Research Article

Olmec Pottery Production and Export in Ancient Mexico Determined Through Elemental Analysis

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Science  18 Feb 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5712, pp. 1068-1072
DOI: 10.1126/science.1107599

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Abstract

The first Mesoamerican civilization, the Gulf Coast Olmec, is associated with hierarchical society, monumental art, and an internally consistent ideology, expressed in a distinct style and salient iconography. Whether the Olmec style arose in just one area or emerged from interactions among scattered contemporaneous societies remains controversial. Using elemental analysis, we determined the regional clay sources of 725 archaeological ceramic samples from across Mesoamerica. Exported Olmec-style ceramics originated from the San Lorenzo region of the Gulf Coast, supporting Olmec priority in the creation and spread of the first unified style and iconographic system in Mesoamerica.

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