Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana

Volumen 70, núm. 1, 2018, p. 21 ‒ 48

Soils as a source of raw materials for ancient ceramic production in the Maya region of Mexico: Micromorphological insight

Héctor Víctor Cabadas-Báez1,*, Sergey Sedov2, Socorro del Pilar Jiménez-Álvarez3, Daniel Leonard4, Becket Lailson-Tinoco5, Roberto García-Moll†, 6, Iliana Isabel Ancona-Aragón3, María Lizeth Hernández-Velázquez7



1 Laboratorio de Geología, Facultad de Geografía, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México. Cerro Coatepec s/n Ciudad Universitaria, Toluca, Estado de México 50110, Mexico.
2 Departamento de Edafología, Instituto de Geología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México 04510, Ciudad de México, Mexico.
3 Facultad de Antropología, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán. Km. 1 Carretera Mérida – Tizimín, Cholul, Mérida, Yucatán 97305, Mexico.
4 HDR, 8690 Balboa Ave No. 200, San Diego, California 92123, United States of America.
5 Facultad de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades, Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosí, Mexico.
6 Coordinación Nacional de Arqueología, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Córdoba 45, Col. Roma, Delegación Cuauhtémoc 06700, Ciudad de México, Mexico.
7 Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia.Periférico Sur y Zapote s/n. Colonia Isidro Fabela, Tlalpan, Isidro Fabela 14030, Ciudad de México, Mexico.

* This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Archaeological ceramics, like other technofossils, are such an important part of the record of pre-Hispanic human impacts in southern Mexico and Central America, that they provide a measure by which we can try to define the Early Anthropocene on the continent (ca. 3000 – 1000 B.P.). This impact is also reflected in the use of raw materials for the manufacture of ceramic pastes. A review of the most common microscopic components of Maya ceramics (from Campeche, Chiapas, and Yucatán regions) was carried out, using the soil micromorphology fabric concept, which showed traits inherited from soils and sediments used as raw materials. Particular interest was given to: microstructure, groundmass, clay illuviation, redoximorphic features, organic remains, mineral weathering stages, and alteration features by burial context. Several of these components have been described before; however, the attention given to the interpretation of their origin and formation in natural context (prior to conversion into pottery) has been limited. The understanding of soil formation processes and their reliable microscopic evidence in an artifact can help to define ceramic production phases, including the circumstances for paste preparation, firing, and abandonment or disuse stages. At the same time, this microscopic evidence reflects the preferential selection of certain types of materials. Overall, the use of these resources is part of an ecological footprint related to questions of sustainability in Maya civilization.

Keywords: technofossil, Early Anthropocene, Maya ceramic petrography, soil micromorphology, soil formation processes.