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date: 18 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Production systems have long been an important subject of archaeological research in Mesoamerica. Studying how and why people formed particular groups and how those groups allocated labor and resources helps us to identify the social, economic, cultural, political, and even cosmological constraints and pressures that motivate people to make things. Driven, in part, by object-hungry museum directors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, early excavations in Mesoamerica often focused almost exclusively on recovering and analyzing only the most exquisite and intricately fashioned goods—“luxury items” or “prestige goods.” But by the mid-twentieth century, the zeal to acquire and study luxury items was matched by comparable efforts to collect and consider quotidian or utilitarian materials, which revealed a great deal of detail about the daily lives of ancient Mesoamericans. Recent work on both kinds of goods has made important contributions to understanding how production is organized and for what ends. This article provides a selective and critical review of this literature, summarizing important findings and suggesting future directions.

Keywords: production systems, archaeological research, luxury items, prestige goods, artifacts, Mesoamerican archaeology

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