Pre-Columbian trade networks?

Moche pot in the shape of a woman and child

I’m still writing! Most interesting archaeological thing I noticed since my last post: you know those Moche vases from Peru, from about 100-1100 AD and then similar Chimu ones later than that?

Well I hadn’t known until just now that they make quite similar pots in Georgia, in the south-eastern United States, starting about 500 AD, that is, a little later than the Moche ones from Peru. Isn’t that weird/pretty obviously not a total coincidence?

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 9.44.31 PM
Human-shaped pot from Etowah, Georgia (USA)
Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 9.44.05 PM
Owl-shaped pot from Etowah
Egyptian footed bowl (Old Kingdom) – in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

People independently seem to always associate pots with people all over the world, from the Egyptians who make the cutest pots with little feets, to the Anasazi who decorate their pots with what look like human tattoo designs, to the Villanovans in Europe who make clay helmet lids for their warrior potheads. Even modern pottery specialists like me refer to the pot’s neck, shoulder, belly, and foot. But this goes beyond that and looks like Georgia potters had seen Moche pots.

Screen Shot 2019-03-05 at 10.38.00 AM
Anasazi pottery from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

There’s no reason that shouldn’t be true. Clearly the Moche made thousands of these pots and they intended them as trade items, to sell to other people. They sold a lot of them northward; the Moche sailed their big balsa-wood rafts as far north as Ecuador at least. Central Americans, in turn, certainly traded with the Anasazi in what is now Arizona and New Mexico (we call the Anasazi the Pueblo now).

The Anasazi traded to their east with the Mississippians, who traded with Etowah in Georgia. So sure, Etowah could have had some Moche pots, or they could have seen Mississippian imitations of Moche pots. But no actual Moche pots have been found further north than northern Peru, as far as I know. Nothing from the Mississippi valley is found in Mexico.

I guess what I’m saying is that the amount of time I have to spend on this question this morning has only shown me that there’s still a lot I don’t understand about long-distance trade networks in pre-Columbian North America and South America. Back to work!







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s