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Temporal Analyses of Yuman Ceramic Vessels from El Vallecito, Baja California

This study provides empirical data to assess the validity of archaeologist Antonio Porcayo Michelini's proposed typological method for dating Yuman ceramic vessel forms. His hypothesis holds that relative vessel height increased over time.
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  Pacifc Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly  , Volume 54, Number 2 Temporal Analyses of Yuman Ceramic Vessels from El Vallecito, Baja California Michelle D. Graham Abstract This study provides empirical data to assess the validity of archae-ologist Antonio Porcayo Michelini’s proposed typological method for dating Yuman ceramic vessel forms. His hypothesis holds that relative vessel height increased over time. Rimsherd samples were selected from eight archaeological site collections in Baja California. Six of these sites are located in or near the El Vallecito archaeological zone in La Rumorosa, one is in Sierra de Juárez, and one is in Sierra de las Pintas. A total of 33 sherds provided data to approximate the srcinal vessel forms through archaeological illustration. Relative vessel height was then assessed. Results were compared with established site occupation dates to determine a pattern for diachronic change in ceramic forms. This paper describes the archaeological contexts of the chosen mate-rial, the analytical method employed, and the interpretation of the results. The efcacy of this technique is evaluated to determine its utility as a new dating tool in the absence of, or in conjunction with, other time markers. Introduction This study puts into practice a method developed by ar-chaeologist Antonio Porcayo Michelini (2016a, 2016b) for determining the occupation period of Yuman ar-chaeological sites through analysis of the proportional height of recovered ceramic vessels. This new dating method may enable archaeologists to determine the approximate occupation dates of sites using ceramic material in the absence of, or in conjunction with, other time markers. Porcayo Michelini has adapted an Egyp-tian (vesicular) rectangle diagram to classify digital images of vessels into three groups —lower, middle, and upper—based on their relative height (Figure 1). 1 Although this scheme involves positioning the max-imum width of the vessel along the inferior of two horizontal lines traversing the diagram and observing which group the vessel rim then falls into, there is currently no mathematical formula provided in lieu of the diagram, rendering absolute vessel measurements unnecessary. 2 Porcayo Michelini has rearranged existing typological chronologies and added new forms based on observa-tions made while conducting archaeological and eth-nographic research (Table 1). His associated theory proposes that the proportional height and volume of vessels increased over time as Yuman ethnolinguistic groups transitioned from hunting and foraging to a more sedentary lifestyle in northern Baja California and southern California, even prior to the arrival of the Spanish (Porcayo Michelini 2016a, 2018). 3  Porcayo Michelini (2016a) claims that the extraordi-nary proportions of objects produced in recent history that Don Laylander (2017:4) considers “anoma-lous”—particularly their relative height—are but the progression of an already existing trend propelled by the changing ceramic needs of more sedentary groups coupled with the application of knowledge and skill potters inherited from past generations. The purpose of this paper is not to critique or revise Porcayo Michelini’s methodology, rather to apply it and test its efcacy. Although his theoretical and conceptual framework has been brought into question (Layland -er 2017), a diachronic pattern of increasing relative  PCAS Quarterly  54(2)  Graham 2 of the middle portion group and are no longer bowls, globular ollas with spouts, jars with Colorado shoul-ders and spouts, oval horizontal canteens, semi-trian-gular canteens, and globular (spherical) canteens. Of these, semi-globular (semi-spherical) ollas emerged during the Formative period (AD 700–1050); the remaining forms are more recent, introduced in either Transitional period I (AD 1000–1500) or Transitional period II (AD 1500–1850).Finally, the upper portion group includes globular (spherical) jars with spouts, globular jars with cylin-drical spouts, globular (spherical) canteens, oval verti-cal canteens, semi-triangular canteens, semi-triangular canteens with spouts, and biconical canteens. The production of these vessels began during Transitional period II (AD 1500–1850) and Transitional period III (1850–present). Note that the Transitional I and III periods both contain vessels denominated by the “semi-triangular canteen,” although their shapes vary. This newly proposed dating method was challenged in the past but has not been empirically tested until now. Laylander (2017:2–4) cautioned that although it “should be highly replicable,” it might not produce height should be discernible if such a phenomenon did, in fact, occur.According to Porcayo Michelini’s proposal, two kinds of vessels that fall within the lower portion group of the diagram—trays and bowls—as well as semi-globular or semi-spherical ollas (which invade the middle portion group), are the earliest, “archetypical” forms. He places the introduction of these vessels in the Formative period from AD 700 to 1050. Vessel forms introduced during later periods are said to be the result of changing societal needs and improved technical skill, a concept he refers to as “intentional or deliberate” ceramic manufacture (Porcayo Michelini 2016a, 2018). 4  For this study, trays and scoops were eliminated from the sample because their utility for measuring diachronic change is limited; their forms remained fairly constant, with little or no change to their relative heights.Transitional bowls, introduced during the Transitional I period (AD 1000–1500), invade the lower half of the middle portion group of the diagram, but they are not yet ollas. 5  The middle portion group contains semi-globular (semi-spherical) ollas, globular (spher-ical) ollas, transitional ollas that invade the upper half Figure 1. Egyptian rectangle diagram superimposed on a vessel image. This partic-ular vessel is a globular or spherical canteen (post– AD 1850) and reaches into the upper portion group. Source: Porcayo Michelini (2016a:19).  PCAS Quarterly  54(2)Temporal Analyses of Yuman Ceramic Vessels from El Vallecito, Baja California3 Table 1. Typological Chronology Proposed by Antonio Porcayo Michelini.  PCAS Quarterly  54(2)  Graham 4 signicant interpretive results when put into practice. In particular, he expressed concern that the Egyptian rectangle technique would have limited applicability due to the infrequency with which whole vessels, or sufcient quantities of associated sherds, are encoun - tered in the eld. There were, in fact, no intact vessels present within the assemblages used for this project; however, 33 diagnostic rimsherds provide enough visual data to approximate the srcinal vessel proles and infer their maximum widths through archaeolog-ical sketches. Overall, this sample set represents 15 percent of the sherds recovered from these sites. Un-fortunately, as indicated in the following section, the diagnostic sherd count at most sites was well below the average. 6 History of Yuman Ceramic Studies Before the 1990s numerous researchers conducted macroscopic and microscopic studies of Yuman paddle and anvil ceramics, including Rogers (1936, 1945), Colton (1958), May (1978), Van Camp (1979), and Waters (1982). More recently, petro-graphic and chemical studies have been carried out by Plymale-Schneeberger (1993),   Griset (1996), Gallucci (2001, 2004), Hildebrand et al. (2002), Guerrero (2004), Quinn and Burton (2009), Téllez et al. (2009), Shackley (2009), Quinn et al. (2013a, 2013b), and Graham et al. (2014).   Although most of these efforts were focused on identifying the min-eral composition and geographic srcin of the clay Table 1. Continued.Note: Source Antonio Porcayo Michelini (2016a:39).  PCAS Quarterly  54(2)Temporal Analyses of Yuman Ceramic Vessels from El Vallecito, Baja California5 or dening stylistic attributes, Rogers (1945) and Waters (1982) focused on typological chronologies for Yuman vessel forms (Figure 2).The differences between Rogers’ (1945) and Waters’ (1982) proposals were as follows: regarding style, Waters combined ollas, canteens, and jars into the global category “jars”; moved trays into the bowls category; and eliminated pipes. Waters considered ceramics to have been introduced to the region 200 years earlier than Rogers’ estimate. Further, Waters preferred the ethnological term “Patayan” to “Yuman.” Rogers’ time periods were: Yuman I (AD 900–1050), Yuman II (AD 1050–1500), and Yuman III (AD 1500–?). Waters’ designations were Patayan I (AD 700–1000), Patayan II (AD 1000–1500), and Patayan III (AD 1500–?). Neither researcher dened an end date for the third production period, nor did either incorporate “historical” or “contemporary” ceramic forms into their typologies. Porcayo Michelini agreed with Waters that ceram-ic production began around AD 700 rather than AD 900 as proposed by Rogers. Temporally, the greatest difference between the existing models and Porcayo Michelini’s proposal is that Porcayo Micheli-ni set an end date of AD 1850 for his third time period and also introduced a fourth, Transitional III, from AD 1850 to the present. He rearranged the proposed chronologies for previously identied forms and incor  -porated several new ones. All three researchers agreed that bowls pertain to the earliest period, while Porcayo Michelini diverged by including trays and removing scoops, considering the latter to have been introduced post-AD 1000. He considered the semi-globular, or semi-spherical, shape to be the earliest olla produced and moved all other ollas, jars, and canteens into later periods. This classication system suggests that “transitional bowls” were in the process of becom- ing globular or spherical ollas, while the subsequent “transitional ollas” eventually led to relatively taller Figure 2. Existing typological chronologies for Yuman vessel forms by Rogers (1945:Figure 8), left, and Waters (1982:Figure 7.2), right.
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