Rethinking cultural hybridity and technology transfer: SEM microstructural analysis of lead glazed ceramics from early colonial Peru

Publication date: June 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 82
Author(s): Parker VanValkenburgh, Sarah J. Kelloway, Karen L. Privat, Bill Sillar, Jeffrey Quilter
Through Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) microstructural analysis, we examine the firing technology of Early Green Glazed (EGG) Ware – a variety of “hybrid” lead-glazed ceramics produced in Peru’s north coast region during the 16th century CE. Previous scholars have interpreted EGG Ware as the product of indigenous potters who fired ceramics in kilns and learned how to make glazed vessels through direct instruction from Iberian ceramicists. We argue that the production of EGG Ware entailed a more complex process of technological incorporation and innovation. SEM microstructural analysis of 44 archaeological samples suggests that these ceramics were originally fired under highly variable conditions. Parallel analysis of five samples of lead-glazed ceramics produced in open firings by Peruvian artisans in the 1980’s reveals consistent firing beyond their clays’ maturation temperatures. Based on these results and analysis of whole EGG Ware vessels from museum collections, we suggest that at least some of our EGG Ware samples were produced in open firings. In turn, we argue that EGG Ware reflects the creativity of native potters who adapted indigenous firing technologies and experimented with different parameters in the process of forging a new decorative tradition.