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The Development of Social Inequality at the Preclassic Maya Center of Ceibal, Guatemala

Daniela Triadan, University of Arizona, Fellow 2015–2016

The project at the Maya site of Ceibal has revealed one of the earliest public ritual constructions, which was built while most of the population was still leading a mobile lifestyle. During my fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks, I investigated the beginnings of social differentiation and considered how these developments articulated changes in patterns of regional and interregional interactions. I analyzed and synthesized ceramic sourcing data and carried out an analysis of the excavated figurines. I examined the production, distribution, and consumption of ceramics as well as their implications for technological changes and interactions with other communities. My analyses show that throughout the Preclassic period the majority of the pottery was locally produced at Ceibal, and that very few pots were imported into the settlement. I could also trace shifts in resource exploitation and paste recipes. This indicates that utilitarian goods (such as pottery) were not widely exchanged with other areas. The Preclassic figurines, on the other hand, show similarities with those of other lowland sites, the Guatemalan highlands, and the Grijalva River Basin of Chiapas, suggesting the knowledge of generalized conventions and ideas over a large area. Together with Olmec-style objects that were most likely imported into Ceibal, this suggests that long-distance interactions may have taken place mainly through connections of emergent elites who were also likely ritual specialists.