Exploring the Viability of Geochemically Sourcing Elaborate Metates Through XRF Spectroscopy

Author(s): Matthew Abtosway

Year: 2017


The Central American elaborate metate is a perplexing group of ground stone artifacts. Their function continues to be the subject of debate, with interpretations ranging from hallucinogenic and food preparation to ritual seating. It is difficult to deny, however, the substantial labor investment represented and likely symbolic significance. X-Ray fluorescence spectroscopy has proven an invaluable tool in the non-destructive geochemical sourcing of archaeological obsidian, providing insights into exchange and the relationships between sometimes distant cultures. Less homogeneous materials, such as basalt and andesite, offer a distinct set of challenges compounded by the size of the artifacts themselves, however the possibility of illuminating the origins and mobility of ground stone merits study. The Archaeology Museum at the University of Calgary offered a unique opportunity to test and perfect a methodology to overcome these challenges prior to application in a less accommodating field environment. A selection of complete flying panel, effigy and elaborate basin metates with little to no provenience were selected for spectroscopy with a portable XRF unit. Cluster analysis was conducted with the produced spectra, as well as those recorded in the Rutgers University Central American Geochemical Database.

Cite this Record

Exploring the Viability of Geochemically Sourcing Elaborate Metates Through XRF Spectroscopy. Matthew Abtosway. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431332)


Geographic Keywords
Central America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.702; min lat: 6.665 ; max long: -76.685; max lat: 18.813 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17464