Indigenous Copper Production in Colonial Mexico (1533-1630)

Author(s): Johan Garcia

Year: 2017


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 occurrence of rich ore deposits and a well established indigenous metallurgical tradition based on copper developed during the course of eight centuries. These set of factors led the Spaniards to heavily rely on native knowledge, technology and labor.

This paper will focus on the social and technological aspects of copper metallurgy during the contact and early colonial periods of Mexico, and how the specialized communities of indigenous metallurgists and their traditional technology had an important role in the development of the colonial economy as key suppliers of strategic materials and objects. Furthermore, this paper aims to approach the changes suffered by these communities with the shift of the productive paradigm and the encounter with the European technology.

Cite this Record

Indigenous Copper Production in Colonial Mexico (1533-1630). Johan Garcia. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430111)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14769