Ancient Metallurgy in Mesoamerica: Local Expression and Interregional Connections

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Throughout ancient Mesoamerica, numerous metallurgical and metalworking traditions developed during different time periods, and among different cultural groups. These traditions emerged through a range of cultural influences, particularly from the Andean and Central American metalworking regions, and eventually incorporating Spanish metallurgical technologies. These external cultural connections strongly influenced the development of local metalworking, through the introduction of new technologies, and shifting the focus of local traditions towards new goods and raw materials. Local traditions, however, also developed unique trajectories. This was, as a result of local demand for particular goods and styles, probably also due to their position within interregional exchange networks with relation to raw material sources, or large populations of wealthy consumers capable of supporting specialized artisans. The present symposium will focus on the latest decade of research into local metalworking traditions within Mesoamerica, including the use of copper and copper alloys, gold, and silver. Authors will particularly consider local expressions of artisanal styles and technologies, while also examining shared influences between the various traditions. They will also consider these technologies with respect to the relationships between mining and processing sites, with secondary production sites, and distribution networks.

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  • Documents (9)

  • Ancient Metal Routs in the Tarascan Señorío: Mining, Smelting, Smiting (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only José Luis Punzo. Cesar Valentín Hernández. Lissandra González. Mijaely Castañón.

    At the Tarascan Señorío, all the metal work aspects were controlled by the uacúsecha (most important clan) leaders, from their central cities of Pátzcuaro, Ihuatzio and specially Tzintzuntzan by the Pátzcuaro Lake in central Michoacán. In this paper we present the different aspects of the metal work, and the control that the uacúsecha nobles imposed, expressed in the architecture and their most relevant adornments like metal earplugs and lip-plugs, from the mining sites in the Tierra Caliente,...

  • Indigenous Copper Production in Colonial Mexico (1533-1630) (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Johan Garcia.

    During the entire colonial period, the South-Central region of Michoacán, Mexico was the main producer of copper in New Spain and one of the most important loci of production in the whole Spanish empire. Copper was a fundamental material for artillery, coinage and silver extraction, not to mention its importance in the manufacture of all sorts of daily life items. However, Spanish colonizers had an almost complete lack of copper extraction knowledge. On the other hand, the region had a natural...

  • Maya metals: A Comparative Analysis from Tipu and Lamanai, Belize (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Scott Simmons. Bryan Cockrell.

    Investigations at the southern Maya Lowland sites of Lamanai and Tipu, Belize have yielded diverse assemblages of metal artifacts. These metals are from the Postclassic and Colonial (12th to 17th century) occupations at Lamanai and Colonial (mid-16th to early 18th century) contexts at Tipu. As a rare occasion to look at the similarities and differences between artifacts made of the same material from different sites, this research compares the forms, contexts, and technologies of metal artifacts...

  • Metallurgical Production at Mayapan, Yucatan, Mexico: New Discoveries from the R-183 Group (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Elizabeth H. Paris. Elizabeth Baquedano. Carlos Peraza Lope.

    The Postclassic period urban center of Mayapan housed numerous household craft production industries, including metallurgical production. The recovery of metal artifacts, production debris, and metallurgical ceramics from contexts throughout the city suggests a number of independent production sites. One of the most significant archaeological contexts associated with metallurgical production is the R-183 group, an elite residential group in the southeast mid-city sector. Salvage excavations in...

  • Mixtec Goldworking: New Evidence for Lost-Wax Casting from Late Postclassic Tututepec, Oaxaca. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marc Levine.

    Gold jewelry and ornaments produced in Late Postclassic Oaxaca were among the finest ever made in Mesoamerica. Yet the paucity of archaeological evidence for metallurgical production in Oaxaca has frustrated efforts to better understand these spectacular objects and their role in Postclassic society. This paper presents the results of an analysis of 42 ceramic molds from the Late Postclassic (1100-1522 CE) Mixtec Capital of Tututepec. I argue that the molds were utilized to cast internal cores,...

  • Non-Invasive Analyses of Metal Artifacts from The Milpillas Site, Zacapu, Michoacán. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Manuel Espinosa-Pesqueira. Blanca Maldonado. Isabel Medina-González. Gérald Migeon.

    The West Mexican region of Zacapu (today Michoacan, Mexico) is known to have witnessed the rise and development of the Tarascan Empire during middle Postclassic period. Archaeological evidence indicates that this area underwent major spatial and social reorganization around 1200 AD, events that indicate socio-political and ideological changes generated by the centralization of power in Tarascan society. Tarascan metallurgy represents a valuable reference for understanding the cultural context in...

  • The Periphery Gold Production Areas of Oaxaca: Tradition and Distinctiveness (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Edith Ortiz-Diaz.

    In no other part of Mexico have been found so many gold objects as in Oaxaca. The Mixtecs and Zapotecs from central Oaxaca created amazing pieces with such great mastery as well as in the aesthetic and technological aspects. The Oaxaca artisans worked principally with gold and silver. The mineral needed in order to make these objects was relatively abundant in Oaxaca. Nevertheless, outside the realm of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca and the Mixtec area, mineral resources existed in most of the...

  • Pre-Columbian Huastec Metallurgy (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Diana Zaragoza. Kim Richter.

    Although the Huasteca may have had an important role in the emergence and development of metallurgy in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, little has been published, apart from Dorothy Hosler and Guy Stresser-Péan’s short study on Huastec metallurgy (1992). They proposed that the Huasteca was second earliest region in Mesoamerica after West Mexico to produce bronze alloys artifacts during the Postclassic period. Their research positions the Huasteca as an early adopter and innovator of this technology....

  • Proto-Tarascan Uacusecha Metallurgy: Issues about tecnological transition and lost techniques (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Isabel Medina-González. Manuel Espinosa-Pesqueira. Gregory Pereira.

    Within the large and rich vein of archaeological studies on Western Mesoamerican metallurgy (ca. 800-1500 a.C.), a large body of literature is devoted to the metal production of the Tarasco Kingdom (1420-1522 a.C.), since by 1450 a.C. this became the most important centre of Pre-Columbian metalworking. Indeed many scientific studies have focused on the material and the technological aspects of Tarascan metal artefacts, particularly of copper and copper alloy bells. In comparison, little in known...