Champotón 3 - The Early Classic Period
The Early Classic Period is one of the few prehispanic eras in which there is limited evidence for occupation in the Río Champotón drainage, although issues with the chronological placement of some Champotón 2 and 3 types could lead to a biased view of developments during this period. Diagnostic types associated with the Champotón 3 complex are poorly represented in the region, with very low frequencies of ceramics with links to the Tzakol sphere of the Peten or contemporaneous ceramic spheres from the Northern Lowlands. Although these data were initially interpreted as evidence of a regional hiatus, full analysis of the Champotón ceramic assemblage revealed small samples of Early Classic ceramics in mixed deposits with Champotón 2 materials (Figure 7.21, Tables 7.4, 7.5, and 7.6).
Typologically, materials from the Champotón 3 complex demonstrate modal similarities with Tzakol Sphere materials documented in many parts of the Maya Lowlands (Figure 7.19), with links with Early Classic ceramics pertaining to the Poderes phase at Edzná (Forsyth 1983). However, clear Early Classic diagnostics are much less common than contemporary Poderes materials at Edzná, indicating either modest occupations of the Río Champotón drainage during this period or some barrier to the distribution of these wares beyond Edzná. There is some evidence that ceramics pertaining to this complex do not exist as a discrete temporal unit, but instead were part of a serving ware subassemblage that overlapped with the terminal facet of the Champotón 2 complex.
The Champotón 3 complex is dominated by types pertaining to the Águila ceramic group (Figure 7.20, Table 7.10). This assemblage is consists predominantly of serving vessels, including Dos Arroyos Polychrome, Aguila Orange, and San Blas Red-on-Orange. These materials exist in two distinctive paste groups. Due to the very small quantities of these materials at well-documented sites in the region, these different varieties were not segregated until late in the analysis. The first group consists of a compact calcite tempered ware that is well-fired, with complete oxidization of the paste. These vessels are typologically very similar to Aguila Orange ceramics noted elsewhere in the Maya Lowlands, with diagnostic surface treatment such as double slipping and polychrome decorations on vessel exteriors.
The second paste group characterized by light grey to white paste with coarse calcite temper. This paste is very similar to the dominant ware of the Postclassic Period and Champotón 1A wares, indicating local production. These similarities could have resulted in misidentification of these materials, particularly in eroded specimens. Compared to the former paste group, the white to grey paste variant of Aguila Orange is frequently incompletely fired, with poorly adhering slips and generally lower standards of production. However, diagnostic Early Classic attributes – including z-angle dishes, basal flange dishes, and polychrome decorations on vessel exteriors – indicate clear modal links with Tzakol sphere ceramics. It is very likely that the former group were produced in other areas (presumably inland) and traded into the Río Champotón drainage, while the latter group consisting of local imitations of Tzakol sphere ceramics. This white paste variant probably warrants designation as a separate ceramic group pending comparative analyses of materials from other sites. Descriptions of similar polychrome ceramics of the Usil Flaky and Yucatan Gloss wares – particularly Timucuy Orange Polychrome and Tituc Orange Polychrome – identified by Ball (1978:107-108) could be of the same type. Ball documented these two Early Classic polychrome types along the Northern and Western coasts of the Yucatán Peninsula, including the coastal islands of Jaina and Uaymil and sites along the Laguna de Terminos. It is possible that the white paste variants tentatively assigned to Dos Arroyos are best included into one of these two groups, or a distinct local analog. However, this classification pends future comparative analysis of type collections from nearby sites.
One very interesting attribute of the Champotón 3 complex are the highly limited range of types and forms represented. As noted above, the Champotón 3 complex is dominated by orange slipped serving vessels. Black slipped and unslipped types are exceedingly rare in all Champotón 3 contexts, in contrast to full Tzakol sphere complexes from other sites in the Maya Lowlands. As there materials were often found in mixed contexts with Champotón 2 ceramics, the Champotón 3 complex is perhaps best characterized as a serving vessel subassemblage that was introduced while Chicanel ceramics were still in use.
There is some evidence that ceramics pertaining to this complex do not exist as a discrete temporal unit, but instead were part of a serving ware subassemblage that overlapped with the terminal facet of the Champotón 2 complex. The presence of a few diagnostic Terminal Preclassic forms – such as hooked rim vessels, basal angle dishes and bowls, and triangular rim bolsters – occur in diagnostically Chicanel wares (Paso Caballo Waxy Wares, particularly of the Sierra Red ceramic group). Forsyth (1983) has noted a similar pattern at Edzná, with Terminal Preclassic forms produced in Paso Caballo Waxy Wares, perhaps well into the Early Classic Period. Forsyth also identifies Mateo Red-on-Cream as a potential late Chicanel type that continued in use into the Early Classic, which is overrepresented in the Champotón 2 ceramic assemblage relative to other Late Formative complexes in the Maya Lowlands (Table 7.9). If Chicanel sphere ceramics continued in use into the Early Classic, the Tzakol-related wares could represent a specialized serving ware sub-assemblage or trade goods that entered the region in very small quantities. This supposition will be tested in future analysis of the early ceramics complexes at Champotón in the future, but a working hypothesis for these patterns is that the Río Champotón drainage was isolated from ceramic influences and exchange from the Peten, with Late Formative ceramics continuing to be produced and consumed at sites in the region. The political implications of this theory will be explored in more detail below and in Chapter 9.