Ceramic Specialization and Exchange in Complex Societies: A Compositional Analysis of Pottery from Mahan and Baekje in Southwestern Korea
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The societies of Mahan and Baekje occupied Korea’s southwestern region from approximately first through seventh centuries CE, but their origins, geographical extent, and internal cultural variations have been poorly understood from archaeological and historical data. Baekje is considered the first state to develop in the region, but Mahan has proven more difficult to categorize. This dissertation explores the social structures related to craft production in both societies through geochemical analysis of pottery remains from Mahan and Baekje sites. First, an overview of existing research on Mahan and Baekje is provided, followed by a discussion of the state concept in archaeology and more recent theories regarding heterarchy in complex societies. The methodologies deployed in this study include stylistic analysis, Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA), and thin-section petrography on pottery fragments from Mahan and Baekje sites. The eight sites included in this study cover a wide range of the Mahan/Baekje region, including settlements in modern Seoul, Incheon, Wonju, Jincheon County, and Gwangju. Geochemical data from INAA which are subjected to multiple statistical analyses to detect patterns of chemistry related to clay sources and processing methods, revealing information on pottery manufacture and exchange. This dissertation finds that the production and consumption patterns of pottery in the Baekje kingdom bear a strong resemblance to those in Mahan, differing primarily in scale. Although Baekje is often studied in terms of its relationship with China, the findings presented here suggest a deep cultural relationship between Mahan and Baekje. Mahan’s role in the history of this region is currently undergoing reassessment, making this work part of mounting evidence of Mahan’s contribution to later Korean civilizations. Looking at Baekje as a complex society with the expectation of both hierarchical and heterarchical organization reveals a political economy with multiple nodes of power and control, resulting from local people making decisions in a locally situated cultural context.