Arcillas and Alfareros: Clay and Temper Mining Practices in the Lake Titicaca Basin

  • Andrew Roddick
  • Elizabeth Klarich
Part of the Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology book series (IDCA)


This chapter aims to integrate archaeological and ethnoarchaeological research on ceramic production in the Lake Titicaca basin. Drawing on over 60 years of scholarship exploring the early stages of ceramic manufacture, we examine the acquisition of clays at quarries and the subsequent processing of these raw materials. Investigations into clay quarries have often focused on the availability of raw materials appropriate for pottery production. This research has included pedestrian survey for clays and sediments, and geochemical and mineralogical work on the quality of clays (Bishop et al. 1982; Neff et al. 1992). While such work is unquestionably useful (and unfortunately still rare in some regions), the dynamic nature of clays makes defining historic and prehistoric sources difficult. As a result, many archaeologists have considered these early technical stages through other means. For instance, research on prehistoric ceramics has long included careful analysis of ceramic pastes—the mixture of the aplastic inclusions and the plastic clay components of ceramics (for a good summary, see Arnold 2000). These findings have permitted for variability in local recipes to be correlated with regional and sometimes local deposits. In this work some have deployed sophisticated analytical tools in the laboratory to examine the techno-functional aspects of particular technological choices at quarry sites. This research has tended to focus on the relative performance of particular materials under a range of conditions (Bronitsky and Hamer 1986; Skibo et al. 1989; Summerhayes 1997).


Ceramic Production Technological Choice Social Boundary Quarry Site Pottery Production 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Thank you to the editors for their invitation to participate in the SAA symposium and this publication. As the only contributors dealing with clay and temper sources we often felt a little out of our element, but their encouragement motivated us to think more deeply about shared concerns relating to ancient mining practices across material types. Roddick would like to thank the communities of the Taraco Peninsula (particularly San Jose and Coacollu) and all members of the Taraco Archaeological Project (directors Dr. Christine Hastorf and Dr. Matthew Bandy) within which this ongoing research is based. Research in raw materials on the Taraco Peninsula could not have proceeded without support from the National Science Foundation, the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Dirección Nacional de Arqueología y Antropología de Bolivia (DINAAR). Klarich would like to thank the following: the many generous potters of Pucará (particularly the Ttacca family); the Instituto Nacional de Cultura office in Puno; David Oshige, Barbara Carbajal, Matthew Wilhelm, Luis Flores, and Nancy Román; and Roberto Ramos and his students at the UNA-Puno. Funding was provided by the Heinz Foundation (2006), Wenner Gren (2008–2010), the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA (2009–2010), and Smith College (2010).


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologySmith CollegeNorthamptonUSA

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