Image - Cacao Pod Vessel - K6706 © Justin Kerr FAMSI © 2009:
Maria Elena San Román Martín

Palenque's ceramics: searching for a methodology for their study and classification
Translation of the Spanish by Eduardo Williams
Vea este informe en Español.

Figure 1.

Research Year:  2004
Culture:  Maya
Chronology:  Classic
Location:  Chiapas
Site:  Palenque

Table of Contents

Introduction: an Atypical Research Project and Report
Research Goals
Background of research on Palenque ceramics
Dr. Rands' intense and thorough research
INAH's Project on Analysis of Ceramic Materials
The Classification System: a matter for debate
The Type-Variety System
The Paste Analysis
The Art-Historical Study of Decorative Techniques and Motifs
Analysis of the Evolution of Vessel Form through Time
Works Derived from my Collaboration with Dr. Rands
“Occupational Sequence of two housing units in Palenque.”
“Analysis of ceramic remains recovered from Groups I and C.”
“The Early Classic Palenque through Ceramics”
List of Figures
List of Plates
Sources Cited
Appendix 1. Descriptive entries
Appendix 2. Distribution of form classes by phase

Introduction: an Atypical Research Project and Reports

The report I am about to develop does not conform to the characteristics of a conventional research project, since I do not start from a previous hypothesis which I attempt to corroborate with the present study. As the person in charge of the ceramic analysis for Palenque as part of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), my intention has been to strengthen my knowledge about the studies performed by Dr. Robert L. Rands about the site and its surrounding areas, with the objective of being better qualified to give continuity to the task of deciphering all the archaeological information derived from the ceramic analysis. Therefore, my proposal's importance rests in the need to establish a direct connection between two researchers who are working on the basis of a common research object, the ceramics from Palenque.

Ceramic analysis constitutes one of the main sources of archaeological information for understanding a site's cultural development. Palenque, as one of the most important of all Maya enclaves in the Late Classic period, presents serious difficulties as far as its ceramic materials are concerned, such as the high level of erosion and fragmentation of the remains, the lack of a straightforward stratigraphy, the marginality of Palenque's ceramic tradition as opposed to most sites from the Petén, and the particularity of many of its formal and stylistic attributes. All of this has contributed to making ceramic analysis in Palenque one of the most suggestive and necessary challenges within the investigations in this site. It is not possible to talk about Palenque without making a very special mention of the research carried out by Dr. Robert L. Rands, who has dedicated most of his professional life to the analysis and understanding of ceramics from Palenque and its surrounding areas. Dr. Rands' work has made it possible to date constructions, to identify production areas, to establish exchange and trade relationships, and lastly to propose the most widely accepted occupation sequence for Palenque. Therefore, the results of Dr. Rands' research constitute the foundation on which all future work should be based, and from which all new contributions should be evaluated.

Before proceeding I would like to mention a delicate matter derived from my close collaboration with Dr. Rands. I mean my free access to part of the information generated by him in over fifty years of research. Much of his data have become part of my own learning process, therefore they have become an integral part of my knowledge of Palenque ceramics and of my own research. Although it may be obvious, I don't want to fail to emphasize the credit due Dr. Rands for his enormous contribution to the study of Palenque ceramics, as well as for his precision in recording the information he now wants to share with us.

This work includes a synthesis of two preliminary reports about the activities carried out in my work sessions with Dr. Robert L. Rands, as well as the results derived from them. These results have been included in the following papers presented at two international meetings on Maya culture: "The ceramics from Palenque: the occupation sequence of Groups1 and C", presented in the International Congress of Mayanists organized by the Center for Maya Studies of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, held in Villahermosa in 2004, and "The Early Classic in Palenque through its ceramics", presented in the Symposium of Archaeological Research in Guatemala City in 2005. It should be pointed out, however, that one of the most outstanding achievements of my close collaboration with Dr. Rands is the elaboration of a co-authored article about the evolution of diagnostic forms of Palenque ceramics throughout the site's sequence of occupation. This work, based on the results of the analysis of ceramic materials recovered from the excavations conducted by Rands and Ruz in Palenque, is still being written.

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Palenque's ceramics:
Searching for a methodology for their study and classification
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Submitted 03/06/2007 by:

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