needed to elucidate the broader social contexts in which these economic activities took place. This dissertation explores the connections and interrelationships between production and distribution systems in the Salinas and Sierra Blanca regions of central New Mexico during the early Pueblo IV period (A.D. 1250/1270--1450). Focusing on Chupadero Black-on-white pottery, this comparative study evaluates organizational variability in regional economic systems in order to understand how social relations structure, and are structured by, different production and exchange practices. Three dimensions of regional ceramic economies are considered---production, exchange, and social identity. Although these dimensions involve intertwined social and economic processes, aspects of each may be delineated through the consideration of a few key parameters. Incorporating data from complementary chemical and mineralogical compositional sourcing studies, organizational aspects of Chupadero production and distribution systems are assessed for the Salinas and Sierra Blanca regions. Technological and design style information obtained from a ceramic attribute analysis are then used to examine the social contexts of production. The inclusion of this additional analytical component brings a more socially oriented perspective to the study of regional ceramic economies and allows for the investigation of the structure of social networks that is independent from, and complementary to, the social inferences that derive from ceramic production and exchange data. Results of the compositional and stylistic analyses suggest that a complex interplay of social and economic factors were responsible for shaping the regional ceramic economies that developed in central New Mexico in the early Pueblo IV period. These factors include regional differences in population size and distribution, involvement in pan-regional interaction spheres, and use value of Chupadero vessels. Though Chupadero production and exchange systems in both study regions appear to have been influenced by the same constellation of factors, the particular effects of each vary according to the specific, historically contingent conditions that were present in the Salinas and Sierra Blanca regions in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.