image/svg+xml281XII/2/2021INTERDISCIPLINARIA ARCHAEOLOGICANATURAL SCIENCES IN ARCHAEOLOGYhomepage: http://www.iansa.euRevisiting Aguabuena Pottery-making Through DiscontinuityDaniela Castellanos1*1Departamento de Estudios Sociales, Universidad Icesi, Calle 18 No. 122–135 Pance, Cali, Colombia1. IntroductionThis article explores discontinuity as an analytical lens to revisit our studies on pottery-making. Drawing on long-term ethnographic research in Aguabuena, a small close-knit, Spanish-speaking rural community of potters in the Colombian Andes, I address changes observed among Aguabuena potters during the past two decades to reconsider the social and material dynamics inside ceramic workshops at a local scale and the presence of the potters’ wheel in these processes. Specifcally, I focus on social transformations within the Aguabuena community and territory, technological changes in the ceramic manufacturing process, and surfaces constructed and maintained with ceramic sherds. These aspects, I argue, exemplify forms of discontinuity that challenge the more lineal accounts on pottery-making and invite us to reconsider the role of fractures and fragments, both empirically and theoretically, in understanding a signifcance of the discontinuities in the world of potters.The ideas I present draw on ethnographic data taken during various visits to the feld that had diferent duration and combined diferent techniques (in 2001, 2006, 2009–2010, 2013, 2019). My interest in the relationships between material culture and people guided me through participant-observation of the social life of pots and potters, looking at the various dynamics transcending the manufacturing process of pots. I combined mapping, spatial analysis, in-depth interviews and informal conversations, kinship charts, material culture inventories, a pottery-making apprenticeship building a detailed archive made of feldnotes, maps, pictures, audios, and videos which aided me in witnessing the transformations of Aguabuena from my frst arrival in early 2000 and every subsequent visit as well. During this time, the trusty and enduring relations I have managed to build and maintain with some of the families allowed me to explore more collaborative forms of research that helped me to actualise my data through the remote feldwork.For instance, discontinuity has been a key concept in archaeology for addressing cultural and social change at diferent scales of time and space. As Roux and Corty (2013) Volume XII ● Issue 2/2021 ● Pages 281–295*Corresponding author. E-mail: INFOArticle history:Received: 8thFebruary 2021Accepted: 28thSeptember 2021DOI: words:discontinuityfractures in space and matterethnoarchaeologyethnographyAguabuena pottersColombian AndesABSTRACTDiscontinuity plays an important role in the social and material world of Aguabuena potters, a small rural community in the Colombian Andes. Drawing on long-term ethnographic feldwork, I explore the changes in modes of production and gender division of work during the last decades of the twentieth century and the fractures in space, memory, and materiality to address discontinuities in ceramic production. The wheel and its transformations are taken as an important factor of these processes. Against the common trend in the archaeology of Colombia to see pottery-making as a static craft, rooted in an indigenous past, this article aims to revisit ethnoarchaeological and ethnographic data to argue how cracks and gaps, besides empirical facts, can be seen as complex analytical lenses through which to embrace ruptures and less linear narratives.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2021 ● XII/2 ● 281–295Daniela Castellanos: Revisiting Aguabuena Pottery-making Through Discontinuity282classifcations are at the base of periodization intending to correlate horizons of time with forms of social organization of pre-Hispanic groups and by this means trace cultural changes in indigenous societies through archaeological materials. This “tyranny of typology”, as some critical scholars call it (see Gnecco and Langebaek, 2006), has undermined other interests including more technological analysis crucial to understanding aspects of the cultural and political ecology of ceramic production and modes, scale, and specialization of craft-making. Moreover, the focus on indigenous groups has overshadowed other interests towards European or African infuences on pottery in Colombia (despite the great mix of populations and cultural traditions that historians have documented since early colonial times), including the presence of the potters’ wheel or the innovations of fring techniques through kilns after the Spanish conquest or cultural traits coming with the arrival and settlement of black slaves, themes only explored more recently within the feld of Historic Archaeology (e.g.Therrien et al., 2002; Ome, 2006; Mantilla Oliveros, 2016; Patiño and Hernández, 2020).The interest in the pre-Hispanic past has also driven a few ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological studies in ceramics. Since the pioneering study of Ann Osborn on the pottery of Tunebos (today the U´wa, an indigenous community of the north-eastern Colombian Andes) in the late seventies, the ethnographic present has interested scholars for the remaining indigenous features that may link the past and the present. In other words, an interest in continuity (and by this token transformation) has led the approach to today’s craft-making processes, while trying to establish a kind of indigenous atemporal essence bridging archaeology, ethnography, and ethnology.In this context, the presence of the potters’ wheel, in both the archaeological and ethnographic records, has been understudied, as it is not considered a key element in the understanding of the indigenous world. This research agenda has been questioned more recently by other scholars who, on the one hand, problematise the conceptualisation of a pre-Hispanic indigenous past, free from colonial distortion (see Langebaek, 2012; 2019; Rappaport, 2018), and on the other hand, have documented the rich and complex social and cultural dynamics of the colonial period, intervening and re-signifying the indigenous lives and repositioning them in the colonial period (see Therrien et al., 2002; Ome, 2006; Loboguerrero, 2001). In this same vein, the critical approach of authors like Langebaek has been crucial in revisiting and challenging ethnohistory and archaeology in light of their fabrication of discourses and analytical models under the guise of colonialism and despite their status as scientifc disciplines.44In one of his latest books “Los Muisca”, Langebaek (2019) shows how the category of cacique and chiefdoms as a form of social organisation are constructed and employed according to the interests of the colonial Spanish ofcers of the sixteenth century onwards. Archaeology and ethnohistory still perpetuate the colonial legacy which they intend to question by assuming these categories as less critical which undermine the variability and cultural diversity of societies encountered by the Spaniards upon their arrival to the New World. The haunting of the indigenous past in academic research has made continuity a guiding aim in studying pottery-making. This is expressed through ideas of the long duration of techniques and technologies across spatial, temporal, and social scales and which do not engage with the fuid setup that, for example, colonisation brought in the Americas. The categorisation of coiling as a “traditional indigenous technique” vis-à-vis throwing as a typically European one, established fxed boundaries for what were considered local and traditional products versus what is classifed as foreign, modern, and therefore non-indigenous. Furthermore, this distinction is difcult to maintain empirically, as a vessel that gets started on a potter’s wheel can then be fnished with the coiling technique (see Arnold, 1985) and, more recently, in typological studies revisions have been made in addressing the complexity and richness of the archaeological materials (see Therrien et al., 2002).The representation of pottery-making as a cultural heritage of the Colombian nation has been another aspect contributing to its fxed and stable image. For example, Ráquira, the region where Aguabuena is located (Figure 1), is identifed as a “pueblo de olleros” (a town of pottery makers), a term frst coined in ofcial documents of the early eighteenth century by Spanish ofcers describing the lives of the indigenous people, and then made popular through the joint collaboration of academic and applied research in the area, to the extent of becoming a term widely spread (see Duncan, 1998; Orbell, 1995; Mora de Jaramillo, 1974; Ministry of Culture, 2014).The two main archaeological surveys done in Ráquira in the 1970s and 1990s (see Falchetti, 1975; Broadbent, 1974; and Therrien, 1991) documented the small scale of ceramic production in contrast to the large scale reported in documents of colonial times problematising the “pueblo de olleros” name. These studies used ethnography as a tool for gathering comparative data on ceramic materials tracing today’s continuation in techniques and ceramic technologies from the past.Here it is worth mentioning the work of Monika Therrien at length, for providing a middle ground in the tension around the category “traditional” in Colombian archaeology. For this scholar, transformation and continuity are mutually embedded in the archaeological materials (Therrien et al., 2002) and they should not be generalised or extrapolated from one context to another, but instead they need to be assessed at diferent scales, ranging from regional patterns to singular archaeological sites (Therrien, 2016). In this sense, her early work in the 1990s, excavating an archaeological record from a discard area of a colonial ceramic workshop in Ráquira, is pioneering in its attempt to establish the coexistence of traditions that were thought to be unrelated. For this purpose, she uses ethnographic data from the region and other places in Colombia to enrich her archaeological interpretations. She was able to compare the pottery techniques from indigenous groups like the Tunebo (Osborn, 1979) and Emberá-Chamí (Vasco, 1987) with the ones she documented among living rural potters in Ráquira or previous scholars registered in the same area (Broadbent,
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2021 ● XII/2 ● 281–295Daniela Castellanos: Revisiting Aguabuena Pottery-making Through Discontinuity2831974; Mora de Jaramillo, 1974) and neighbouring towns like Sutamarchán and Tinjacá (Falchetti, 1975) (Figure 2). Therrien refers to the use of “plato”, a rudimentary form of wheel consisting of a ceramic small plate placed on a wooden table on the ground towards which the potter kneels to shape the vessel while she manually spins the plate in a slow manner. This same feature was ethnographically documented two decades before by Falchetti (1975, p.212), who stated the possible nexus between the platoand what she called the “proper wheel”, the former characterised by slow and interrupted movements, while the latter was by a rapid and continuous movement.Data collected in Ráquira and surroundings empirically proved the coexistence of diferent pottery manufacturing techniques in archaeological and ethnographic materials (like coiling and modelling) and the use of rudimentary wheels as part of the ceramic technology employed in colonial ceramic contexts with reference to other ethnographic contexts in diferent regions and among diferent indigenous groups in Colombia (Therrien, 1990, pp.40–41). Despite this evidence, archaeologists still pursue “pure” categories of fxed boundaries between what is indigenous and what is not, with little interest towards hybridisations and forms of mestizajealso visible through ceramic technology.Artesanías de Colombia (AC), a half-state, half-private institution in charge of craft promotion, marketing, and export in Colombia, represents another important actor intervening on the ways state agencies and multilateral and non-governmental organisations see and assess pottery-making, as well as infuence academic research, through its technology and capacity building programs. With clear interventions in Ráquira since the sixties in both design and technological transfer (e.g.implementation of sustainable and clean technologies), AC has contributed to tensions between the need for a renewal of traditions and a search for innovation – and the sectors identifying with those endeavours (the rural potters of Aguabuena being representative of the more “traditional” side).55Let me illustrate this point with few examples. The AC initiative of replacement of the usual coal kilns for electric or gas kilns with the fnancial and technical support from international cooperation, although was enthusiastically promoted by local majors, was widely rejected from the side of Aguabuena potters. Few kilns were constructed, but potters used them rarely and with time they preferred to quit them, arguing that it was more expensive and riskier to fre pots in them than using their coal kilns. Vessels came out raw or very “pale” (this is without the characteristically burnt orange colour that identifes the craft from this region), potters claimed. In these frictions also stand more traditionally oriented local discourses placing the craft close to indigenous roots and as cultural knowledge transmitted through kinship ties. Defending “la tradición” (the tradition), some potters resist changes in their modes of production proclaiming themselves as guardians of an endangered heritage.