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Archaeometallurgy in Mesoamerica

Current Approaches and New Perspectives

Edited by Scott E. Simmons and Aaron N. Shugar

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xv

The papers in the volume were presented in a workshop symposium held at the seventy-third annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) on March 28, 2008, in Vancouver, British Columbia, entitled “Current Archaeometallurgical Research in Mesoamerica: New Approaches, Discoveries and Perspectives.” Great...

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1. Archaeometallurgy in Ancient Mesoamerica

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pp. 1-28

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...

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2. An Interdisciplinary Survey of a Copper-Smelting Site in West Mexico: The Case of Jicalán el Viejo, Michoacán

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pp. 29-50

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...

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3. Mining and Metallurgy, and the Evidence for Their Development in West Mexico

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pp. 51-75

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...

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4. The Production of Copper at El Coyote, Honduras: Processing, Dating, and Political Economy

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pp. 77-112

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...

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5. Late Prehistoric K’iche’ Metalworking at Utatlán, Guatemala

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pp. 113-133

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...

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6. Archaeometallurgy at Lamanai, Belize: New Discoveries and Insights from the Southern Maya Lowland Area

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pp. 135-159

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...

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7. Breaking the Mold: The Socioeconomic Significance of Metal Artifacts at Mayapán

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pp. 161-201

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...

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8. How “Real” Does It Get? Portable XRF Analysis of Thin-Walled Copper Bells from the Aztec Templo Mayor, Tenochtitlán, Mexico

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pp. 203-226

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...

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9. Mesoamerican Metallurgy Today

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pp. 227-245

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...

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pp. 247-250

Dorothy Hosler is professor of archaeology and ancient technology in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. She received her BA in anthropology from University of California, Los Angeles, and her PhD from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a specialization in Mesoamerican archaeology. Hosler’s...


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pp. 251-258

E-ISBN-13: 9781607322108
E-ISBN-10: 1607322102
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607322009
Print-ISBN-10: 1607322005

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 36 B&W photos , 27 line illustrations, 12 maps, 15 tables
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 827947250
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Archaeometallurgy in Mesoamerica

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Subject Headings

  • Indian metal-work -- Mexico -- History -- To 1500.
  • Indian metal-work -- America, Central -- History -- To 1500.
  • Metallurgy in archaeology -- Mexico.
  • Metallurgy in archaeology -- America, Central.
  • Indians of Mexico -- Antiquities.
  • Indians of Central America -- Antiquities.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Mexico.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- America, Central.
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