Thursday, July 30, 2009

Republishing old reports

I am driving home to Arizona from Toluca, and my route takes me through Nayarit and then up the coast of Sinaloa. This brings to mind the recent publications of some classic archaeological reports from this area by the State of Sinaloa. They have translated three of these reports, from the 1930s and 1940s, into Spanish, and co-published them with Siglo XXI, a Mexican commercial publisher. The reports are listed below.

These are classic reports on west Mexican archaeology. The new editions each have a new historical introduction about the authors. Isabel Kelly was a true pioneer in Mesoamerican archaeology, and there is a great photo of her with an early 1930s car in the field. The polychrome ceramics from these sites relate to the "Aztatlan" style or complex, and the new publications are worth the price just for the ceramic drawings.

The Aztatlan ceramics share some iconography and stylistic elements with the so-called "Mixteca-Puebla" ceramics of central Mexico. Given the center-dominant paradigm of Mesoamerican archaeology, the obvious explanation had to be that these elements diffused from central Mexico to peripheral areas like Sinaloa, a notion enshrined in an influential paper by H.B. Nicholson (1960). This led my wife and I to point out in a seminar paper (published as Smith and Heath-Smith (1980) that the ceramic traits in question appeared EARLIER in the periphery than in the center, suggesting that center-to-periphery diffusion could hardly explain the distribution patterns.

Looking at these ceramics again after many years shows that there is still much to learn about chronology and cultural developments in Sinaloa and Nayarit. On this trip I stopped at the INAH museums in Guadalajara, Tepic and Mazatlan to take photos of ceramics. The Mazatlan museum has a particularly good collection of Aztatlan ceramics, and the "old city" of Mazatlan around the museum is fun and fascinating (far different from the gringo-oriented resorts of the north beach area). The coast highway goes around Culiacan and right through Guasave; I wonder what the old excavation areas look like now.

Anyway, in this age of shrinking publications budgets and the increasingly difficult task of finding publishers for archaeological data reports, it it nice to see a state agency republishing important out-of-print reports. Way to go, Sinaloa!

Ekholm, Gordon F. (1942) Excavations at Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico. Anthropological Papers vol. 38, pt. 2. American Museum of Natural History, New York.

Ekholm, Gordon F. (2008) Excavaciones en Guasava, Sinaloa. Siglo XXI, Mexico City.

Kelly, Isabel T. (1938) Excavations at Chametla, Sianaloa. Ibero-Americana vol. 14. University of California, Berkeley.

Kelly, Isabel T. (1945) Excavations at Culiacan, Sianaloa. Ibero-Americana vol. 25. University of California, Berkeley.

Kelly, Isabel T. (2008) Excavaciones en Chametla, Sinaloa. Siglo XXI, Mexico City.

Kelly, Isabel T. (2008) Excavaciones en Culiacán, Sinaloa. Siglo XXI, Mexico City.

Nicholson, H. B. (1960) The Mixteca-Puebla Concept in Mesoamerican Archaeology: A Re-examination. In Men and Cultures: Selected Papers from the Fifth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, edited by Anthony F. C. Wallace, pp. 612-617. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

Smith, Michael E. and Cynthia Heath-Smith (1980) Waves of Influence in Postclassic Mesoamerica? A Critique of the Mixteca - Puebla Concept. Anthropology 4:15-50.

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