Recent Work 2008-2009 by Pemy Project
Three of the houses excavated in 2009 were located in a neighborhood just west of the site's monumental center has been recognized as a crafts production barrio by the project for several years. At least 12 houselot workshops have been identified from our various sampling techniques, and it seems that more would be found by full investigation. Houses Q-39 and Q-40 were not associated with surplus crafting until we excavated them last summer – early surface data was not indicative. Combinations of shell, obsidian chert/chalcedony tools and pottery are made at the "Milpa 1" workshops. The site's only pottery and figurine workshop is House Q-176, and the only documented effigy censer and figurine workshop is House Q-40 – located next to a very large elite quadrangle. As I will argue later today, rituals performed by Mayapan's priests and lords at temples and colonnaded halls had their own important stimulus effect on the production economy of the city. Effigy censers are perhaps the most elaborate manifestation of this – as they contain much specific information and were likely commissioned according to the needs of particular calendrical events. As studies by Susan Milbrath and Carlos Peraza detail, Mayapan was the nucleus of a regional censer tradition, with the greatest density, quality, and quantity of effigies – emulated, to a lesser degree across the Mayan realm. The discovery of the Q-40 attached censer workshop sheds new light on the strict control of this type of production – it is the first censer workshop ever found at a Postclassic Maya settlement.
The proximity of the Milpa 1 crafting houses to the site center implies some level of elite supervision or minimally, production for elite consumers at Mayapan. In contrast, outlying workshops near the Itzmal Ch'en ceremonial group I-57 and I-55 produced mundane lithic tools and valuable obsidian and shell products respectively – while custodial House H-11 did not engage in any specialized tasks. In three other areas of the site, more isolated craft producers are found that made a full range of lithic and shell products, without any spatial association to elite groups. Hence, the organization of craft production was complex, as papers given today by Hare, Antonelli, Kohut, Paris, France, Escamilla and I will argue. Craft specialist houselots in general were more affluent than other commoners at the city; they have higher quantities of valuable pottery and wealth indicators – data regarding this pattern will be presented by Timothy Hare and later, in my own paper. Wealth of craft producers is likely linked to a combination of patronage and entrepreneurial opportunity in the city's marketplace.
Unlike crafting households, other dwellings with more generalized economies are found; such as the three shown here, which engaged in some agriculture; two of these houses had high quantities of projectile points suggesting military service. Elite house Y-45 also had many projectile points, did not make surplus crafts; features at this dwelling suggest its occupants were engaged in trading activities and had administrative duties within the barrio in which it was embedded.
Assessing the importance of the marketplace is fundamental to the project's goals. Although contact period documentary evidence describes highly developed networks of market exchange, archaeological work has been necessary to determine the importance of market activities to production, consumption, and wealth characteristics of residents from different walks of life – most of the economic papers to follow will review evidence for local and regional economic interdependence that points to the importance of market exchange. Richard Terry, Bruce Dahlin, Daniel Bair, and Timothy Hare have performed soil testing and mapping of a potential major market plaza in Square K of the city's grid that indicate alignments of phosphates and Zn that are in line with expectations and findings for organic signatures of other marketplaces. This square plaza is dominated by a large nonresidential platform (K-42) that may have been the site of specialized mercantile activities or the seat of market judges.
Mortuary patterns at the site show much variation in contrast to other standardized symbols of the city, like house and pottery styles. University at Albany-SUNY doctoral candidate Robert Hutchinson is analyzing the complex array of mortuary features recovered in the history of Mayapan's research. He observes that burial ritual was one arena where social groups had license to choose a range of diverse options for burial location, grave position, post-mortem processing, and grave offerings. Mayapan's celebrated ethnic variety has been difficult to track in our studies of domestic debris and mortuary analysis reveals a high degree of cosmopolitanism and diversity.
A major accomplishment of the PEMY project has been to advance technological analysis of Mayapan's industries. Although Carnegie Investigators initially described basic Mayapan tools, detailed lab studies by PEMY staff, including Caroline Antonelli, Wilberth Cruz Alvarado, Barbara Escamilla, Luis Flores Cobá, Betsy Kohut, Elizabeth France, Marilyn Masson, Juliana Novic, Elizabeth Paris, Carlos Peraza Lope, Yuko Shiratori, Amanda Schreiner, and Jonathan White document standardization and variation in the production of ceramics, shell, metal objects, and obsidian – individual examples can vary from exemplary to ordinaire – the tools on this slide show a customary variable quality in workmanship found at Mayapan and many other sites. Our team has characterized production at varying scales, from ordinary houses making low quantities of goods, to independent and attached craft specialists. It is our goal that by giving Postclassic technological industries the sustained analytical attention that they merit, we can uncover both the systemic and cultural contexts of production choices and tool morphology, and reveal the great range of variation – from expedient to elaborate - observed in every class of material. To date we have analyzed 100% of all materials recovered from our investigations – one of the largest samples of Postclassic Maya material ever studied.
Most recently, the PEMY project has pursued research questions pertaining to the city's administration. Over the past two seasons we have fully excavated a colonnaded hall and temple at Itzmal Ch'en by the far northeast city gate, as part of our quest to understand outlying focal architecture as potential nodes of governance in the city's economic, military, and religious integration. Carlos Peraza Lope, Pedro Delgado Kú and Bárbara Escamilla Ojeda are now able to compare the architecture and assemblage of key buildings of the Itzmal Ch'en group - the largest politico-religious group outside of the site center – to the characteristics of the city's epicentral monuments. See our summary of 2008-2009 findings for more details on work at Itzmal Ch'en.