Exchange of Coarse Orange pottery in the Middle Classic Tuxtla Mountains, Southern Veracruz, Mexico

Wesley D. Stoner, Christopher A. Pool, Hector Neff, Michael D. Glascock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


This research seeks to elucidate the role of large and intensive ceramic production industries located at the Classic period center of Matacapan in the Tuxtla Mountains, Southern Veracruz, Mexico. Arnold et al. [Arnold III, P.J., Kneebone, R.R., Santley, R.S., Pool, C.A., 1993. Intensive ceramic production and Classic-period political economy in the Sierra de los Tuxtlas, Veracruz, Mexico. Ancient Mesoamerica 4(2), 175-191] have suggested that the specialized pottery production at Comoapan, the largest production locality at Matacapan, supplied the region with ceramics. This production locality overwhelmingly specialized in manufacturing Coarse Orange jars, which are found in many parts of the region. The current authors employed instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) and petrographic point-counting analysis on Coarse Orange sherds sampled from 44 localities in the southwestern Tuxtlas to examine the distribution of this important ware. The use of these techniques partitioned the sample into two major compositional groups. These groups formed eastern and western zones of production and exchange that partly overlapped. Three minor Coarse Orange paste recipes were also identified, these are considered to be locally produced variants of the ware. From the compositional data, and supplementary evidence of ceramic production from survey and excavation, we argue that Comoapan traded some ceramics of the CO1 composition to sites along the Catemaco River and into the southern Tuxtlas foothills. These jars were exchanged to all levels of the settlement hierarchy, which may indicate market exchange. Furthermore, the other paste recipes (CO1a, CO2, CO2a, and CO3) were not produced at Matacapan. Group COP6 was a special recipe made only at an attached production locality in the administrative district of Matacapan. We conclude the paper with a methodological consideration that advocates the use of both point mineralogical and bulk chemical techniques to more accurately interrogate compositional data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1412-1426
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research could not have been completed without the help of many people and institutions. The University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) provided a generous discount to mitigate the cost of instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). We also thank the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia of Mexico and the regional office in Veracruz for granting permission to sample curated ceramics and remove material from the country. Robert Santley, Phillip J. Arnold III, Javier Urcid, and Thomas Killion, are also to be thanked for their permission to sample the ceramics from collections made through previous fieldwork. All of these archaeologists also provided background data essential to our interpretations. Finally, we thank three anonymous reviewers for their helpful commentary, although any errors of fact or interpretation are fully our own.


  • Ceramics
  • Craft specialization
  • INAA
  • Mesoamerica
  • Petrography
  • Political economy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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