In addition to manufacturing ceramic cooking and storage vessels, Central American potters produced tools for use in their own and other crafts. For more than a millennium they produced stamps, which were used for decorating pottery, textiles, and perhaps human bodies. Some stamps were cylindrical; users rolled them across the surface of objects (see Day 117). Others, like those shown here, were held by their handles, dipped into pigments, and then pressed onto a surface. Three of these stamps bear traces of red pigment. W.W. Chase, professor of wildlife management at University of Michigan, acquired them in the 1960s in the Reventazón River Valley in Costa Rica, along with other artifacts. Unfortunately, they likely come from looted sites and lack sufficient contextual information to precisely date them or interpret their use. While not as informative as we would like, these stamps nonetheless provide some insights into ancient Central American technologies and decorative motifs.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.