Purepecha Pottery Ethnoarchaeology

Michael Shott, The University of Akron
Eduardo Williams


Most pottery studies begin with production and end with use. Yet every pot and sherd was discarded to enter the archaeological record, and archaeologists neglect this critical passage. We must know more about how long pots lasted and why they were discarded. For five years we studied the use life of ethnographic Purépecha pottery in Michoacán, Mexico. Use life affects discard rate, which affects assemblage size and composition, which affect inferences to social context of production, occupation span, precision and validity of seriation, and other things. Use life is not so trivial or tedious as it may seem but instead is a vital concern in any intelligent archaeological analysis of pottery.