Champotón 4 - The Late Classic A Period
Champotón 4, the initial Late Classic ceramic tradition in the Río Champotón drainage, is part of undesignated regional ceramic sphere that extended across much of the central Campeche coast, west central Campeche and the Chenes Region (Benavides Castillo 1997; Forsyth 1983; Nelson Jr. 1973; Williams-Beck 1999; Williams-Beck 1994). During this period ceramic traditions in the western Campeche diverged from the Petén (Forsyth 1983; Forsyth 2013). The processes behind this regionalization of ceramic production and distribution spheres is currently unknown, but it represents the beginning of a general shift in ceramic links from Petén inspired traditions to northern and coastal links that would amplify in ensuing periods. While distinctive on the typological level, this unnamed sphere was very much still a local expression of the glossware ceramic tradition that developed in the Central Lowland Mesoplano during the Late Classic Period. Many of the characteristics of this complex retain typical Classic Period traits, including general modal links in both utilitarian and decorated ceramics and the predominance of polychromes and red glosswares as the dominant components of the serving vessel subassemblage.
The Champotón 4 complex shares very strong similarities with the contemporary Agua Potable complex from the site of Edzná (Benavides Castillo 1997:121-122; Forsyth 1983). That latter complex has been dated by Forsyth (1983:220) to date to the relatively restricted time period between AD 600 and AD 700 to 750. The primary ceramic components in this complex are the Encanto/Acapulquito, Charote, Cui, Carpizo, K’oht, and Tonanche groups, with several polychrome types also common (Figure 7.24). As mentioned above, typological and modal similarities link Champotón 4 and Agua Potable ceramics with contemporary assemblages in the Chenes region of southeast Campeche as well as more distant links with the Peten in the heartland of the Southern Maya Lowlands (Forsyth 1983). However, at the typological level, the Champotón 4 complex was part of an unnamed regional ceramic sphere likely emanating from the regional center of Edzná. This period corresponds with the era of fluorescence of Edzná, with much of the monumental architecture of the site epicenter constructed during this time (Benavides Castillo 1997:121-123). It is likely that this ceramic similarity was a reflection of Edzná’s power in the region (see Chapter 3 and Chapter 9 for broader discussion of Edzná-Champotón links and political dynamics.
The predominant redware ceramics of the Champotón 4 complex include the Charote and Carpizo groups. Charote red ceramics are by serving vessels characterized by brilliant lustrous orange-red slips, often applied over a cream underslip. The Charote group ceramics at Champotón demonstrate a high degree of decorative variability, including fine incising, fluting, dark red rim bands, appliques, and a wide variety of composite decorative modes (Figure 7.24 and 7.25). Materials recovered from sites in the Río Champotón drainage are very similar to Charote Group ceramics from Edzná (Forsyth 1983:91-95; Forsyth 2013). Regional polychrome ceramics (see below) share strong similarities in paste, firing, and form modes, strongly suggesting similar production systems. Based on modal similarities, Simmons (Simmons 1982), Forsyth (Forsyth 1983), Williams-Beck (Williams-Beck 1999; Williams-Beck 1994) have argued that Charote group ceramics (and very similar Dzilam Group ceramics from Dzibilchaltun) are probably precursors of Puuc Red Ware in the TC Cehpeche sphere.
The other redware group in the Champotón 4 complex is Carpizo Red (Figure 7.26). Although Carpizo Red was used into the Terminal Classic Period (Champotón 6), it makes its initial appearance in the Champotón assemblage during Champotón 4 complex in the form of large bowls or basins. Champotón 4 Carpizo Red vessels are restricted to the Carpizo Red:Carpizo variety, which consist solely on interiorly bolstered basins with waxy red slips restricted to vessel interiors, sometimes extending to the exterior rim, with vessels exteriors left unslipped. The forms of these vessels during the Champotón 4 period include interiorly bolstered basins with concave interior walls (Figure 7.26:A-D, F), which have been noted by Forsyth (1983:95-98) and Williams-Beck (Williams-Beck 1999:) as precise horizon markers for the latter part of the Late Classic. This form also appears in the K’oht Variegated and Neza Unslipped groups (Figure 7.27 E-H).
K’oht Variegated (Figure 7.27) is a pre-Cehpech slateware that is a less frequent group within the Champotón 4 complex. This group has modal similarities with both contemporary materials from the Chenes Region (Williams-Beck 1999; Williams-Beck 1994) and the later very well documented slateware tradition of the Cehpech ceramic sphere (Brainerd 1958; Robles Castellanos 1980; Smith 1971; Smyth, et al. 1995). The establishment of the K’oht ceramic group here is rather tentative based on a lack of clear commonalities with contemporary ceramics from well published monographs or comparisons with type collections from other sites. The K’oht group has the closest similarities with undesignated slatewares pertaining to Agua Potable contexts identified at Edzná described by Forsyth (1983:98) and Kahalchen Slate established by Williams Beck (1999:144-145) in the Chenes Region. Williams-Beck has argued for identity between the materials described by Forsyth and Kahalchen Slate based on her observations of Edzná collections housed in the INAH Ceramoteca. She has argued that pre-Cehpech slateware traditions originated in the Chenes region, initially mixed with monochrome glossware and regional polychromes, and would later serve as precursors of Cehpech slates that are ubiquitous in the Puuc hills and Northern Maya Lowlands (Williams-Beck 1999:153).
The Regional distribution of Champotón 4 ceramics includes much of the project study area, although the frequencies and degree of admixture with other Late to Terminal Classic complexes is highly variable. The Champotón 4 complex is particularly well represented at the sites of Ulumal and San Dimas, both large Classic Period polities. Unmixed Champotón 4 deposits were also identified in some excavations at Niop, although in much lower frequencies than in the aforementioned inland sites. The site that produced the best unmixed Champotón 4 contexts was Ulumal, which appears to have undergone a dramatic decline in population in the early to mid-eighth century AD. At other sites Champotón 4 materials are encountered in mixed deposits with Champotón 5 ceramics (particularly coastal sites) and Champotón 6 ceramics (at San Dimas). The chronological positioning of Champotón 4 and its relationship with Champotón 5 and 6 are outlined in detail in the sections below, but it is clear that there is some degree of overlap with Champotón 5. The Champotón 4 complex seems to pertain to a period of rapid change in ceramic traditions and links to other parts of the Maya Area and beyond, reflecting broader political, economic, and social transitions that took place in the Late to Terminal Classic Period.
The similarities in ceramic inventories between Ulumal, San Dimas, and Edzná are most likely the result of trade and interaction focused on the riverine route along the Río Champotón extending from the coast into the interior. The distribution of this new ceramic production sphere represents a close match to hypothesized regional state boundaries that might have existed during the Late Classic Period. At the most general level, the Champotón 4 complex and related Agua Potable complex at Edzná represent a shift in sphere affiliation and influence from Petén influenced types towards the development of a more regionalized sphere comprising central and northern Campeche and perhaps NW Yucatan (Benavides Castillo 1997:121-122; Forsyth 1983; Williams-Beck 1999). While this tradition was distinctive at the typological level, it retained clear influences from the Central Lowland Mesoplano. This is reflected in the monochrome redware, incised blackware, and polychrome traditions. While more regionalized than the preceding eras (particularly Champotón 1B and 2), Champotón 4 retains significant modal similarities with the predominant ceramic traditions of the Central and Southern Lowlands. The process of regionalization and increasing differentiation between central and west central Campeche from inland centers would amplify in the preceding eras.
The development of increasing differentiation from inland centers in the Central Lowland Mesoplano, yet maintenance of modal linkages, reflects emergent changes that were taking place within the broader geopolitical landscape. While Champotón 4 retains similarities with inland zones, several researchers have pointed out that the component types of the appear to be early precursors of ceramics pertaining to the Cehpech Sphere (Forsyth 1983; Simmons 1982; Williams-Beck 1999; Williams-Beck 1994). These authorities have pointed out similarities between Charote Red (and very similar Dzilam Group ceramics from Dzibilchaltun) and later Puuc Red Ware, as well as pre-Cehpech K’oht Variegated and Cehpech slateware traditions. These materials would become ubiquitous horizon markers during the rise of emergent Epiclassic states in the Puuc hills and Northern Maya Lowlands. Other transitions in ceramic traditions that characterize the Epiclassic Period in the Northern Lowlands – such as replacement of polychromes with fine paste wares – are well reflected in the ensuing Champotón 5 complex.