It's What's inside that Counts: Developing a paste group typology in Belize

Jillian M. Jordan, Meaghan M. Peuramaki-Brown, Sylvestro Chiac, Aurora Saqui, Frank Tzib

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The ceramic assemblage at the Classic Period Maya site of Alabama, Belize is poorly preserved and fragmentary. Most of the pottery cannot be classified using standard type-variety approaches, which privilege decoration and surface treatment. The nature of the Alabama ceramic assemblage requires a classification system organized by paste wares, as opposed to incorporating paste composition as a modal or analytical unit that crosscuts types and wares, as this is the only attribute that can be reliably evaluated across all contexts. We identified and systematically described paste groups as a first step toward a typology organized by ceramic paste wares. We analysed 100% of ceramics from settlement surface collection at the site, including non-diagnostic samples, using a scaffolded approach that integrates macroscopic observations, Dino-Lite USB microscopy, and thin section petrography. This approach facilitates the analysis of pottery from all contexts, regardless of the degree of preservation. Incorporating paste composition into classification schemes provides important data on pottery production traditions and the people responsible for their production, which cannot be determined from stylistic analyses alone. We established five new paste groups indicative of local and non-local pottery production. Our approach to ceramic classification provides a method that can be applied to any archaeological site, regardless of the prevailing classification system in place, and is especially relevant to sites with poorly preserved ceramic assemblages dominated by non-diagnostic sherds.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103019
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - Jun. 2021


  • Ceramic Typology
  • Classification
  • Maya
  • Paste Wares
  • Pottery
  • Thin Section Petrography
  • Type-Variety


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