Through a Smoke Cloud Darkly: The Possible Social Significance of Candeleros in Terminal Classic Naco Valley Society

Document Type


Publication Date

April 2015


Candeleros, fired clay artifacts with one to over 20 chambers, are widely distributed across Terminal Classic (AD 800-1000) contexts in the Naco valley of northwestern Honduras. Though reported from other parts of Mesoamerica, little is known about the varied ways this distinctive artifact figured in tasks engaged in by people of diverse ranks and might have been used in negotiating interpersonal transactions. This presentation provides initial responses to these queries based on a functional and distributional analysis of 150 candeleros derived from Terminal Classic contexts at the Naco valley political center of La Sierra. The items in question were retrieved from three residential complexes of varying sizes, levels of complexity, and involvement in different crafts. Patterns identified in the course of this work allow us to assess the extent to which candelero use correlated with socioeconomic status, domestic affiliation, and occupational specialization. As one of the only systematic studies of candeleros conducted in southern Mesoamerica, these analyses offer hypotheses concerning the artifact’s social, economic, and political significance that can be evaluated in other settings.


80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology