Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 206–247

Procurement and Distribution of Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican Obsidian 900 BC–AD 1520: a Social Network Analysis


DOI: 10.1007/s10816-014-9211-1

Cite this article as:
Golitko, M. & Feinman, G.M. J Archaeol Method Theory (2015) 22: 206. doi:10.1007/s10816-014-9211-1


Ancient economies have been characterized by many researchers as localized, highly controlled by political actors, and static over long periods of time. In Mesoamerica, recent research has cast doubt on these views, with the recognition of early market place exchange, production by households for exchange, and the wide-ranging integration of communities into regional trade networks. Here, we expand on an earlier network analysis of obsidian assemblages from the Maya region during the Classic and Postclassic periods to incorporate data for all of Mesoamerica between 900 BC and AD 1520. Using both visual graphical representations and formal network metrics, we find that the Mesoamerican economy was dynamic and generally not highly centralized over time. The topology of this interactive network underwent significant changes over time. In particular, trends towards decreasing network hierarchy and size culminated in the highly commercialized “international” economy of Late Postclassic period as noted in previous studies. Based on this analysis, we make the case that the ancient Mesoamerican economy was neither predominantly top-down nor static, and so does not conform with oft-held presumptions regarding preindustrial economies.


Mesoamerica Obsidian Network analysis Exchange Ancient economy 

Supplementary material

10816_2014_9211_MOESM1_ESM.xls (188 kb)
ESM 1(XLS 188 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Field Museum of Natural HistoryChicagoUSA

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