Pottery, people, and place: examining the emergence of political authority in Late Ceramic Age Cuba

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University of Alabama Libraries

In the dissertation research presented here, I seek to characterize the emergence of middle-range societies in the Caribbean through the analysis of settlement patterns and regional development in the Banes region of northeastern Cuba. Archaeological and ethnohistorical data both suggest that some degree of sociopolitical complexity developed in Late Ceramic Age Cuba between A.D. 1100 and A.D. 1500, although the degree and timing of regional integration has been difficult to assess due to a limited chronological framework, an incomplete understanding of the interrelationships among contemporaneous sites, and a broader interpretive bias that defines complexity only in reference to sociopolitical groups on neighboring islands. Accordingly, the goals of this research are to: (1) derive a pattern of chronological change in the Meillacoid ceramics produced in Banes through a frequency seriation based on a hierarchical modal analysis; (2) apply a revised regional sequence to survey data in order to characterize settlement and identify a settlement hierarchy in Late Ceramic Age sites in Banes; (3) establish polity boundaries through GIS-based spatial analyses; and (4) determine, based on these analyses, whether the Late Ceramic Age landscape in Banes reflects supracommunity political organization and, if so, posit a diachronic model for its regional integration. By reanalyzing ceramic collections from the sites of Potrero de El Mango, Aguas Gordas, and El Chorro de Maíta, this research will provide a new interpretation of the sites and collections that have played a formative role in the characterization of Baní culture. This reanalysis of ceramic assemblages will establish contemporaneity between archaeological sites, provide a detailed description of Baní culture ceramics, and contribute a phase-based chronology for the Banes region. GIS-based distributional studies that model the proximity, density, and overall distribution of archaeological sites will serve as indices of regional political integration and will measure change in the regional settlement pattern. Ultimately, this research will test whether sense can be made of Late Ceramic Age settlement as a politically organized landscape and, if so, model the developmental trajectory of the region over time. This research seeks to highlight the archaeological record of Cuba by characterizing the local processes that led to the emergence of complex societies in Banes and reorienting the discussion of complexity to include areas outside of the Taíno heartland. By focusing on an area that is characteristically distinct from, but geographically near the purported boundary between the Taíno and adjacent communities, this research will critically review one of the basic cultural distinctions that figures prominently in current archaeological interpretation and provide new data regarding the variability of sociopolitical organization in the Caribbean. An important part of this work will draw from a comprehensive body of research regarding the emergence, structure, and organization of chiefly societies, thus promoting a better understanding of the timing and nature of Late Ceramic Age cultural fluorescence emergence in the Banes region. By establishing contemporaneity and identifying a patterned distribution of archaeological sites, this dissertation provides a case study of the emergence of autonomous political entities against a background of independent villages and addresses the organization of variability in the Late Ceramic Age Caribbean.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Archaeology, Caribbean studies, Ancient history