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Historical Archaeology

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 39–54 | Cite as

Status and Ceramics in Spanish Colonial Archaeology

  • Barbara L. Voss
Article

Abstract

Archaeologists have long used ceramics, especially majolica, as a key indicator of status in the Spanish colonial Americas. In actuality, archaeological evidence for the relationship between status and ceramics varies greatly. Requisitions and invoices (memorias and facturas) from two presidio settlements in Alta California provide valuable information about pricing of ceramic goods and the terminology that colonial officials used to describe them. Analysis of these documents suggests that ceramics were peripheral to Spanish colonial negotiations of status and rank. Some ceramics commonly assumed to indicate high status, such as majolica, are among the least expensive wares shipped to the province. Vessel function appears to have been more important to colonial officials than the ware types or decorative types emphasized by archaeologists. While the findings of this study are specific to Alta California, these results suggest that a broader re-examination of archaeological interpretations of Spanish colonial ceramics may be in order.

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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara L. Voss
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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