Mining and Quarrying in the Ancient Andes

Part of the series Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology pp 23-44


Archaeological Approaches to Obsidian Quarries: Investigations at the Quispisisa Source

  • Nicholas TripcevichAffiliated withUniversity of California-Berkeley Email author 
  • , Daniel A. ContrerasAffiliated withInstitute for Ecosystem Research, Kiel University

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Prehistoric stone tool quarries can be a source information about past resource exploitation and management, tool production, and labor organization. Research is complicated, however, by the sheer abundance of discarded material and by a dearth of temporally diagnostic evidence. Here we discuss research at stone sources in light of ongoing work at the source of Quispisisa Type obsidian in highland Peru, where exploitation resulted in the excavation of numerous quarry pits and the accumulation of tailings piles and knapping debris. Using this lithic resource as an example, we discuss approaches to stone tool sources, including system-oriented and regional-scale investigations as well as considerations of the social and ritual significance of geological source areas.