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The Obsidian Trail: A GIS model for obsidian trade routes in the West Mexican Aztatlán Tradition (AD 900-1350)

Author(s): Daniel Pierce

Year: 2017

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Summary

The Postclassic Aztatlán Tradition of Western Mexico is well known for its expansive trade networks. Aztatlán merchants traded ceramics, shell, copper, and obsidian across vast distances. Obsidian provides us with a particularly unique opportunity to trace trade networks due to the compositional homogeneity of obsidian sources. Recent studies have identified the source of thousands of obsidian artifacts from numerous Aztatlán centers, allowing for an elaboration on themes such as access to exotic goods and socioeconomic relationships. The aim of this paper is to create a series of models of possible trade routes from seven Aztatlán centers to the most common obsidian sources identified in previous geochemical analyses. These routes have been established through a GIS least cost path using multiple cost surfaces and Tobler’s Hiker Function to estimate path distance accounting for variable walking speeds across differing terrain. Further variables used to estimate possible paths include landcover and various hydrological elements. Ultimately, separate models were created and compared that assume a preference for water and overland travel routes. The resulting models assess the possibility of convergence of trade routes to and from key obsidian sources and various Aztatlán centers and lend themselves to estimating relative import cost.


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The Obsidian Trail: A GIS model for obsidian trade routes in the West Mexican Aztatlán Tradition (AD 900-1350). Daniel Pierce. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428946)


Keywords

Geographic Keywords
Mesoamerica


Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16611

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America