3. Flaked Obsidian Artifacts
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Abehavioral typology for Tikal’s obsidian industry is presented in Chart 3.1. No unworked obsidian was noted in the excavated sample. The scarcity of cortex on finished artifacts and debitage and the occasional presence of “bag wear” on the arrises of large flakes, prismatic blade cores, and incised obsidians show that virtually all of the obsidian found at Tikal arrived in the form of large polyhedral cores (Fig. B: 69a; Clark and Lee 1979; Sheets 1975). For the most part, large polyhedral cores were reduced into utilitarian prismatic blades, prismatic blade cores, and debitage. Broad, often irregular scars and abraded arrises are often seen on one side of exhausted prismatic blade cores (e.g., Fig. B: 69o, 69s, 69v1). They demonstrate that, at least during the Classic period , prismatic blades were not removed from the entire circumference of a core, as is often shown in constructions of the blade-making process, but that the large polyhedral core must have been held in such a way that part of its surface was inaccessible to the blade-maker. Occasional large flakes were fashioned into scrapers and perhaps bifaces. But beginning during the Early Late Classic period, macroflakes and macroblades struck directly from large polyhedral cores were made into eccentrics and incised obsidians (Fig. B: 71) of purely ceremonial function (TR. 27A). The significance of this development is that obsidian that could have been used for utilitarian artifacts was being diverted to ceremonial purposes, which, in turn, indicates an abundant and 3 Flaked Obsidian Artifacts General Considerations Summary Number Type Figure Page 268 Thin bifaces A: 22j, 37a, B: 64-68h 28 3 Small points B: 68j-l 29 22 Miscellaneous bifaces A: 33i-m, B: 68i 30 1 Macroblade B: 68m 30 87 Scrapers B: 68n-ee 30 6 Large flakes 31 5 Broad prismatic blades B: 70a, b 31 1 Large polyhedral core B: 69a 31 1927* Prismatic blade cores A: 32b, j, o, r, 33q, v, x, 62l, m, B: 69d-v, 72a, d, f, g 31 8269 Prismatic blades A: 62a-i, k, B: 62b, 63, 70c-f 33 40837* Flakes and unsorted B: 62a, 69b, c, 34 debitage 72b, c, e * incomplete count Obsidian eccentrics, incised obsidians, and ground and polished obsidian artifacts are described and illustrated in TR. 27A. FLAKED OBSIDIAN ARTIFACTS 27 secure supply. Obsidian eccentrics of the Early Classic period were made on exhausted prismatic blade cores that could not have been easily used for anything else. Prismatic blades, usually found as fragments, were by far the most numerous finished artifact type of obsidian at all times, from the Middle Preclassic period into Early Postclassic times. Among the other artifact types described here, small points, the large polyhedral core, prismatic blade cores, large flakes, scrapers, and flakes and unsorted debitage are related to the local manufacture of prismatic blades from large polyhedral cores. The few thin bifaces that could be sourced by XRF and NAA were predominantly of Central Mexican obsidian and were probably imported as finished artifacts. That the single macroblade (Fig. B: 68m) and at least three of the broad prismatic blades (Fig. B: 70a, b) were imported as ready-made artifacts is indicated by their unique form and the Central Mexican obsidians from which they were made. Some of the miscellaneous bifaces may be failed attempts to produce bifacial eccentrics or, possibly, thin bifaces. Unfortunately none of them were subChart 3.1 Typology for the Tikal Obsidian Industry THE ARTIFACTS OF TIKAL: UTILITARIAN ARTIFACTS AND UNWORKED MATERIAL 28 mitted for trace-element analysis, which would have provided essential information. The utilitarian function of the artifacts presented in TR. 27B is indicated by their worn and fragmented condition. Prismatic blades, in particular, seem to have been used for many tasks. In the absence of use-wear analyses, we can speculate that newly struck blades were used for shaving and cutting softer materials, like meat, leather, or cloth, and, as the edge became duller, on progressively harder substances, like wood, bone, or shell (John E. Clark, personal communication 1984). Haviland (1981: 103) includes prismatic blades in his basic household artifact assemblage. In addition, during the Classic period obsidian artifacts were widely distributed, occurred in all types of structure groups, and were recovered from various types of special deposits, but predominantly from general excavations. With the exception of eccentrics and incised obsidians, flaked obsidian artifacts were available to anyone. In contrast to other Maya sites, such as Copán (Aoyama 1999), there is no...


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