Ceramic stamps are a rare, yet widely distributed, artifact class within ancient Mexico. However, there has only been limited scholarly research on these objects and much current research is minimally supported. Depicting a wide range of iconography, including metaphysical, floral, and faunal designs, the function and meaning of these stamps, also known as estampias, pintaderas, and sellos, in ancient Mexican life remain an archaeological mystery. This paper examines the contextual, chronological, and iconographic characteristics of ancient Mexican ceramic stamps as well as the distributional trends of those characteristics. This study is comprised of 83 stamps of varying design that date to between 1600 B.C.E. and 1520 C.E.: 19 found by the Rio Verde Project in Southern Oaxaca, Mexico, 5 found by Michael Coe in San Lorenzo, and 59 central Mexican stamps with credible, detailed provenience residing in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History and Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology. Examined through the lens of culture history, processual, and postprocessual theory, comparative statistical analysis was conducted to assist the identification of significant trends. These analyses have revealed that stamp use shifted from mainly public to household spaces over time and that stamps predominantly depict nature and metaphysical themed motifs. I have also found that stamps were likely multipurpose artifacts whose use transcended social status. This research greatly expands on the limited literature about Mesoamerican ceramic stamps and provides valuable insight into ancient Mexican household, identity, and possibly religious, practices.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)
Peabody, Elizabeth Rose Lyon, "Making An Impression: A Formal Analysis of the Contextual and Iconographic Characteristics of Ancient Mexican Ceramic Stamps" (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6224.