Archaeological research on ceramic styles has become a mainstay of archaeological investigation wherever collections are available. This trend has gained momentum in recent decades as traditional applications (e.g., dating sites and identifying patterns of regional interaction) have gradually been eclipsed by more dynamic explorations of style as "nonverbal" communication. Despite this positive course of research, recent essays (e.g., articles in Conkey and Hastorf 1990, Hegmon 1992) have noted the unchecked variability manifest in the methodologies and interpretations offered in the literature on this subject. Indeed, with no "unified" theory of style, researchers are free to define style and its meaning (at any level) however they prefer, and often they do so on the basis of unsound assumptions concerning the seemingly inaccessible, multifarious operation of style in prehistoric communities. The present study seeks to explore an alternative method for the study of ceramic styles, focusing on objectively delimited design structures as revealed by aspects of "sub-design" variability. A collection of late prehistoric decorated ceramics from eastern Arizona are used as a preliminary case study to investigate variation in design structure patterns between multiple production centers. En route to a more "unified" approach to style in prehistory, this essay attempts to provide an alternative, less subjective means of reconstructing prehistoric cognitive processes and relating these to meaningful correlates in sociocultural organization and interaction.
How to Cite: Van Keuren S., (1994) “Judging the Mark of an Individual: An Investigation of Design Variation in Prehistoric Pottery from Grasshopper Pueblo, Arizona”, Arizona Anthropologist 11.