John A. Hildebrand and Melissa B. Hagstrum
Ethnoarchaeological data from contemporary Wanka villages in the Mantaro Valley of the Peruvian Andes provide new perspectives on the use and discard of ceramic cooking vessels. We present a regional survey of ceramic vessel use and discard with household consumption as the focus of study. A mathematical model determines vessel uselifefrom the age distribution of in-use vessels. We examine the number of vessels per household, their volume, their uselife, and their reported discard. A typical Wanka household cooking vessel assemblage consists of four or five ollas, two large ollas, one chata, and one tostadera. As family members are added to a household, the number of household ollas slightly increases, as does olla volume and the overall rate of olla discard. Large families have fewer chatas, and the rate of chata discard is uncorrelated with household size. Large and small families alike have only one tostadera, but in large families, a shortened tostadera uselife increases their discard rate. Distributing the same population into small or large households will result in significantly different rates of total sherd accumulation. Bulk sherd accumulation is a better indicator of the number of households rather than of the total number of persons. Household size can be estimated from the relative proportions of discarded ollas, chatas, and tostaderas.
Datos etnoarqueológicos provenientes de los pueblos contemporáneos Wanka del Valle Mantaro de los Andes peruanos proporcionan nuevas perspectivas sobre el uso y desecho de la cerámica doméstica. En este artículo, presentamos un estudio regional de los patrones de uso y descarte de esta cerámica en términos de uso familiar. Un modelo matemático determina el promedio de vida de las vasijas de cocina con base en la distribución de las edades de las vasijas actualmente en uso. Examinamos el número de vasijas de cocina, su volumen, promedio de vida y sus patrones de desecho. La cerámica típica de cocina de una familia Wanka se compone de cuatro o cinco ollas, dos ollas grandes, una chata y una tostadera. Los promedios de vida estimados para estas vasijas son: para las ollas 2.4 años, para las ollas grandes 14 años, para las chatas 2.2 años y para las tostaderas 1.3 años. Cuando se aumenta el tamaño de la familia, la cantidad de vasijas de cocina aumenta ligeramente, aumentando también el volumen promedio de las ollas y la proporción en que éstas se desechan. En términos proporcionales las familias grandes tienen menos chatas que las pequeñas, y la proporción de chatas que se desecha no guarda relación con el tamaño de la familia. Tanto las familias grandes como las pequeñas tienen sólo una tostadera, pero en las familias grandes las tostaderas tienen un promedio de vida más corto, aumentando su tasa de desecho. Si la población se divide en familias pequeñas o grandes, esto afectará de manera significativa la tasa de acumulación de fragmentos de cerámica. Por esta razón, la acumulación total de fragmentos cerámicos es un indicador útil para estimar el número de familias pero no la cantidad de individuos total. Se necesitan datos adicionales para estimar el tamaño de la familia. El tamaño de la familia se puede estimar en términos de la relación entre el desecho de ollas, chatas y tostaderas.
Cooking pottery is the key utensil used today to provide daily fare for the rural and, in some cases, the townspeople of the Mantaro Valley region of the Peruvian Andes. This craft tradition spans 700 years of continual production and use (Earle et al. 1987; Hagstrum 1989; Lavallée 1967). One reason why ceramics remain important in the central Andes is that they have superior properties, compared to metal containers, for cooking over an open fire. Handmade pots also are less costly than manufactured metal ones for consumers in this rural and largely barter economy. By studying ceramic containers in modern domestic contexts, questions of production, use, recycling, and discard may be addressed to provide insight on prehistoric ceramic function and commensal group size.
Contemporary thought on traditional ceramic usage is a source of models and data to better understand prehistoric ceramic usage (e.g., Longacre and Skibo 1994; Stanislawski 1977). From an archaeological perspective, an important contribution of modern ceramic studies is to understand not only how
John A. Hildebrand ■ Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0205 Melissa B. Hagstrum ■ Department of Anthropology, Box 353100, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-3100
Latin American Antiquity, 10(1), 1999, pp. 25-46 Copyright © 1999 by the Society for American Archaeology ceramic containers were employed, but also how they were discarded or abandoned—links in the chain of events leading to archaeological site formation (Schiffer 1976). It has long been recognized that knowledge of ceramic longevity is central to estimating the quantities of ceramics discarded and hence potentially recovered in the archaeological record (David and Henning 1972; DeBoer 1974; Foster 1960). The length of service, or uselife, for a particular type of ceramic vessel is just as important in determining its frequency in the archaeological record as the number of vessels that were in use. In the simplest terms, the archaeological record for a ceramic vessel type results both from the quantity and from the longevity of vessels in use. Ceramic use and discard rates may vary widely for different vessel functions; frequently used culinary vessels have short uselives, whereas sedentary storage or rarely used vessels have much longer uselives (Mills 1989:137; Shott 1996). For equal numbers of vessels in use, those with high discard rates will yield more pots in the archaeological record than those with low discard rates. An understanding of vessel discard is important for reconstructing vessel assemblages and estimating population using archaeological data. Accurate interpretation of an archaeological vessel assemblage requires that vessel uselife and hence discard be known with some degree of accuracy (Varien and Mills 1997).
Three avenues to estimating ceramic uselife have been suggested (DeBoer 1985): (1) from the material properties of the ceramic objects, (2) from comparison of in-use and discard contexts in the archaeological record, and (3) from ethnoarchaeo-logical analogy based on contemporary ceramic usage. Although the former two approaches may yield valuable results, in this paper we refine understanding of how uselife data can be obtained reliably from contemporary ceramic usage. Uselife data relevant to archaeological ceramics are difficult to obtain from an enthnographic setting, for more than the obvious reason that modern informants provide at best a gross analog for prehistoric behaviors. Another reason is that informants are not often interested in, and may have difficulty giving, quantitative estimates of their own use and discard behaviors, those aspects of their behavior that are most interesting to the archaeologist. These behaviors are not reported by informants except in general terms. Relevant use and discard behaviors occur over long time periods, difficult for the ethnoarchaeologist to observe. Essentially one object is discarded at a time, and it takes years to build a statistically significant sample of discard events from a small number of households, more time than can typically be spent in residence with the modern ceramic consumers. One alternative is to conduct repeated complete inventories of vessels in use, as done for the Kalinga by Longacre (1985) and colleagues. Vessel discard is discerned by the disappearance of a particular vessel between inventories. This approach requires long-term and intensive study of ceramic usage in a particular region, and even then breakage events between visits may not be well documented (Neu-pert and Longacre 1994).
Another approach allowing for the collection of adequate statistics is to conduct a broad regional survey of vessel use and discard behavior among a large number of households (e.g., Nelson 1981). We adopt this approach to study the use and discard of ceramic vessels; in particular, the modern ceramic cooking pots in use among the Wanka of the Mantaro Valley in the highlands of Peru (Figure 1). Assumptions relevant to regional study of vessel uselife are that modern and archaeological vessels are being used in practically the same way to prepare similar foods with similar techniques (e.g., boiling potatoes), and that similar raw materials and technology were used in ceramic vessel production (Hagstrum 1989). We address the problem of how to derive ceramic uselife data needed for archaeological studies from surveys of contemporary ceramic usage and discard. We first develop a general model relating the age distribution for a tool class during usage (in this case, ceramic vessels), the probability of tool discard owing to breakage or wear, and the age distribution for discarded items. This approach can be applied to other modern ceramic usage datasets, since many eth-noarchaeological studies present ceramic uselife data from observations of vessels in use, not an actual recording of ages for discarded vessels (e.g., DeBoer and Lathrap 1979). Likewise, the general use and discard model may be applied to better estimate uselife from ethnographic study of other tools such as lithics (e.g., Hayden and Nelson 1981).
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