Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



In this thesis, I examine the production, use, and decoration of ceramic vessels at the Early Horizon center of Caylán (800-1 B. C. E.) on the Peruvian North Central-Coast. Pottery sherds are artifacts ubiquitously recovered at archaeological sites, especially in sedentary agrarian societies. Most studies of ceramics in Peru have focused on typological sequences. Recently investigators in the Nepeña Valley have focused on ceramic pastes and technologies. The materials examined in this thesis were excavated from Caylán. Caylán is an incipient urban center, which developed during the Early Horizon (900-200 B. C. E.). Caylán’s dense urban core consists in 43 residential, walled compounds built around communal plazas. A monumental mound sits in front of a large public area. Archaeologists from the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológica Caylán conducted excavations in 2009 and 2010. Six excavation units and sixteen test pits were placed throughout the site to sample the diversity of architecture and material remains. I conducted a macroscopic analysis of a sample of pottery sherds (n=11,270) from three excavation units in the Main Mound, Plaza-A, and Compound-E. My analysis was conducted at the Museo Regional de Casma Max Uhle where the Caylán’s materials are stored. The analysis was a visual identification and classification of raw materials used to produce pottery. Early Horizon sherds were classified into paste and ware groups based on their features and mineral inclusions. I identified ten Early Horizon ware groups based on the minerals visible in the analyzed sherds. Ware Group 6 is the most common. It was associated with all units, all vessel forms, and all surface finishes and decorations The mixed sand inclusions were likely from deposits close to the ancient settlement where pots were produced, used, broken, and discarded. Paste groups, divisions within ware groups, varied in size from very coarse to fine. Inclusions were likely screened before being added to the clay. Comparative studies indicate that Caylán wares align with ceramics recovered from the coeval sites Huambacho and Samanco. This study provides a first glimpse into the composition of Early Horizon ceramics and their making, opening up future avenues for other compositional analyses.



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Committee Chair

Chicoine, David