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“International” Concepts: A Hierarchical Design Structure Analysis of Non-Polychrome Decorated Ceramics from Postclassic Etlatongo, Oaxaca, Mexico. Open Access

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The purpose of this thesis is to better understand the role of painted designs on non-polychrome decorated ceramics from the site of Etlatongo during the Natividad phase (900-1521 A.D.). In particular, I apply a hierarchical design structure analysis of Yanhuitlan Red on Cream pottery, which takes into account the distinct design elements as well as the spatial arrangements of decorations on the vessel. This approach aims to improve previous design classifications of non-polychrome decorated ceramics from this period and region, allowing for the inclusion of a fragmented ceramic sample instead of only complete or partially complete vessels. I present a case study comparing frequencies of surface decoration and vessel types between an Etlatongo midden sample and data from similar contexts at the nearby sites of Yucuita and Chachoapan. The study demonstrates that Yanhuitlan Red on Cream vessels shared a basic design layout, while the presence or absence of design elements suggests an aspect of choice in selecting specific decorations over others. However, the characteristics of this ware also display a connection to broader Mesoamerican aesthetic values from this period, known as the Postclassic International Style. I suggest that these designs, familiar and “legible” to a wide audience, may have been utilized as narrative tools in the ritual performance of commensal events. Commensal practices provided a setting for engagement and negotiation of beliefs and ideologies, aided by the narrative capabilities of decorated ceramic vessels. The study of Postclassic materials found at the site, namely decorated ceramics, can therefore be useful in broadening our understanding of the Postclassic Mixteca Alta, in terms of identity, ritual, and political negotiation on both a local level and with more widespread Mesoamerican phenomena.

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