Households and Empire: A pXRF Study of Metal Artifacts from Cerro la Virgen

Author(s): Rachel Johnson; Patrick Mullins; Brian Billman

Year: 2016


The Chimú Empire controlled much of the Peruvian North Coast during the Late Intermediate Period (1000-1476 AD), including the hinterland site of Cerro la Virgen (CLV). Previous research suggests that CLV could be viewed as a facet of the Chimú plan for the organization of rural areas, a plan that included controlled access to water, the restriction of rural settlement, and agricultural management through rural administrative centers. This model for local rule ultimately suggests that resources in this empire were under tight control, a control that would likely extend to items of considerable exchange value, such as metals. This project aims to examine the composition of metal artifacts from CLV to investigate how these social factors may have influenced Chimú metallurgy. Artifacts excavated from CLV were separated into several categories, by both type and overarching function (ornamental, utilitarian, etc.). The artifacts were then compared based on compositional analysis performed via portable x-ray fluorescence (pXRF). Trends in the composition of these differing artifact types suggest the manner in which certain metal objects were smelted or procured. Ultimately, these compositional trends may be able to improve our understanding of Chimú metallurgy, thereby illuminating some of the larger elements of Chimú socio-economic structure.

Cite this Record

Households and Empire: A pXRF Study of Metal Artifacts from Cerro la Virgen. Rachel Johnson, Patrick Mullins, Brian Billman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404557)

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Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;