Producing stone and state: the intersection of domestic and institutional economies in Classic Maya society
Clarke, Mary E.
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This dissertation investigates the socioeconomic relationships that comprised Classic Maya economies (c. AD 250–900), focusing on labor relations and the artisanal production of limestone. A ubiquitous material in Mesoamerica, limestone was used for many purposes, though most notably for monumental art and architecture. Stelae, altars, temple stairways, and other elements of architecture began as limestone quarried from the landscape. Most existing scholarship considers the individuals engaged in these early stages of limestone production in general terms, identifying those who worked in quarries as laborers or non-skilled producers. This study assesses the identities and socioeconomic organization of limestone producers by investigating both limestone quarries and their neighboring residential groups at the site of Xultun, Guatemala. Archaeological survey of Xultun’s quarries identified several abandoned quarry workshops where monuments were left unfinished alongside the tools used to produce them. Combined with lithic classification and the results of use wear analyses from other Classic Maya sites, these finds were included in a limestone production toolkit used to determine site-wide distributions of quarry related work. While quarry related tools have been recovered in other areas of Xultun, these results illustrate that 51% of the analyzed sample of limestone production tools correspond with populations living next to the limestone quarry workshops. These findings suggest that some households specialized in limestone production. In the Stone Production District, the notion of state sponsorship of limestone production was tested using a multi-proxy analysis of household consumption patterns and provisioning strategies. Comparing obsidian, chert, granite, quartzite, limestone, and pottery resource consumption by households engaged in limestone production, as well as those located outside of the district, this study identified provisioning strategies consistent with the operation of marketplace exchange. A pattern of surplus wealth conversion through marketplace exchange was observed, whereas vertical exchange networks suggestive of sponsorship were not significant in the sample. This study concludes that Xultun’s state institutions did not sponsor the work of specialist limestone producers. Households that quarried and shaped limestone directly profited from their work. This evidence indicates that the limestone resources utilized for monumental purposes by state institutions were also integrated into the economy. These findings offer new insights into the organization of labor and resources for monumental art and architecture, particularly as it concerns the participation of a supportive public and their collaborative investment in symbolic expression.