2.4.5. Discussion

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The principal challenges of quarry research in archaeology were articulated in the seminal work of Holmes, one hundred years ago. These difficulties include the sheer quantity of non-diagnostic artifacts and sampling issues, the lack of temporal control, and stratigraphy that is either complex or non-existent, it is no wonder that relatively few projects have targeted quarry areas in the intervening century.

Advances in the last few decades include methodological improvements like rigorous attribute analysis and greater standardization of measures and digital measurement devices that have sped up lab work. Theoretical advances include an exploration of principles of production efficiency and subsequent articulation of the problems and prospects of this formal approach. Principal among these are further incorporation of data from adjacent contexts, the use of other lithic material types close to a major source, and the incorporation of evidence from other material classes like ceramics. More recent advances include the incorporation of additional datasets into quarry and workshop analysis, a wider theoretical scope, and an attempt to understand the wider intentionality and decision sequence of quarry procurement and initial production.

A promising theoretical approach to procurement and exchange would recognize the need for a consistent framework against which to assess changes in production, circulation and the regional demand, but it is also one that responds to local variation and multiple reduction trajectories outside the scope of formal concepts of efficiency. Production and circulation of lithic raw material from quarry sites often span broad time periods and must reconcile with a great variety of cultural and organizational forms. In regions of the world (such as the south-central Andes) where foraging was largely replaced by agro-pastoralism, where residential mobility was replaced by sedentary communities with mobile components, and where egalitarian social structure changed into ranked and ultimately stratified societies, these large scale changes must be reconciled with evidence of technological organization and exchange. While a skeleton of expectations can be built from the general anthropological evidence provided in this chapter, the regional specifics of Andean prehistory flesh out the character of production and exchange of Chivay obsidian through time. Models that are applicable to the case of Chivay obsidian and that assimilate issues from this chapter with the Andean regional trajectory are presented at the end of the following chapter.