PerspectiveArchaeology

Patterns of Cultural Primacy

Science  18 Feb 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5712, pp. 1055-1056
DOI: 10.1126/science.1109441

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Summary

From 1500 to 900 B.C.E., San Lorenzo in southern Mexico was the largest center in Mesoamerica. What was its cultural role? Did it dominate as a "mother culture" over societies in neighboring states, or did numerous "sister cultures" exchange ideas and objects as equals? In his Perspective, Diehl highlights the report by Blomster et al., who provide support for the mother culture school but show that things are not quite as simple as these extreme views suggest. In the largest study to date of its kind, the authors compare hundreds of ceramic samples with clays from different areas. They conclude that communities in neighboring states imported ceramics from San Lorenzo, and that potters at some of the foreign sites used local clay to create imitations of Olmec pots.