Mesoamerican Metallurgy: the Perspective from the West


In Mesoamerica metallurgy developed relatively late, after state level societies had merged in several regions. Our data indicate that metallurgy was introduced from the south, along the Pacific coast, from Northern South America and also from Colombia and Lower Center America. The first evidence comes from western Mexico a region rich in ore mineral resources. That evidence dates to about 700C.E. Within a few hundred years, metalworkers in the region were using bronze, (copper-arsenic, and copper-tin) and copper-silver metal sheet. Mesoamerica constitutes an unambiguous case of technology transfer, and the most interesting aspect of this situation is what Mesoamerican peoples did with metal—a totally new material during the 900 year period before the Spanish invasion. They were interested in those properties—sound, color and reflectivity—unique to it. The object they made, display items, sheet metal beastplates, crowns and objects that sounded, bells, made these choices clear. Other technical option were available, especially given their use of and facility with bronze, (copper-tin and copper-arsenic) so that the Mesoamerican case provides a clear example of the ways in which social exigencies can shape and determine technological outcomes.


Mesoamerica Copper Sounds Color Power Tin Arsenic Silver Gold 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Materials Science and EngineeringMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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