An evaluation of stingless bee wax as a pattern material in Mesoamerican investment casting

Author(s): Michael Tarkanian; Elizabeth Paris

Year: 2017


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 Maya. Ethnohistorical sources attest to the widespread practice of meliponiculture in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica at Spanish contact. Meliponiculture was particularly common in Northern Yucatan where its products, honey and beeswax, were commonly exchanged as commodities, and were staple products used to pay provincial taxes. Archaeological evidence, including metallurgical ceramics and production debris, suggests that lost-wax casting formed an important component of Postclassic period Maya metallurgical technologies at the urban centers of Mayapan and Lamanai. This paper examines the efficacy of stingless bee waxes as a foundry wax, particularly as a component of the copal-wax mixture described in the Florentine Codex. The thermal, mechanical, and rheological properties of these waxes and blends will be evaluated in order to assess their use in a foundry context.

Cite this Record

An evaluation of stingless bee wax as a pattern material in Mesoamerican investment casting. Michael Tarkanian, Elizabeth Paris. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430183)


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): 16959