Ethnomineralogy of Ticul, Yucatan Potters: Etics and Emics


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American Antiquity

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The emic cultural categories of pottery materials used by the community of potters in Ticul, Yucatan, were compared to the etic mineralogical analysis of these materials. The study reveals that there is a definite relationship between the cognitive ethnomineralogical system used by the community of potters in Ticul and the verbal, non-verbal, and material aspects of the process of selecting and using raw materials for making pottery. This relationship indicates that the Ticul potter has a sophisticated understanding of his raw materials and suggests several implications for archaeology: (1) the cultural patterns which are manifested in the artifacts may be cognitive; (2) since potters’ discriminations are manifested in the physical world, it should be possible to reconstruct ancient emic categories from physical contrasts in the artifacts without the use of ethnographic analogy; (3) the definition of temper as nonplastics may eliminate important cultural information from archaeological consideration; and (4) the community of potters is the unit of population which uses a particular ethnomineralogical system and would be expected to produce a paste and slip combination which is relatively uniform. All of these data indicate that many of the notions of cognitive anthropology can be successfully applied to archaeological considerations.

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