In Mesoamerica, the pottery made and used in regions peripheral to highly developed core areas is relatively plain; it is not standardized; and it has a narrow range of forms. Such pottery does not represent cultural “backwardness” or a tradition separate from that of core areas. Instead, backcountry pottery is explained by rational economic behavior of producers and consumers whose choices are constrained by location at the distant ends of dendritic or solar market systems. The literature on peasant markets provides a basis for distinguishing core versus peripheral economic behavior. Expectations for peripheral pottery are generated from this and from archaeological studies of pottery specialization. The pre-Hispanic pottery form Peñoles, a mountainous periphery of the Valley of Oaxaca, exhibits the expected characteristics. These results are limited by small sample size; more detailed studies should find a macroregional economy that is more variegated than that portrayed by the core–periphery dichotomy.
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