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date: 19 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The study of Olmec figurines has proven contentious with respect to defining Olmec style, the relation of Olmec style to the Olmec archaeological culture of Mexico’s southern Gulf lowlands, and the representation of social categories, particularly gender categories. Focusing on the Early and Middle Formative ceramic figurine traditions of Olman, the ‘Olmec heartland’ of the southern Gulf lowlands, this chapter reviews previous classifications, examines variation and change in technical and aesthetic styles from a community-of-practice perspective, and discusses the figural representation of gender, age, and other social categories. Variation in the contexts and social uses of Olmec-style figurines outside of the southern Gulf lowlands underscores their reinterpretation within different webs of social identities. Viewing variation in figurine assemblages as the consequence of differential participation of makers and users in overlapping communities of practice offers advantages for conceptualizing the formal variation within Formative figurine styles.

Keywords: Olmec, Formative ceramic figurines, community-of-practice perspective, techncal style, classification, social identity

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