Ceramic Production in Early Hispanic California:
Craft, Economy, and Trade on the Frontier of New Spain

Russell K. Skowronek, M. James Blackman, and Ronald L. Bishop

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"One of the most authoritative and comprehensive analyses written to date on lifestyle, technology, identity, and economic interaction in a Spanish colony."--Wesley D. Stoner, Archaeometry Laboratory at the University of Missouri Research Reactor

"A benchmark publication. Extensively investigating mission- and presidio-associated ceramics, this book unearths the history of California as a remote area of New Spain that became integrated into a larger world system."--Patricia Fournier, National Institute of Anthropology and History, Mexico


In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, much of what is now the western United States was known as Alta California, a distant corner of New Spain. The presidios, missions, and pueblos of the region have yielded a rich trove of ceramics materials, though they have been sparsely analyzed in the literature. Ceramic Production in Early Hispanic California examines those materials to reinterpret the economic position of Alta California in the Spanish Colonial Empire.

Using neutron activation analysis, petrography, and other analytic procedures, thousands of ceramic samples were examined. The contributors to this volume explore the region’s ceramic production, imports, trade, and consumption. From artistic innovation to technological diffusion, a different aspect of the intricacies of everyday life and culture in the region is revealed in each essay. This book illuminates much about Spanish imperial expansion in a far corner of the colonial world. Through this research, California history has been rewritten.

Russell K. Skowronek is professor of anthropology and history at the University of Texas-Pan American. He is the coauthor of HMS Fowey Lost and Found and the coeditor of X Marks the Spot and Beneath the Ivory Tower. M. James Blackman is senior research chemist emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution in the Department of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History. Ronald L. Bishop is curator for Mexican and Central American archaeology and senior research archaeologist at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

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An important addition to the understanding of Spanish and Mexican colonization of California.
--American Archaeology

The finest example this reviewer knows of that illustrates what a group of ceramic specialists focusing on one area and one time period and using their own expertise can contribute to increasing the knowledge and understanding of human behavior and interaction.
--CHOICE

An excellent example of how a diverse team of researchers can come together to study an economic system from every angle to get a more complete picture of how, why, and by whom pottery was produced and exchanged.
--Journal of Anthropological Research

This innovative collection of essays investigates ceramics in Hispanic California, showcasing the unique contributions made possible by collaborative research. . . .[Demonstrates] the efficacy of collaborative research [and] validates the potential contributions of micro-history
--Journal of Anthropological Research

Demonstrates the power of historical archaeology to harness multiple lines of evidence at a regional scale. . . . by bringing together several experts in materials science and the archaeology of Spanish colonialism. . . . An important and timely contribution that will be relevant well beyond the borders of Alta California.
--Journal of Field Archaeology

From artistic innovation to technological diffusion, a different aspect of the intricacies of everyday life and culture in the region is revealed in each essay. This book illuminate much about the Spanish imperial expansion in a far corner of the colonial world. . . . [It] will remain a benchmark for the presentation of methodologies, analyses, and interpretations for decades to come.
--Society for Archaeological Sciences Bulletin

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