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Archaeometallurgy in Mesoamerica

Archaeometallurgy in Mesoamerica: Current Approaches and New Perspectives

Aaron N. Shugar
Scott E. Simmons
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Archaeometallurgy in Mesoamerica
    Book Description:

    Presenting the latest in archaeometallurgical research in a Mesoamerican context, Archaeometallurgy in Mesoamerica brings together up-to-date research from the most notable scholars in the field. These contributors analyze data from a variety of sites, examining current approaches to the study of archaeometallurgy in the region as well as new perspectives on the significance metallurgy and metal objects had in the lives of its ancient peoples. The chapters are organized following the cyclical nature of metals--beginning with extracting and mining ore, moving to smelting and casting of finished objects, and ending with recycling and deterioration back to the original state once the object is no longer in use. Data obtained from archaeological investigations, ethnohistoric sources, ethnographic studies, along with materials science analyses, are brought to bear on questions related to the integration of metallurgy into local and regional economies, the sacred connotations of copper objects, metallurgy as specialized crafting, and the nature of mining, alloy technology, and metal fabrication.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-210-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  6. ONE Archaeometallurgy in Ancient Mesoamerica
    (pp. 1-28)
    Scott E. Simmons and Aaron N. Shugar

    In recent decades there has been much discussion among archaeologists about the transformative roles material objects play in human societies. Various scholars have focused attention on the ways that material culture is an integral part of social and economic systems through time, with considerable discourse centered on the role of specialized crafting in ancient societies (Apel and Knutsson 2006; Arnold and Munns 1994; Brumfiel and Earle 1987; Clark and Parry 1990; Costin 1991, 2001; Earle 2002; Flad and Hruby 2007; Helms 1992, 1993; Henrich and Boyd 2008; Hirth 2009; Peregrine 1991; Roux 2003; Schortman and Urban 2004; Spielmann 2002; Sullivan...

  7. TWO An Interdisciplinary Survey of a Copper-Smelting Site in West Mexico: The Case of Jicalán el Viejo, Michoacán
    (pp. 29-50)
    Hans Roskamp and Mario Rétiz

    In addition to the Relación de Michoacán (1539–1541), one of the best-known and most widely studied ethnohistorical documents in Michoacán is the Lienzo de Jicalán (Figure 2.1). This lienzo is a pictographic document used and elaborated upon in the second half of the sixteenth century as proof of the rights that the indigenous authorities of Jicalán believed they held over several mineral deposits, copper sources, and soil-based colorants in the Tierra Caliente (Hotlands) of Michoacán. According to the lienzo, the ancestors who founded this town in remote times were Nahuatl-speaking Toltecs who venerated the god Tezcatlipoca. Born to the...

  8. THREE Mining and Metallurgy, and the Evidence for Their Development in West Mexico
    (pp. 51-76)
    Blanca Maldonado

    Mesoamerican metallurgy appeared suddenly in the western region of Mexico (Figure 3.1) by approximately AD 600 (Hosler 1988a, 1988b, 1988c, 1994). As was the case in a large part of the Andean region, metallurgy and metalworking in West Mexico, especially among the Tarascans and their neighbors, was based mainly on copper and its alloys. Although some utilitarian implements such as needles and fishhooks were made, most metal objects were considered to be sacred and were used for adornment in religious ceremonies, as well as to enhance the social and political status of the elites (Hosler 1988a, 1994; Pollard 1987, 1993)....

  9. FOUR The Production of Copper at El Coyote, Honduras: Processing, Dating, and Political Economy
    (pp. 77-112)
    Patricia Urban, Aaron N. Shugar, Laura Richardson and Edward Schortman

    This chapter seeks to contribute to our understanding of the role metallurgy played in southern Mesoamerican prehistory. We do this by describing in some detail evidence of a copper workshop that came to light at the Terminal Classic (AD 800–1000) center of El Coyote, northwestern Honduras; detailing evidence concerning dates for copper processing there; and briefly considering the implications of these finds for understanding past political economies that operated on multiple spatial scales in southern Mesoamerica. The chapter concludes with some suggestions for future research into metallurgy among populations generally thought to have been consumers, not producers, of metal...

  10. FIVE Late Prehistoric K’iche’ Metalworking at Utatlán, Guatemala
    (pp. 113-134)
    John M. Weeks

    At the time of the Spanish Conquest in 1524 the site of Utatlán (Q’umarkaj) was the largest and most powerful settlement in the western highlands of Guatemala. Its political hegemony extended from the Verapaz region in the northeast to Quetzaltenango and southern Huehuetenango in the west, and to the Pacific coast and Soconusco in the south (Carmack 1981). Excavation on the periphery of the site core indicates that a highly specialized metallurgical industry was based at the site, and may have played a major role in the economic development and political interactions of the sixteenth-century K’iche’ Maya.

    An industry may...

  11. SIX Archaeometallurgy at Lamanai, Belize: New Discoveries and Insights from the Southern Maya Lowland Area
    (pp. 135-160)
    Scott E. Simmons and Aaron N. Shugar

    The investigation of ancient technologies has a long tradition in Mesoamerican archaeology. Stone, bone, ceramic, and a number of other materials have been analyzed for many decades, and these studies have yielded valuable information on the ways ancient Mesoamericans adapted to their physical and social environments. In the Maya area the study of metal objects and the technology associated with their production has only very recently been undertaken in a systematic way (Paris 2008; Simmons, Pendergast, and Graham 2009; Simmons and Shugar 2008, n.d.). Metal objects appeared relatively late in Mesoamerican history. The first copper objects were produced in West...

  12. SEVEN Breaking the Mold: The Socioeconomic Significance of Metal Artifacts At Mayapán
    (pp. 161-202)
    Elizabeth H. Paris and Carlos Peraza Lope

    The Postclassic Period was a dynamic era for the Maya residents of the Yucatán Peninsula. The increase in volume and diversity of trade goods in circulation (Sabloff and Rathje 1975; Smith and Berdan 2003), the creation and combination of cross-cultural iconography and symbol sets, the circulation of new forms of currency and standards of value, and the expansion of coastal trade routes brought new opportunities for the creation of wealth, status, political power, and intercultural communication. New consumer goods and production techniques—along with the knowledge, values, and meanings that accompanied them—were adopted and adapted by the Maya in...

  13. EIGHT How “Real” Does It Get? Portable XRF Analysis of Thin-Walled Copper Bells from the Aztec Templo Mayor, Tenochtitlán, Mexico
    (pp. 203-226)
    Niklas Schulze

    The results of the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyses of copper-base bells from offerings included in successive building phases of the Late Postclassic Templo Mayor (AD 1325–1520) of Tenochtitlán (Mexico City) showed that the advantages of analyzing large groups of copper-base objects without removing the corrosion layer outweigh the disadvantage of single artifact analysis, which has lower reliability due to possible distortions presented by surface alterations. Based on the compositional data generated and taking into account the physical as well as the cultural influences on the production process, it became possible to gain insights into the mechanisms used to supply...

  14. NINE Mesoamerican Metallurgy Today
    (pp. 227-246)
    Dorothy Hosler

    This is an exciting moment in the history of Mesoamerican archaeology, because a number of researchers are focusing specifically on metallurgy and more particularly on copper mining, smelting, and processing. Mesoamerican archaeologists investigating other topics are also paying attention to metal objects and possible processing remains, incorporating them into their analytic and interpretive frameworks. It is especially heartening that the authors contributing to this volume who study metal objects or other remains ground their work in an anthropological perspective. Metallurgy, like other technologies, is an entrenched cultural activity. This approach, which conceives of technology as cultural and views it through...

  15. List of Contributors
    (pp. 247-250)
  16. Index
    (pp. 251-258)