Link to enlarge K6042 (Las Bocas - Ceramic Vessel) THE FOUNDATION RESEARCH DEPARTMENT

Ceramic Analysis of Temple B, Río Bec, Quintana Roo, México
Stan Freer


Temple B of Río Bec has been identified as the "Type Structure" for Río Bec architecture in the Maya Region, hence its significance in the study of Maya prehistory. Considering the lengthy period of neglect Temple B was in pristine condition when consolidated in 1976, compared to other local structures. Virtually all of the structure was above ground level, with the exception of the staircase (Photo 3, shown below) leading to an earlier structure and the row of colonnettes conspicuously absent on the model in the National Museum in México, D.F. The colonnette veneer is significant since it suggests probable Puuk (Puuc) influence (see Freer 1986). Much rubble and soil filled the inside of Temple B as well as covering lower portions on some of the outside. Due to the extreme acidity of the jungle soils most of the ceramics at the site had deteriorated substantially leaving only a small fraction of the total material as identifiable.

Photo 3: Excavation showing staircase leading to earlier phase of construction. A very eroded cache vessel was discovered at the base of the stairway.

This paper will briefly examine the ceramic inventory for each period of Temple B.  A brief description of ceramics at other structures at Río Bec will be given at the end of this paper. The reason for disparity in time between the analysis of the ceramics and this report is due to the lengthy time it took to convert the information from hand-typed field records (pre-computer era) to computerized entry and the many other commitments of the researcher between then and now. Final field data sheets were given to the Project Director, Dr. Prentice Thomas Jr. of the Universidad de las Americas, immediately after completion of the project in 1976. This material is on file at Instituto Nacional de Antropologia Y Historica (INAH).

All percentages in this report are from my analysis of the Río Bec ceramics. A statistical summary is given below in table form. Summarization charts displaying percentages for each ceramic type and variety for each period, based upon the spreadsheet results, are in the Appendix of this paper.

As Ceramicist of the Project it was this researcher’s responsibility to classify and identify any ceramics from the site as well as House Mound HG6 at Becán. Temple B represents approximately 25% of the ceramics examined on the project. Future plans are to make an intra- and inter-site comparison of the other data not discussed here with that of Río Bec. Joseph Ball’s ceramic typology system, developed in 1973 for his dissertation on Becán ceramics, is used as a reference for this investigation.

The following ceramic periods and dates are those derived by Ball in 1973 and used here in this analysis.

Pakluum ??BC 250 - A.D. 200
Chacsik A.D. 250 - 500
Sabucan A.D. 500 - 600
Bejuco A.D. 600 - 730
Chintok A.D. 730 - 830
Xcocom A.D. 830 - 1050

Using this frame of reference the following data is arrived at based upon the analysis done in 1976 at Xpuhil, Campeche and Bacalar, Quintana Roo, and completed two months later at Cholula, Puebla, México. Visual representation of this information is found in the accompanying charts located in the Appendix.

  Total No. % of
Total Sherds
Striated Wares 3165 15.76
  Fine Striated 599 2.98
Very Fine Striated 25 0.12
Coarse Striated 1947 9.69
Medium Striated 594 2.96
Bodies with Slip 2989 14.88
Basal Sherds 48 0.24
Supports 60 0.30
Other Appliques 89 0.44
Unidentified Weathered 9363 46.61
Plain Unslipped 2280 11.50
TOTAL 18735 97.27


  Total No. % of
Total Sherds
Pakluum 117 0.58
  Late Pakluum/Chacsik 138 0.69
Late Chacsik 38 0.19
Sabucan 114 0.57
Bejuco 556 2.77
Bejuco/Chintok 40 0.20
Chintok 65 0.32
Chintok, Early Xcocom 89 0.44
Xcocom 79 0.39
Late Xcocom 1 0
Period Undetermined 2 0.01
TOTAL 1239 6.17


  Total No. % of
  Basal Sherds 2 0.010
Supports 2 0.010
  Basal Sherds 1 0.005
  Basal Sherds 19 0.095
Other Appliques 1 0.005
Chintok, early Xcocom    
  Supports 8 0.040
Other Appliques 3 0.015
  Basal Sherds 4 0.020
Supports 1 0.005
TOTAL 41 0.204


  Total No. % of
Total Sherds
Fine Orange 60 0.30
New Form 11 0.05
TOTAL 71 0.35

General Observations

As the above tables point out the identifiable ceramic type is quite small when compared to the total sherd count. The unidentified weathered is especially high at 46.61% of the collection. One thing that the general count makes known is that the course striated (9.69%) greatly out number the medium (2.96%) and fine striated (2.98%) by around 2/3rds. Striated wares represent 15.76% of the total sherd count. Evidence suggests that the course striated are most common during the Xcocom, with medium predominating during the Bejuco, and fine during the Pakluum. One variation present at Río Bec and not at Becán is a very fine striation ware. A couple of the striated vessels also have the unique characteristic of displaying a slip near the neck area. This characteristic is not recorded for any other known striated vessels elsewhere. An example of this is set aside with the samples stored at the Merida museum. Also a number of pieces (0.3%) of Fine Orange are identified by its ceramic characteristics, thus placing it in a time frame, but not enough remain of the pieces to identify as a ceramic type. Unidentified residual rims represent 3.69% of the collection, while identifiable rims represent 6.17% of the total inventory (Table 1 and Table 2 and Chart 11). A number of variations occur in rim form but it is felt that the total number per style is not large enough to warrant a new type at this time. For the remainder of the rims the best way to examine the material is to discuss them by ceramic period. This will be done by starting with the earliest period (Pakluum) and finishing with the latest (Xcocom).

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