“In its broad topical and geographical scope, this volume demonstrates the many ways scholars can productively study ancient ceramics and the diversity of questions their studies can address.”—Christopher A. Pool, coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology
“Expansive in scope, including cases spanning millennia and traversing North, Central, and South America, this interdisciplinary collection of essays demonstrates that ceramic objects, all too often marginalized as minor arts or the fodder of stratigraphic seriation, reward close and deep study.”—Bryan R. Just, author of Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom
Ceramics of Ancient America: Multidisciplinary Approaches is the first volume to bring together archaeology, ethnography, and art history in the analysis of pre-Columbian pottery. While previous research on ceramics has been divided among these three disciplines, this volume shows that integrating approaches provides new understandings of many different aspects of Ancient American societies.
Contributors from a variety of backgrounds in these fields explore what ceramics can reveal about ancient social dynamics, trade, ritual, politics, innovation, iconography, and regional styles. Essays identify supernatural and humanistic beliefs through formal analysis of Lower Mississippi Valley “great serpent” effigy vessels, costume and dress in Moche art, and Ecuadorian depictions of the human figure. They discuss the cultural identity conveyed by imagery such as Andean head motifs, and they analyze symmetry in designs from locations including the American Southwest. Chapters also take diachronic approaches—methods that track change over time—to ceramics from Mexico’s Tarascan State and the Valley of Oaxaca, as well as from Maya and Toltec societies.
This volume provides a much-needed multidisciplinary synthesis of current scholarship on Ancient American ceramics. It is a model of how different research perspectives can together illuminate the relationship between these material artifacts and their broader cultural contexts.
Yumi Park Huntington, assistant professor of art history at Framingham State University, is the author of Mirrors of Clay: Reflections of Ancient Andean Life in Ceramics from the Sam Olden Collection. Dean E. Arnold, adjunct curator of anthropology at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and professor emeritus of anthropology at Wheaton College, is the author of The Evolution of Ceramic Production Organization in a Maya Community. Johanna Minich is curator of Native American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.