Crafting and Manufacturing in Mesoamerica

E. Christian Wells

in The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195390933
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Crafting and Manufacturing in Mesoamerica

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  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology by Region
  • Industrial Archaeology


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Production systems have long been an important subject of archaeological research in Mesoamerica. Studying how and why people formed particular groups and how those groups allocated labor and resources helps us to identify the social, economic, cultural, political, and even cosmological constraints and pressures that motivate people to make things. Driven, in part, by object-hungry museum directors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, early excavations in Mesoamerica often focused almost exclusively on recovering and analyzing only the most exquisite and intricately fashioned goods—“luxury items” or “prestige goods.” But by the mid-twentieth century, the zeal to acquire and study luxury items was matched by comparable efforts to collect and consider quotidian or utilitarian materials, which revealed a great deal of detail about the daily lives of ancient Mesoamericans. Recent work on both kinds of goods has made important contributions to understanding how production is organized and for what ends. This article provides a selective and critical review of this literature, summarizing important findings and suggesting future directions.

Keywords: production systems; archaeological research; luxury items; prestige goods; artifacts; Mesoamerican archaeology

Article.  4203 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology by Region ; Industrial Archaeology

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