Beyond the Commoner/Elite Divide: Illuminating Classic Maya Multi-Agent Production Systems at Tamarindito, Petén, Guatemala
Johnson, Phyllis Sierra
This dissertation examines the relationship between social structure, production, and economic systems at the Late Classic site of Tamarindito in Guatemala. Maya economies, especially those involving obsidian, have traditionally been understood as having been primarily controlled by the elites. At Tamarindito, however, over 75 percent of all the obsidian recovered was found within a non-elite residential group on the outskirts of the site, which would have limited direct oversight from the royal center. Further, these artifacts were found within a structure whose architecture (which appears to have been designed with ritual production in mind) is unique at Tamarindito and throughout the Maya region. This begs the question: how were Classic Maya production systems organized, and who was involved in this production? Instead of focusing on identifying one group who had explicit control, I envision Maya economies as multi-agent production systems wherein production involved multiple intersecting and overlapping networks of agents dispersed both physically and socially across the site. In this way, multiple economies may be operating within a single Maya polity. This novel framework is important because it illuminates the choices, decisions, and motives made by Maya agents. To do this, this research focuses on the analysis of the material remains of stone tool production, specifically microdebitage measuring between 0.5 and 4 mm. The spatial analysis of microdebitage, which becomes embedded into living surfaces during knapping, complemented by socioeconomic data gleaned from long-term excavations at the site, reveals areas where domestic and ritual production took place within non-elite contexts.