Publication Date

Spring 5-18-2019


This study examines interaction networks among non-elite potters at Uxbenká and Baking Pot, Belize during the Late to Terminal Classic Period (AD 600-900). Approaches to non-elite communities often assume that spatially distinct architectural groups are synonymous with social groups. While residential proximity surely influences interaction, social relations extend beyond neighbors so equating proximity with interaction simplifies the complex everyday lives of the Maya. Framed within a communities of practice theoretical framework, the goals of this study are threefold: (1) to understand pottery production practice among non-elite potters, (2) to identify communities of practice and (3) to evaluate community interaction through sharing of knowledge and practice across spatial and social boundaries. Ceramic analyses investigate practice at multiple steps in the manufacturing process from resource acquisition to final product appearance, as part of a chaîne opératoire (Lemonnier 1986, 1993). Microscopic analyses focus on attributes that are not visible to the naked eye, generally exhibit a restricted geographic distribution, and are a proxy measure for close interpersonal relationships. Two primary research questions drive this work: 1). Do communities of practice correspond to spatial zones (neighborhood, district, and/or polity) commonly identified using spatial analyses? and 2). Does location affect patterns of information sharing? The scale of interaction between non-elite potters in two discrete regions of the Maya lowlands varies from intrapolity interaction in southern Belize to intraregional interaction in the Belize River Valley. Pottery distribution in these two regions can also be characterized in a similar fashion. The difference in both pottery production and consumption is likely due to unique historical trajectories of the two regions and their population densities in the Late to Terminal Classic Period.


Maya lowlands, pottery production, communitie of practice, thin section petrography

Document Type




Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Anthropology

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Keith Prufer

Second Committee Member

Dr. Patricia Crown

Third Committee Member

Dr. Frances Hayashida

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Jaime Awe

Fifth Committee Member

Dr. Linda Howie

Available for download on Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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