Reviewed by Jean-Christophe Galipaud, Charge de Recherche, Office Scientifique de la Recherche pour le Developement en Cooperation (ORSTOM), Paris, France
Arnold is well known amongst archaeologists for his interest in understanding the cultural process which underlies ceramic production. In this respect, Ecology and Ceramic Production in an Andean Community will be of great interest for many archaeologists throughout the world working on pottery.
The book explores the link between ceramic production and society in a given environment: the Peruvian Andes. The subject is not new but the author, focusing on the community of potters rather than on their production, succeeds in presenting a clear and valuable picture of this complex question. Ten chapters lead step by step through the different aspects of Andean pottery technologies in their cultural and natural settings.
In the introduction, the author sets the theoretical background around which the book is built and reviews the different stages of his fieldwork which took place in and around the village of Quinua in the central portion of the Ayacucho Valley in Peru. Chapter 2 is a concise but precise review of the environmental context as well as of the spatial organization of the Quinua community.
In chapter 3, Arnold describes the major events which occurred in the valley during the last 1500 years. Chapter 4 focuses on the population and its relationship with these unique conditions. Chapters 5 through 8 explore the technical aspects of pottery production and distribution. Chapters 7 and 8 examine designs and styles and try to relate the styles with the community's organization, behavior and beliefs. In chapter 9, Arnold discusses the regional archaeological implications of his study and in chapter 10 he presents the implications of his approach to the understanding of archaeological ceramic assemblages in general.
The book is the result of a long lasting commitment to the anthropological and archaeological study of the Andean region. It follows up a series of publication by this author on the same subject and can be seen as a synthesis of 30 years of commitment to the study of pottery and its relationship with human cultures. As such it represents an important contribution to our understanding of the mechanisms which can trigger pottery production in specific cultural and natural settings. His emphasis on the potter rather than the pot and his use of an ecologically oriented approach expands the scope of previous ceramic theories and allows by comparison a better insight into prehistoric potting communities. The book further provides some excellent methods for comparing past and present potting practices. Of particular value is the study of the social significance of designs and styles, an important issue for many archaeologists using typological classifications based on style (chapter 7).
The style is clear and precise; it is elegantly written. The book is well illustrated with simple graphs and drawings and a number of good quality black and white photographs. Short summaries at the end of each chapter further clarify the reading.
I certainly recommend this book to individuals and institutions interested in issues related to past and present pottery manufacture.