Mesoamerican Metallurgy: the Perspective from the West

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Mesoamerica Copper Sounds Color Power Tin Arsenic Silver Gold 

References

  1. Acosta Nieva, R. (1994). Los entierros del fraccionamiento San Juan, Atoyac, Jalisco. In E. Williams (Ed.), Contribuciones a la Arqueología y Etnohistoria del Occidente de México (pp. 93–114). Michoacán: El Colegio de Michoacán, ZamoraGoogle Scholar
  2. Acosta Nieva, R., Ramírez, S., & Emphoux, y J.-P. (1996). El sur de la Cuenca de Sayula, Jalisco: el sitio Caseta, un ejemplo. In E. Williams, P. C. Weigand (Eds.), Las Cuencas del Occidente de México (Época Prehispánica) pp. 367–394. ORSTOM, CEMCA. Michoacán: El Colegio de Michoacán, ZamoraGoogle Scholar
  3. Acuña, R. (1987). Relaciones geográficas del siglo XVI: Michoacán. México: UNAMGoogle Scholar
  4. Acuña, R. (1988). Nueva Galicia, relaciones geográficas siglo XVI. México: UNAMGoogle Scholar
  5. Arsandaux, H., & Rivet, P. (1921). Contribution à I’étude de la métallurgie mexicaine. Journal de la Société des Americanistes de Paris, 13, 261–280.Google Scholar
  6. Arsandaux, H., & Rivet, P. (1923). Nouvelle note sur la métallurgie mexicaine. L’Antropologie, 33, 63–85.Google Scholar
  7. Barrett, E. M. (1981). The King’s Copper Mine: Inguarán in New Spain. The Americas, 38(1), 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bierhorst, J. (1985). Cantares Mexicanos: Songs of the Aztecs. Standford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Brand, D. (1951). Quiroga: A Mexican Municipio. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  10. Broda, J. (1971). Las fiestas aztecas de los dioses de la lluvia. Revista Española de Antropología Americana, 5, 245–327.Google Scholar
  11. Brush, C. F. (1962). Precolumbian alloy objects from Guerrero, Mexico. Science, 138, 1336–1337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burkhart, L. (1992). Flowery heaven: The aesthetic of paradise in Nahuatl Devotional Literature. Res, 21, 89–109.Google Scholar
  13. Cabrera, C. R. (1976). Arqueología en el bajo Río Balsas, Guerrero y Michoacán: presa La Villita. México: Tesis de maestría, Escuela Nacional de Antropología e HistoriaGoogle Scholar
  14. Cabrera Castro, R. (1988). Nuevos resultados de Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán, en su décima temporada de excavaciones. In Primera reunión sobre las sociedades prehispánicas en el centro-occidente de México (pp. 193–218). México: INAHGoogle Scholar
  15. Carriveau, G. (1978). Application of thermoluminescence dating techniques to prehistoric metallurgy. In W. J. Young (Ed.), Application of science to the examination of works of art (pp. 59–67). Boston: Museum of Fine Arts.Google Scholar
  16. Dewan, L., & Hosler, D. (2008). Ancient Maritime trade on Balsa Rafts: An engineering analysis. Journal of Anthropological Research, 64, 19–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Edwards, C. (1965). Aboriginal watercraft on the Pacific Coast of South America. FInal report: 834 National Academy of Sciences. DTIC online.Google Scholar
  18. García, J. (2007). Arqueometalurgia del Occidente de México: la Cuenca de Sayula, Jalisco como punto de conjunción de tradiciones metalúrgicas precolombinas. Tesis de Licenciatura en Arqueología. Escuela de Literatura, Lenguas y Antropología. México: UAGGoogle Scholar
  19. García, J. (2008). Nuevos conocimientos sobre la metalurgia antigua del Occidente de México: filiación cultural y cronología en la Cuenca de Sayula, Jalisco. Manuscript on file. Cambridge: Center for Materials Research on Archaeology and Ethnology, MIT.Google Scholar
  20. Grinberg, D. M. (1989). Tecnologías metalúrgicas tarascas. Ciencia y Desarrollo, 15(89), 37–52.Google Scholar
  21. Hosler, D. (1986). The origins, technology and social construction of ancient west Mexican metallurgy. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara. Ann Arbor: University MicrofilmsGoogle Scholar
  22. Hosler, D. (1988a). Ancient West mexican metallurgy: A technological chronology. Journal of Field Archaeology, 15, 191–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hosler, D. (1988b). Ancient west Mexican metallurgy: South and central american origins and west mexican transformations. American Anthropologist, 90, 832–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hosler, D. (1994). The sounds and colors of power: The sacred metallurgical technology of ancient west Mexico. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hosler, D. (1995). Sound, color and meaning in the metallurgy of ancient west Mexico. World Archaeology, 27(1), 100–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hosler, D. (1996). Bells, shells, bees and boats: Metallurgy in ancient Mesoamerica. Science Spectra, 4, 38–45.Google Scholar
  27. Hosler, D. (2000). Informe final: Reconocimiento de la superficie para localizar sitios de producción de cobre en la región sureste del cinturón de cobre mexicano Report, submitted and accepted by ei Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.Google Scholar
  28. Hosler, D. (2002). Nuevos hallazgos sobre la metalurgia antigua de Guerrero. In El pasado arqueológico de Guerrero (pp. 225–241). Christine Niederberger and Rosa Reyna Robles (coord). INAH: CEMCA, Gobierno del Estado de GuerreroGoogle Scholar
  29. Hosler, D. (2003). Metal production. In M. Smith, F. Berdan (Eds.), The postclassic mesoamerican world (pp. 159–171). The University of Utah pressGoogle Scholar
  30. Hosler, D., & Cabrera, R. (2011). A Mazapa Phase Copper Figurine from Atetelco Teotihuacán: Data and Speculations. Ancient Mesoamirica 21(2), 249–260.Google Scholar
  31. Hosler, D., & MacFarlane, A. (1996). Copper sources, metal production and metals trade in late postclassic mesoamerica. Science, 1819–1824Google Scholar
  32. Hosler, D., Lechtman, H., & Holm, O. (1990). Axe Monies and their relatives. Washington D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks.Google Scholar
  33. Kelley, C. (2000). The Aztatlán Mercantile System: Mobile traders and the northwestward expansion of Mesoamerican Civilization. In M. Foster, S. Gorestein (Eds.), Greater Mesoamerica: The Archaeology of West and Northwest Mexico (pp. 137–154). Salt Lake City: Utah State University.Google Scholar
  34. Kelly, I. (1947). Excavations at Apatzingan, Michoacan. New York: Viking Fund.Google Scholar
  35. Kelly, I. (1949). The Archaeology of the Autlan-Tuxcacuesco Area of Jalisco (Vol. 2). Berkely: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  36. Kelly, I. (1985). Some gold and silver artifacts from Colima. In M. Foster, & P. Weigand (Eds.), The archaeology of west and northwest Mesoamerica (pp. 153–179). Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  37. Liot, C., Susana, R., Javier, R., & Otto, S. (2006). Transformaciones socioculturales y tecnológicas en el sitio de La Peña, Cuenca de Sayula, Jalisco. INAH: Universidad de GuadalajaraGoogle Scholar
  38. Lopez, R., Hosler, D., Pantoja, J., Martiny, B., Morales, J. J., Solis, G., & Moran-Zenteno, D. (1999). Inland Pb Isotope Groups of Paleocene Cu Ores from the Rio Balsas Basin, Guerrero State, Mexico, EOS Trans, AGU Fall Meeting, #5459Google Scholar
  39. Macías Goytia, A. (1990). Huandacareo: lugar de juicios, tribunal. INAH, MéxicoGoogle Scholar
  40. Maldonado, B. (2006). Preindustrial Copper Production at the Archaeological Zone of Itziparátzico, a Tarascan Location in Michoacán, México. Ph.D. thesis, Graduate School, College of the Liberal Arts, Pennsilvania State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  41. Maldonado, B., Rehren, Th., & Howell, P. (2005). Archaeological Copper Smelting at Itziparátzico, Michoacan, Mexico. In P. B. Vandiver, J. L. Mass, & A. Murray (Eds.), Materials issues in art and archaeology VII (Vol. 852, pp. 231–240). Warrendale: MRS ProceedingsGoogle Scholar
  42. Marcos, J. (1978). Cruising to Acapulco and back with the Thorny Oyster Set: A model for a lineal exchange system. Journal of the Steward Anthropological Society, 9, 99–132.Google Scholar
  43. Meanwell, J. (2001). Technical choice in pottery production: A west Mexican example. Unpublished S.B. thesis, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, MITGoogle Scholar
  44. Meanwell, J. (2008). Ancient engineering: Selective ceramic processing in the middle balsas region of Guerrero, Mexico. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, MITGoogle Scholar
  45. Meighan, C. W. (1969). Cultural similarities between western Mexico and Andean regions. In C. Kelley & C. Riley (Eds.), Precolumbian contact within nuclear America: Mesoamerican studies 4 (pp. 11–25). Southern Illinois University, Carbondale University MuseumGoogle Scholar
  46. Meighan, C. W., & Foot, L. J. (1968). Excavations at Tizapan el Alto, Jalisco. Los Angeles: Latin American Center, University of California.Google Scholar
  47. Moguel, A., & Pulido, S. (2005). Rasgos culturales de la tierra caliente de Michoacán. Diario de Campo, 33, 70–80.Google Scholar
  48. Mountjoy, J. B. (1969). On the origin of west Mexican metallurgy. In C. Kelley, & C. Riley (Eds.), Precolumbian contact within nuclear America: Mesoamerican studies 4 (pp. 26–42). Carbondale, University Museum: Southern Illinois University.Google Scholar
  49. Mountjoy, J. B. (1990). El desarrollo de la cultura Aztatlán visto desde su frontera suroeste. In Mesoamérica y Norte de México: siglo IX-XII, tomo 2 (pp. 541–564). México: Federica Sodi Miranda (coord)Google Scholar
  50. Nicholson, H. B., Quiñones Keber, y E. (Eds.) (1994). Introduction. In Mixteca-Puebla. Discoveries and research in Mesoamerican art and archaeology. Labyrinthos. California: Culver City.Google Scholar
  51. Pasoy Troncoso, F. (1905–1906). Papeles de Nueva España. Madrid: Sucesores de Rivadeneyra.Google Scholar
  52. Pendergast, D. (1962). Metal artifacts in prehispanic Mesoamerica. American Antiquity, 27, 520–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pollard, H. P. (1987). The political economy of prehispanic tarascan metallurgy. American Antiquity, 52(4), 741–752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pollard, H. P. (1993). Tariacuri’s legacy: The prehispanic Tarascan State. Norman: University of Oklahoma PressGoogle Scholar
  55. Pollard, H. P. (1994). Factores de desarrollo en la formación del estado Tarasco. In B. B. de Lameiras (Ed.), El Michoacán Antiguo (pp. 187–246). Zamora: El Colegio de Michoacán and Gobierno del estado de MichoacánGoogle Scholar
  56. Reitzel, H. L. (2007). Pottery engineering in ancient Guerrero, Mexico: The site of Las Fundiciones. Unpublished S. B. thesis, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, MITGoogle Scholar
  57. Reyna, R. (1997). La cultura arqueológica Mezcala. Tésis de Doctorado en Antropología. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. México: UNAMGoogle Scholar
  58. Root, W. C. (1976). Metallurgical analysis. In C. C. Meighan (Ed.), The archaeology of Amapa, Nayarit (Vol. 2). Monumenta archaeologica (pp. 115–121). Los Angeles: The Institute of Archaeology. The University of CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  59. Rubin de la Borbolla, D. (1944). Orfebrería Tarasca. Cuadernos Americanos, 3(4), 127–138.Google Scholar
  60. Sámano-Xerez (1937). Relación. In R. Porras (Ed.), Cuadernos de Historia del Perú (pp. 63–68). París: Imprimeries les Presses Modernes (cited in Hosler 1994)Google Scholar
  61. Sharp, R. (2003). Analysis of Copper Slags from the archaeological site of El Manchon, Guerrero, Mexico. Unpublished S.B. thesis. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, MITGoogle Scholar
  62. Smith, M., & Heath-Smith, C. M. (1980). Waves of influence in postclassic Mesoamerica? A Critique of the Mixteca-Puebla Concept. Anthropology, 4(2), 15–50.Google Scholar
  63. Stanford, E. T. (1966). A linguistic analysis of music and dance terms for three sixteenth-century dictionaries of mexican indian languages. In Yearbook II of the Inter-American Institute for Musical Research (pp. 101–159). New Orleans: Tulane University PressGoogle Scholar
  64. Tudela, J. (trad.). (1977). Relación de las ceremonias y ritos y población y gobierno de los indios de la provincia de Michoacán (1545). Morelia: Balsal EditoresGoogle Scholar
  65. Valdez, F., Schöndube, O., Emphoux, J. P. (coord.). (2005) Arqueología de la Cuenca de Sayula. México: Universidad de Guadalajara, Institut de Recherche Pour le DéveloppementGoogle Scholar
  66. Warren, B. J. (1968). Minas de cobre de Michoacán, 1533. Anales del Museo Michoacano 6, (2da. Época) 6, 35–52Google Scholar
  67. Weitlaner, R. (1947). Exploración arqueológica en Guerrero. In El Occidente de México mesa redonda, cuarta reunión de la Sociedad Mexicana de Antropología, México, pp. 77–85Google Scholar
  68. Willey, G. R. (1966). An introduction to American archaeology. Vol. I: North and Middle America. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice HallGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations