Event: Pizza Talk: "Production, Distribution, and Use of the First Pottery from the Tropics of Panama"
Speaker: Dr. Fumie Iizuka, University of Arizona
Monagrillo (ca. 4500-3200 14C BP) is the earliest ceramic of Central America. It is found in Central Panama in shell-bearing middens of the Pacific coast, rockshelters of the Pacific plains, foothills, and the cordilleras, and the Caribbean slopes. People had been farming for thousands of years when they adopted pottery. Population was significantly increasing. However, it had not been clear whether 1) they farmed in the inland during wet seasons and engaged in coastal subsistence activities during dry seasons or 2) they were sedentary by the time pottery emerged, engaging in exchange of local resources.
Typological studies of this pottery had been conducted in the past; however, understanding of its production zones, circulation patterns, and possible use had been limited. In my research, I examined this pottery from different environmental zones, adopting visual, petrographic, geochemical, and microstructural analytical methods. I sourced and inferred production and circulation patterns, and assessed manufacturing techniques and firing temperatures. I inferred from the results that sedentary inhabitants of the Pacific foothills and the coast of central Panama produced pottery during the dry season and it circulated to the Pacific plains, the intermediate area, where people engaged in reciprocal social exchange. Pacific foothills vessels, but not coastal wares, were weathering and impact resistant, which suggested intended use in the rugged terrain and for transportation to the perennially wet Caribbean slopes. Pottery was generally made to be suitable for cooking; population pressure may have affected producers and consumers to adopt new cooking techniques.