The Soconusco region, a narrow strip of the Pacific coast of Mexico and Guatemala, is the location of some of the earliest pottery-using villages of ancient Mesoamerica. Mobile early inhabitants of the area harvested marsh clams in the estuaries, leaving behind vast mounds of shell. With the introduction of pottery and the establishment of permanent villages (from 1900 B.C.), use of the resource-rich estuary changed. The archaeological manifestation of that new estuary adaptation is a dramatic pattern of inter-site variability in pottery vessel forms. Vessels at sites within the estuary were about seventy percent neckless jars --"tecomates"-- while vessels at contemporaneous sites a few kilometers inland were seventy percent open dishes. The pattern is well-known, but the the settlement arrangements or subsistence practices that produced it have remained unclear. Archaeological investigations at El Varal, a special-purpose estuary site of the later Early Formative (1250-1000 B.C.) expand possibilities for an anthropological understanding of the archaeological patterns. The goal of this volume is to describe excavations and finds at the site and to propose, based on a variety of analyses, a new understanding of Early Formative assemblage variability.
Richard Lesure is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
List of Tables; List of Figures; Acknowledgments; Part I: Archaeological Investigations at El Varal: Site Assemblage Variation in Early Formative Soconusco (Richard G. Lesure); Field Investigations and Materials Recovered (Richard G. Lesure); The Structure and Formation of the Vasquez Mound (Richard G. Lesure); Excavations (Richard G. Lesure); Part II: Analysis of Finds and the Issue of Intra-Site Variability: Changing Patterns of Shellfish Exploitation (Richard G. Lesure, Alina Gagiu, Brendan J. Culleton, and Douglas J. Kennett); Crab Exploitation in Early Formative Soconusco (John Dietler and Thomas A. Wake); Fishing in the Mangroves at Formative-Period El Varal (Thomas A. Wake and David W. Steadman); Macrobotanical Remains from El Varal, with a Comparison to Inland Sites (Virginia S. Popper and Richard G. Lesure); Pottery (Richard G. Lesure and Isabel Rodriquez Lopez); Artifacts of Stone and Shell (Richard G. Lesure); Ceramic Artifacts (Richard G. Lesure); Radiocarbon Dates (Michael Blake and Richard G. Lesure ); Shellfish Harvesting Strategies at El Varal (Douglas J. Kennett and Brendan J. Culleton); Artifact Synthesis and Intra-Site Assemblage Variability (Richard G. Lesure); Part III: Inter-Site Differences: Settlement, Subsistence, and Community: Subsistence in the Estuary: Surplus Production, Expedient Meals, or Something Between? (Richard G. Lesure, Thomas A. Wake, and David W. Steadman); The Manufacture and Content of Pottery Vessels in Early Formative Mazatan (David M. Carballo, Richard G. Lesure, Jelmer W. Eerkens, Douglas J. Kennett, Stuart Tyson Smith, Hector Neff, and Michael D. Glascock (); The Organization of Salt Production: Specialization or Collection? (Richard G. Lesure); Concluding Hypothesis (Richard G. Lesure); Appendix A: Pottery Types and Forms by Lot; References; Index.