Archaeometallurgy of the New World: Current Research, Approaches, and Methods

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

Metallurgy and metalworking first emerged in the Andean region of South America, and appear to have progressively spread northward along the continent, as far as Mesoamerica, developing into local technological traditions. Copper, silver, and gold as well as different alloys comprised of these and other metals, were fashioned as ornaments used in religious ceremonies and for the enhancement of elite cultural status as well as more mundane items. In the last few decades, important aspects of the production, distribution, and use of such goods in different regions of the Americas have been inferred by scholars, often from combinations of ethnohistorical, archaeological, and archaeometric data. This Symposium attempts to explore research developments comparatively in archaeometallurgy of the New World, departing from studies of diverse nature, including ore sources, mining technology, mineral processing and extractive metallurgy as well as the social and technological choices that governed metallurgical production in different regions in the Andes, the Intermediate Area of Colombia and Lower Central America, and Mesoamerica.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-11 of 11)

  • Documents (11)

  • The contribution of Northwestern Argentina to the metallurgical Andean tradition (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only María Scattolin. Leticia Cortés.

    The most ancient metallurgy of pre-Columbian America originated and evolved in the Andes, reaching great levels of technical sophistication. However, as a few interesting cases of these first moments of experimentation with metals come from Perú, with them comes the popular idea that any technical advance took place in the Peruvian Andes. Because complex societies later emerged in what is now Central Andes, there is a tendency to think that all technological innovations did as well. This could...

  • Early Metallurgy from Waywaka in the South-Central Highlands of Andahuaylas, Apurimac, Peru: New AMS Dates and XRF Analysis (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Joel W. Grossman. Timothy C. Kenna.

    This presentation will discuss the results of processing eight high-resolution Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon determinations on charcoal found in association with poorly dated ceramics and copper-alloy artifacts recovered from an important pre-Inca site, Waywaka, in the south-central highlands of Andahuaylas, Apurimac, Peru. Excavations at Waywaka revealed a naturally stratified series of deposits of Pre-Inca cultures spanning nearly four millennia. In the bottom-most layers was...

  • The Environmental Effects of Indigenous Smelting in the Southern Andes: A Look at the Source (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mary Van Buren.

    Air pollution caused by pre-industrial metal production in the Andes has been reported by scholars using data collected from lake sediments and ice cores. An important source of this pollution, which consists primarily of lead dust, is Potosí, Bolivia, a mining center that produced large quantities of silver during the early colonial period and, perhaps, during prehispanic times as well. This paper examines the environmental effects of indigenous silver production by investigating the operation...

  • An evaluation of stingless bee wax as a pattern material in Mesoamerican investment casting (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Tarkanian. Elizabeth Paris.

    Mesoamerican metal objects have been studied in-depth in terms of alloys and production techniques, but little work has been carried out on the foundry materials used in the pre-Hispanic casting process. In modern foundry practice, synthetic waxes, paraffins, or processed European honeybee wax (from the Apis genus) are commonly used as pattern materials. One possible ancient Mesoamerican pattern material is the wax of the stingless bee Melipona beecheii, a species known to be cultivated by the...

  • Imperial authority and local agency: Investigating the interplay of disruptive technology, indirect authority, and changing ritual practice at Dos Cruces. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Colin Thomas.

    The Chimu smelting site of Dos Cruces is located along the Zaña River in the middle valley of the greater Lambayeque area. Dos Cruces is located at the intersection of two major trade routes and nearby several rich sources of copper ore. The smelting of ore at Dos Cruces utilized wind powered smelting technology, a new innovation for this region. Despite its obvious Chimu affiliations, Dos Cruces lacks an audiencia, or indeed any indication of Chimu administrative oversight. The denizens of Dos...

  • Lung-powered copper smelting on the Pampa de Chaparri, Lambayeque department, Peru (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Killick. Frances Hayashida.

    We report here the archaeometallurgical analysis of residues associated with two banks of four lung-powered copper smelting furnaces at site 256AO1, discovered during Hayashida's full-coverage survey of the Pampa de Chaparri in 2008. Calibrated radiocarbon dates place the operation of the furnaces in the Middle Sican period, ca. 1000-1200 cal AD. The furnaces are similar in size and shape to those excavated by Shimada and Epstein at Cerro Huaringa, which is only 15 km away; the smelting process...

  • Metallurgy in America: What do We Know about its Development and Diffusion? (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Niklas Schulze.

    Academic interest in "New World" metallurgy is more than a century old and has come a long way. New analytical technologies have allowed us to understand in ever greater detail the composition and structure of metal objects found in archaeological contexts. This makes it possible to identify raw materials, study production processes and life histories of artifacts. While our progress in questions of detail is indisputable, the opinions concerning the general development and diffusion of...

  • The Origins and Development of Arsenic Bronze Technologies on the North Coast of Peru: Preliminary Results from Archaeometric and Experimental Investigations (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Branden Rizzuto.

    This paper highlights the preliminary results of an ongoing study that aims to further characterize the origins and subsequent development of arsenic bronze technologies on the north coast of Peru. While the production of arsenic bronze on the north coast has been studied in detail over the last several decades, the spatial and temporal origins for the use/production of these alloys – and how they spread throughout the region during the Middle Horizon (600 – 1000 CE) period – are not yet fully...

  • Primary Copper Smelting in Mesoamerica: A Case Study from Central Michoacán (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Blanca Maldonado. José Luis Punzo. Thilo Rehren. Juan Julio Morales. Avto Gogichaishvili.

    Copper was the main metal produced and worked in Mesoamerica, but data for pre-modern primary production and processing remain elusive. Systematic research at Itziparátzico, a Late Postclassic location in Central Michoacán, Mexico, has located evidence of copper production areas where concentrations of smelting slag were recorded. The absence of metallurgical materials other than slag (e.g. crucible fragments, mould fragments, stock metal, metal prills, failed castings, part-manufactured objects...

  • Silver Production and Inka Expansion in the South Central Andes (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carol Schultze. Colleen Zori.

    Silver was an important component of the Andean prestige economy with bestowal and display of silver and silver-alloyed objects constituting a vital tool of Inka statecraft. The quest for mineral wealth was thus a motivating factor for Inka conquest of the South Central Andes. Nonetheless, the impacts of imperial incorporation on the organization and technology of metal production differed across this region of the empire. Focusing on the purification of silver ores, we present two case studies...

  • Variations in Mochica Metalwork (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alicia Boswell. Ellen Howe. Joanne Pillsbury. Deborah Schorsch.

    In the last thirty years, archaeological investigations on the north coast of Peru have produced a wealth of new information leading to nuances in our understanding of Moche sociopolitical organization (AD 200-800). These discoveries have included excavations of intact tombs of Moche male and female elites, interred with their ritual regalia and other grave goods. Metal ornaments made up an important part of this regalia, yet our understanding of Moche metallurgy technology and its relationship...