Primary Copper Smelting in Mesoamerica: A Case Study from Central Michoacán


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 and spillages, etc.) around Itziparátzico indicate that only primary copper production had been carried out at the site. The analyses of slag samples corroborate that the production activities carried out at Itziparátzico involved primary smelting, and revealed a sophisticated smelting method, possibly involving the use of furnaces properly designed and built to provide reducing conditions during the refinement of copper ores. Recent archaeomagnetic dating of slags recovered from the area substantiate the Prehispanic origin of this technology.

Cite this Record

Primary Copper Smelting in Mesoamerica: A Case Study from Central Michoacán. Blanca Maldonado, José Luis Punzo, Thilo Rehren, Juan Julio Morales, Avto Gogichaishvili. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430186)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14576