- April 2nd, 2006
"Fine buff dishes are shallow, wide vessels with low vertical walls (90) (1-3 cm high), flat interrior bases, and three low feet. The diagnostic temperless paste varies in color from pink through orange to light yellow. Most sherds have a dark grey core. The surface, when it is well preserved, is burnished to a smooth matte finish but is unslipped. The interior base of these dishes is often incised with a series of roughly concentric circles superimposed on a cross, dividing the base into four quarters. (92)
"One""step""required in order to use artifact distributions to illuminate the different activities carried out at the site""is the identification of the intended use, or function, of the artifact types defined. The major source of interpretation of artifact function is ethnographic analogy. Specific ethnographic analogy is often based on an assumption of cultural continuity.""More general ethnographic analogies may be drawn, based either on intrinsic properties of materials or on cross-cultural regularities."
"Cross-cultural study of the use made of ceramic vessels, intended to test hypotheses based on intrinsic properties of ceramics has established that the intended use of vessels places limits on their physical features. Four categories of use can be identified: storage, transport of liquids, cooking, and food-serving." (102)
"Using these observations, the general classes of vessels... can be ascribed tentative functions. Polychrome and Fine Buff dishes, bowls, and vases are likely serving vessel in these ceramic complexes. Other rarer elaborate bowl types may also be food-serving vessels." (103)
"Polychrome styles of neighboring regions in the Late Classic may be viewed as a medium of communication of a shared symbol system, in turn representing a shared belief system linking the sites within a region in a coordinate network. As serving vessels, they suggest that the behavior through which this common regional identity was expressed was common meals, or feasting. The distribution of polychrom-decorated serving vessels to all levels of the settlement hierarchy may itself represent one of the means by which the superordinate elites engaged the subordinate populace in the common goals of a centralized polity. Distribution of other goods mighr have accompanied the feasts during which local elites gave their dependents examples of thse finely decorated vessels.
Ethrnographic data suggests that Lenca rituals, organized ona community level, involved this kind of feasting, accompanied by the (132) drinking of beverages such chicha (maize beer) and cacao. Reciprocal visits between communities, called guancasco, maintained regional coordinate. (133)
"In the late Classic, the major motifs of Ulua Polychromes include an anthropomorphic monkey... all themes comparable to contemporary Lowland Maya polychromes. At a minimum, the message of these polychrome designs would include foreignness, the esoteric, and quite probably associations with the highly centralized polities of the Lowland Maya." "Ulua Polychromes represent a claim to affiliation with the wider world encompassed by Late Classic polychromes of Lowland Maya affiliation." "Ulua Polychromes stand for the regional-level coordinate group composed of hierarchically organized polities." (134)
"REciprocal feasting may have provided an opportunity to resolve regional conflicts in the absence of a higher authority. It may also have served as a mutual acknowledgement of boundaries of control of land. However, the use of symbolism allied with the wider Maya world suggests that the coordinate identity group may also have facilitated the movement of goods from that world into the local system. Possession and use of these complex decorated ceramics was concrete evidence by the coordinated regional elites of their access to a world unavailable to the majority of the population, except through cenralized structures headed by the elites."
"The regional coordinate group which maintained and used Ulua Polychromes in the Late Classic and Fine Buff ceramics in the Terminal Classic was itself part of a wider coordinate linkage system, a network of ineraction linking Honduran and Lowland Maya sites. Through this network flowed information, resulting in shared beliefs and ritual practices... through this network also flowed the exotic goods, such as obsidian, which were redistributed through local centralized structures."
"The evidence for shared values and beliefs which link Honduran and Lowland Maya sites includes a number of kinds of materials. Most abundant are decorated ceramics, initially polychrome, late fine paste. Rarer, but equally significant, are the spread of shell, jade, obsidian, and other fine stone used in restricted, often ritual, contexts. Ulua Polychrome ceramics, as has been noted, have a series of motifs closely related to contemporary Lowland Maya polychromes." (135)
"The ceramics do not appear to have been exhanged through the proposed coordinate network. Local development of analogous types resulted fromt he spread of shared values expressed in this medium. However, the coordinate network need not be considered simply a means of transmission of information: jade, shell, obsidian, and carved Ulua Marble vessels were istributed throughout this area, presumably by means of inter-elite exchange facilitated by this network." "Jade... is most likely from the Motagua Valley sources exploited by the Late Classic site of Guaytan. Obsidian from Classic Period contexts in the Ulua Valley is from the Ixtepeque souce on the El Salvador-Guatemala border" and "may have entered the north coastal network through the Motagua Valley."
"Evidence that echange of material goods through this coordinate network was not a one-way traffic is provided by the present at Altun Ha, San Jose, and Uaxactun of carved Ulua Marble vases, dated to the Terminal Classic." "Other materials goods foudn throughout this area which may have moved from the frontier to the Maya heartland include Spondylus (thorny oyster) from Pacific waters." (136)
"More important than the source of these patterns are their impolications for the adoption of comon idiological orientations and resulting behavior. The coordinate network was more than an exchange system which ensured the provision of elite sumptuary goods." "It was also the eans by which a common cosmology and ritual were spread among the elites of Lowland Maya and Honduran polities of the Late Classic. Common religion provided a basis for these eolites to recognize each other as part of a single identity group." (137)
"The common goal of the coordinate network which linked Honduran and Lowland Maya elites appears to have been political. No evidence exists that large-scale movement of basic subsistence goods was part of this network." (138)
"The coordinate network did facilitate the movement of exotic goods used by the elite, such as jade and Pacific shell, and obsidian which moved through this system was apparently subject ot hierarchically controlled redistribution. Both the consumption of exotic goods by the elite and the redistribution of exotic goods to the population at large would reinforce the status of the elite. The definition of the elite as separate from the subordinate population may have ben the principal goal of the identity group represented by the coordinate network, and the common orientation may have been the shared need to continually reinforce elite tatus.
May Helms (1979, 1988:131-171) has suggested that the acquisition of esoteric knowledge was a major means for precolumbian elites to mark themselves as different andmore powerful than the population at large." "Evidenced in contrete form in material goods which came from outside the local sphere and reinforced in ritual practices wose definition originated elsewhere, influence the common population through the occasional distributation of those rare goods and the enactment of those rituals, the membership of the Honduran elite in a coordinate identity roup would have been a major source of reinforcement of their priviliged position."
"Individual households, recognizing common ground, formed the basis for the community At the same time, a small elite used a variety of means to reinforce their diffrence from the majority of the population and their commonality with the elites of other communities throughout Honduras and southern Mesoamerica." (139)