Ideological presentism and the study of ancient technology: Preclassic Maya lithic production at San Bartolo, Guatemala
Kwoka, Joshua Jenack
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This is a dissertation about technology in both the past and present. In terms of the past, it is a study of ancient Maya lithic production practices at the site of San Bartolo, Guatemala. During the Preclassic (600 B.C.-A.D. 300) the inhabitants of San Bartolo developed a method for producing oval bifaces (i.e., celts) that was fairly unique within the Lowlands. It involved the collection of large quantities of unmodified nodular chert which were deposited in numerous small piles both within and along the bajo margins. Data resulting from typological and aggregate analyses of 36,497 pieces of lithic debitage were used in conjunction with a variety of other data sets to construct a chaîne opératoire for Preclassic oval biface production at San Bartolo. This data in and of itself is significant, as few detailed lithic studies have been published for sites in the Petén. Comparative data sets from Colha are employed to demonstrate that Preclassic flintknappers at the two sites approached oval biface production in significantly different ways. Perhaps more importantly this study demonstrates that the differential production strategies were the result of technological choice rather than environmental or material constraints. This leads to the other focus of this study--technology in the present. A significant portion of this dissertation is concerned with documenting the historical development of the social field of archaeological technology studies. I explore the issue of whether or not dominant themes within archaeological technology studies represent a form of ideological presentism, and the validity of privileging formalist economic models in the study of ancient Maya technological practice.
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