THE LATE CLASSIC ORGANIZATION OF JADE ARTIFACT PRODUCTION IN THE MIDDLE MOTAGUA VALLEY, ZACAPA, GUATEMALA

Open Access
Author:
Rochette, Erick Thomas
Graduate Program:
Anthropology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
August 12, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Kenneth Gale Hirth, Dissertation Advisor
  • Kenneth Gale Hirth, Committee Chair
  • David Lee Webster, Committee Member
  • George Robert Milner, Committee Member
  • Matthew Bennett Restall, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • Domestic Economy
  • Prestige Goods
  • Jade
  • Archaeology
  • Classic Maya
  • Political Economy
  • Craft Production
  • Motagua Valley
  • Guatemala
Abstract:
Objects crafted from jade played a prominent social, political and ritual role in all prehispanic Mesoamerican civilizations from at least the Middle Formative period (ca. 1000-400 B.C.) through to the time of the Spanish Conquest. Based primarily on the consumption of jade artifacts by ancient Maya elites, scholars have argued that their production was under the direct control of elite members of society. Nevertheless, few studies have recovered evidence of jade artifact production. This dissertation presents the results of an archaeological project in the Middle Motagua Valley, Zacapa, Guatemala, where evidence demonstrates widespread production of jade artifacts in the only positively-identified jade source for prehispanic Mesoamerica. This field research involved archaeological survey and test excavation to document the organization of jade artifact production in the area during the Late Classic period (A.D. 600-900). These data and subsequent technological analyses suggest that jade aritfact production took place in a variety of domestic and non-domestic, as well as elite and non-elite contexts. This evidence runs counter to many previous models of wealth goods production, which have viewed such production as an elite-dominated activity. Further, the data set of 9,920 jadeite artifacts represents the largest collection of jade artifact production evidence recovered to date, and provided the opportunity for a detailed analysis of the technological process of jadeite artifact production. This study provides valuable insights into the organization of wealth goods production in ancient Mesoamerica and offers a contribution to general anthropological theories of political economy.