Translucent but Opaque: Obsidian in the American Southwest and the Mesoamerican (dis)Connection

Author(s): Sean Dolan

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "2019 Fryxell Award Symposium: Papers in Honor of M. Steven Shackley" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

The movement of people, objects, and ideas between the American Southwest/Northwest Mexico (SW/NW) and Mesoamerica is one of the most enduring and debated research topics in American archaeology. Pueblo and Mesoamerican groups prominently used obsidian for hunting, warfare, and ceremony, but is there Mesoamerican obsidian in the SW/NW and in what contexts? Steve Shackley has geochemically characterized thousands of obsidian artifacts using XRF spectrometry to connect people to places to things, but interestingly, groups in the SW/NW did not use obsidian from Mesoamerica or West Mexico. If leaders in Chaco Canyon, Hohokam, Mimbres, and Casas Grandes needed macaws, cacao, copper, and Mesoamerican-like iconography and architecture, why did they not need obsidian prismatic blades and anthropomorphic eccentrics? To thank and to honor Steve for his extensive and prolific career, I present new data, showing Pachuca obsidian was used in northern New Mexico, but during the sixteenth century by the Spanish. I discuss why Mesoamerican obsidian was not used or needed in the prehispanic SW/NW. I address why the absence is significant for evaluating models of interaction and circulation of goods between two of the most studied regions in obsidian studies.

Cite this Record

Translucent but Opaque: Obsidian in the American Southwest and the Mesoamerican (dis)Connection. Sean Dolan. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450785)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23001