Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

The Economy of Supply: Modeling Obsidian Procurement and Craft Provisioning at a Central Mexican Urban Center

  • Kenneth G. Hirth (a1)

Abstract

This article examines the way that obsidian craftsmen at Xochicalco, Mexico obtained the raw material needed to produce prismatic blades at the site between A.D. 650 and 900. The paper models seven different forms of direct, indirect, and institutional procurement that craftsmen could have used to obtain this obsidian. These seven procurement models are evaluated using two types of information collected from four domestic workshops: (1) source analysis (NAA, PIXE) to identify where obsidian came from, and (2) technological analysis to determine the form in which obsidian entered workshops. The results indicate that Xochicalco craftsmen most likely were provisioned through itinerant craftsmen who periodically visited Xochicalco. Pressure cores nearing exhaustion were sold to Xochicalco craftsmen who rejuvenated them to produce additional prismatic blades using a hand-held blade removal technology. The results indicate that: (1) different forms of craft provisioning can be differentiated when multiple forms of data are incorporated into the distributional approach, (2) independent domestic craft specialists were the foundation for Mesoamerican economy and were individually responsible for the procurement of raw materials and the distribution of finished products, and (3) neither state institutions, nor the elite who directed them, were involved in the procurement of obsidian for craft specialists who produced valued tools.

Resumen

Este artículo examina la manera en cómo los artesanos de obsidiana en Xochicalco, México obtuvieron la materia prima necesaria para producir navajas prismáticas en el sitio entre el 650-900 A.D. El estudio modela siete diferentes estrategias de abastecimiento que los artesanos pudieron haber empleado, estas incluyen: 1) dos formas de abastecimiento directo que habrían requerido viajes de artesanos directamente a las canteras para obtener la obsidiana, 2) tres formas de abastecimiento indirecto que involucran a comerciantes especializados, vendedores ambulantes, y artesanos itinerantes que habrían vendido la obsidiana a artesanos de Xochicalco bajo circunstancias diferentes, y 3) dos formas de abastecimiento institucional donde los artesanos fueron proveídos de obsidiana por el estado o instituciones corporativas como gremios de artesanos. Estos siete modelos de abastecimiento son evaluados empleando dos tipos de información. Primero, se utilizó el análisis de la fuente (NAA, PIXE) para identificar la procedencia de la obsidiana y determinar si los talleres aprovecharon obsidiana de una misma fuente o de diferentes. Segundo, se recurrió al análisis tecnológico del debitage derivado de la producción en talleres para determinar la forma en cómo la obsidiana arribó a estos contextos. Los materiales de cuatro talleres de obsidiana son comparados. Los resultados indican que los artesanos de Xochicalco fueron abastecidos de obsidiana mediante el contacto con artesanos viajeros que visitaron Xochicalco como parte de su itinerario normal de viaje. Los artesanos itinerarios parecen haber vendido núcleos de presión casi agotados a los artesanos de Xochicalco quienes, rejuveneciéndolos a núcleos pequeños, lograron extraer de ellos navajillas prismáticas adicionales utilizando una tecnología manual de remoción de navajas. Los resultados ilustran tres aspectos importantes. Primero, muestran que las diferentes formas de abastecimiento artesanal puede ser diferenciadas en el récord arqueológico cuando múltiples formas de datos son incorporados dentro del análisis. Segundo, muestran que los especialistas domésticos independientes fueron la base de la economía Mesoamericana e individualmente responsables de la obtención de la materia prima y de la distribución de productos terminados. Tercero y final, ni las instituciones estatales o las elites encargadas de éstas, se encargaron de obtener la obsidiana para los artisanos que produjeron las herramientas de valor.

Copyright

References

Hide All
Anderson, Arthur, Berdan, Frances, and Lockhart, Jane 1976 Beyond the Codices. The Nahua View of Colonial Mexico. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Binford, Lewis 1979 Organization and Formation Processes: Looking at curated technologies. Journal of Anthropological Research 35:255273.
Boksenbaum, Martin, Tolstoy, Paul, Harbottle, Garman, Kimberlin, Jerome, and Nivens, Mary 1987 Obsidian Industries and Cultural Evolution in the Basin of Mexico before 500 B.C. Journal of Field Archaeology 14:6575.
Braswell, Geoffrey 2003 Obsidian Exchange Spheres. In The Postclassic Mesoamerican world, edited by M. Smith and F. Berdan, pp. 131158. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Brumfiel, Elizabeth, and Earle, Timothy 1987 Specialization, Exchange, and Complex Societies: An Introduction. In Specialization, Exchange, and Complex Societies, edited by E. Brumfiel and T. Earle, pp 19. Cambridge, University Press, Cambridge.
Carballo, David 2005 State Political Authority and Obsidian Craft Production at the Moon Pyramid, Teotihuacan Mexico. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles.
Carrier, James 1992 Emerging Alienation in Production: A Maussian history. Man 27:539558.
Cassiano, Giofranco, and Alvarez, Ana Maria 2005 La tecnología de navajillas prismáticas en la perspectiva histórica. Paper presented at the Symposium in memory of Guadalupe Mastache, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City.
Clark, John 1982 Manufacture of Mesoamerican Prismatic Blades: An Alternative Technique. American Antiquity 47:355376.
Clark, John 1986 From Mountains to Molehills: A Critical Review of Teotihuacan's Obsidian Industry. In Research in Economic Anthropology, Supplement No. 2. Economic Aspects of Prehispanic Highland Mexico, edited by B. Isaac, pp. 2374, JAI Press, Greenwich, Connecticut.
Clark, John 1987 Politics, Prismatic Blades, and Mesoamerican Civilization. In The Organization of Core Technology, edited by J. Johnson and C. Morrow, pp. 259285. Westview Press, Boulder.
Clark, John 1988 The Lithic Artifacts of La Libertad, Chiapas, Mexico. An Economic Perspective. Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation, No. 52. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
Clark, John 1989 Obsidian: The Primary Mesoamerican Sources. In La Obsidiana en Mesoamérica, edited by M. Gaxiola G. and J. E. Clark, pp. 299319. INAH, Colección Científica 176. Mexico.
Clark, John 1991a Flintknapping and Debitage Disposal among the Lacandon Maya of Chiapas, Mexico. In Ethnoarchaeology of refuse disposal, edited by E. Staski and L. Sutro, pp. 6378. Anthropological Research Papers No. 42. Arizona State University, Tempe.
Clark, John 1991b Modern Lacandon Lithic Technology and Blade Workshops. In Maya Stone Tools: Selected Papers from the Second Maya Lithic Conference, edited by T. Hester and H. Shafer, pp. 251265. Prehistory Press, Madison, Wisconsin.
Clark, John, and Bryant, Douglas 1997 A Technological Typology of Prismatic Blades and Debitage from Ojo de Agua, Chiapas, Mexico. Ancient Mesoamerica 8:111136.
Cobean, Robert, Coe, Michael, Perry, Edward, Turekian, Karl, and Kharkar, Dinkar 1971 Obsidian Trade at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, Mexico. Science 174:666671.
Cobean, Robert, Vogt, James, Glascock, Michael, and Stacker, Terrance 1991 High-Precision Trace-Element Characterization of Major Mesoamerican Obsidian Sources and Further Analysis of Artifacts from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 2:6991.
Costin, Cathy 1991 Craft Specialization: Issues in Defining, Documenting, and Explaining the Organization of Production. In Archaeological method and theory, edited by M. Schiffer, pp 156. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Crabtree, Donald 1968 Mesoamerican Polyhedral Cores and Prismatic Blades. American Antiquity 33:446478.
Ferguson, Steve 2000 PIXE Analysis of Xochicalco Obsidians. In Ancient urbanism at Xochicalco. The Evolution and Organization of a Prehispanic Society. Archaeological Research at Xochicalco Volume 1, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 284290. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Flenniken, J. Jeffrey, and Hirth, Kenneth 2003 Handheld Prismatic Blade Manufacture in Mesoamerica. In Mesoamerican Lithic Technology: Experimentation and Interpretation, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 98107. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Garcia Chávez, Raul, Glascock, Michael, Michael Elam, J., and Iceland, Harry 1990 The INAH Salvage Archaeology Excavations at Azcapotzalco, Mexico: An Analysis of the Lithic Assemblage. Ancient Mesoamerica 1:225232.
García Cook, Angel 2003 Cantona: The City. In El urbanismo en Mesoamérica. Urbanism in Mesoamerica, edited by W. Sanders, A. Mastache, and R. Cobean, pp. 311343. INAH and Penn State University, Mexico City and University Park.
Gaxiola González, Margarita, and Guevara, Jorge 1989 Un conjunto habitacional en Huapalcalco, Hgo., especializado en la talla de obsidiana. In La obsidiana en Mesoamérica, edited by M. Gaxiola G. and J. E. Clark, pp. 227242. INAH, Colección Científica 176. Mexico City.
González Crespo, Norberto, Tarazona, Silvia Garza, Nova, Hortensia de Vega, Guala, Pablo Mayer, and Aguilar, Giselle Canto 1995 Archaeological Investigations at Xochicalco, Morelos: 1984 and 1986. Ancient Mesoamerica 6:223236.
Healan, Dan 1986 Technological and Nontechnological Aspects of an Obsidian Workshop Excavated at Tula, Hidalgo. In Research in economic anthropology, supplement No. 2. Economic aspects of prehispanic highland Mexico, edited by B. Isaac, pp. 133152. JAI Press, Greenich, Connecticut.
Healan, Dan 1993 Local Versus Non-Local Obsidian Exchange at Tula and Its Implications for Post-Formative Mesoamerica. World Archaeology 24: 449466.
Healan, Dan 1997 Prehispanic Quarrying in the Ucareo-Zinapecuaro Obsidian Source Area. Ancient Mesoamerica 8:77100.
Healan, Dan 2003 From Quarry Pit to the Trash Pit: Comparative Core-Blade Technology at Tula, Hidalgo and the Ucareo Obsidian Source Region. In Mesoamerican Lithic Technology: Experimentation and Interpretation, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 153169. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Healan, Dan, Kerley, Janet, and Bey, George 1983 Excavations and Preliminary Analysis of an Obsidian Workshop in Tula, Hidalgo, Mexico. Journal of Field Archaeology 10:127147.
Karl, Heider 1969 Visiting Trade Institutions. American Anthropologist 71:462471.
Hester, Thomas 1972 Notes on Large Blade Cores and Core-Blade Technology in Mesoamerica. Contributions to the University of California Archaeological Research Facility 14:95105.
Hirth, Kenneth 1995 The Investigation of Obsidian Craft Production at Xochicalco, Morelos. Ancient Mesoamerica 6:251258.
Hirth, Kenneth 1998 The Distributional Approach: A New Way to Identify Market-Place Exchange in the Archaeological Record. Current Anthropology 39:451476.
Hirth, Kenneth 2000 Ancient Urbanism at Xochicalco. The Evolution and Organization of a Prehispanic Society. Archaeological Research at Xochicalco Volume I. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Hirth, Kenneth 2006a Flaked Stone Craft Production in Domestic Contexts at Xochicalco. In Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 137178, The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Hirth, Kenneth 2006b Market Forces or State Control: The Organization of Obsidian Production in a Civic-Ceremonial Context. In Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 179201. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Hirth, Kenneth 2006c Modeling a Prehistoric Economy: Mesoamerican Obsidian Systems and Craft Production at Xochicalco. In Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 287300. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Hirth, Kenneth 2008 Craft production in a Mesoamerican marketplace. Ancient Mesoamerica, in press.
Hirth, Kenneth (editor) 2006 Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Hirth, Kenneth, and Andrews, Bradford 2002 Pathways to Prismatic Blades: Sources of Variation in Mesoamerican Lithic Technology. In Pathways to Prismatic Blades, edited by K. Hirth and B. Andrews, pp. 114. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Monograph 45, University of California, Los Angeles.
Hirth, Kenneth, and Andrews, Bradford 2006 Estimating Production Output in Domestic Craft Workshops. In Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico, edited by K. Hirth, pp, 202217. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Hirth, Kenneth, Andrews, Bradford, and Jeffrey Flenniken 2006 A Technological Analysis of Xochicalco Obsidian Blade Production. In Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 6295. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Hirth, Kenneth, Bondar, Gregory, Glascock, Michael, Vonarx, A. J., Daubenspeck, Thierry 2006 Supply Side Economics: An Analysis of Obsidian Procurement and the Organization of Workshop Provisioning. In Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 115136, The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Hirth, Kenneth, and Castanzo, Ronald 2006 Production for Use or Exchange: Obsidian Consumption at the Workshop, Household, and Regional Levels. In Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico, edited by K. Hirth, pp, 218240. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Hirth, Kenneth, and Guillen, Ann Cyphers 1988 Tiempo y asentamiento en Xochicalco. UNAM, Mexico City.
Hirth, Kenneth, and Webb, Ronald 2006 Households and Plazas: The Contexts of Obsidian Craft Production at Xochicalco. In Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 1862, The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Hughes, Ian 1977 New Guinea Stone Axe Trade. Terra Australis 3. Department of Prehistory, Australian National University, Canberra.
Hurtado de Mendoza, Luis 1977 Obsidian Studies and the Archaeology of the Valley of Guatemala. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Penn State University, University Park.
Ingbar, Eric 1994 Lithic Material Selection and Technological Organization. In The organization of North American Prehistoric Chipped Stone Tool Technologies, edited by P. Carr, pp. 4556. International Monographs in Prehistory. Archaeological Series 7, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Inomata, Takeshi 1997 The Last Day of a Fortified Classic Maya Center: Archaeological Investigations at Aguateca, Guatemala. Ancient Mesoamerica 8:337351.
Inomata, Takeshi 2003 War, Destruction, and Abandonment. The Fall of the Classic Maya Center of Aguateca, Guatemala. In The Archaeology of Settlement Abandonment in Middle America, edited by T. Inomata and R. Webb, pp. 4360. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Katz, Friedrich 1966 Situación social y económica de los Aztecas durante los sighs XV y XVI. Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, UNAM, Mexico City.
Mackenzie, D. 1904 The Successive Settlements of Phylakopi in their Aegeo-Cretan Relations. In Excavations at Phylakopi in Melos, pp. 238272. The Society for the Promotion of Hellenistic Studies Supplementary Paper 4, Macmillan, London.
McBryde, I., and Harrison, G. 1981 Valued Good or Valuable Stone? Considerations of the Distribution of Greenstone Artefacts in South-eastern Australia. In Archaeological Studies of Pacific Stone Resources, edited by F. Leach and J. Davidson, pp. 183208. British Archaeological Reports International Series S104, British Archaeological Reports, Oxford.
Michels, Joseph 1979 The Kaminaljuyu Chiefdom. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park.
Michels, Joseph 1982 Bulk Element Composition verses Trace Element Composition in the Reconstruction of an Obsidian Source System. Journal of Archaeological Science 9:113123.
Millon, Rene 1973 Urbanization at Teotihuacan, Mexico. The Teotihuacan Map, Volume 1, Part 1. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Morrow, Carol, and Jefferies, Richard 1989 Trade or Embedded Procurement?: A Test Case from Southern Illinois. In Time, Energy and Stone Tools, edited by R. Torrence, pp. 2733. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Nelson, Zachary 2000 Analysis of an Obsidian Workshop at Hacienda Metepec, Teotihuacan, Mexico, A.D. 700–800. Master Thesis, Brigham Young University.
Noguera, Eduardo 1945 Exploraciones en Xochicalco. Cuadernos Americanos 4:11957.
Norris, Susan 2002 Political Economy of the Aztec Empire: A Regional Analysis of Obsidian Craft Production in the Provinces of Huaxtepec and Cuaunahuac, Morelos, Mexico . Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge.
Parry, William 2002 Aztec Blade Production Strategies in the Eastern Basin of Mexico. In Pathways to prismatic blades, edited by K. Hirth and B. Andrews, pp. 3645. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles.
Pastrana Cruz, Alejandro 1991 Itzepec, Itzteyoca, e Itztla: Distribución mexicana de obsidiana. Arqueología 6:85100.
Pastrana Cruz, Alejandro 2004 La distribución de la obsidiana de la triple alianza en la Cuenca de Mexico. Ph.D. dissertation ENAH, Mexico City.
Pires-Ferreira, Jane 1975 Formative Mesoamerican exchange networks with special reference to the Valley of Oaxaca. Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, No. 7. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Pires-Ferreira, Jane 1976 Obsidian Exchange in Formative Mesoamerica. In The early Mesoamerican village, edited by K. Flannery pp. 292306. Academic Press, New York.
Pires-Ferreira, Jane, and Flannery, Kent 1976 Ethnographic Models for Formative Exchange. In The early Mesoamerican village, ed. K. Flannery, pp. 286292. Academic Press, New York.
Polanyi, Karl 1957 The Economy as Instituted Process. In Trade and Market in the Early Empires, edited by K. Polanyi, C. Arensberg, and H. Pearson, pp. 243270. The Free Press, Glencoe, Illinois.
Saenz, Cesar 1962 Xochicalco, Temporada 1960. Coleccion Informes, No. 11, INAH, Mexico City.
Saenz, Cesar 1964 Ultimas descubrimientos en Xochicalco. Coleccion Informes, No. 12, INAH, Mexico City.
Sahagún, Fray Bernardino de 1961 Florentine Codex. General history of the things of New Spain, book 10, the people. trans. D. Dibble and A. Anderson, trans. Monographs of the School of American Research and the University of Utah, No. 14, Part 11, Santa Fe.
Sanders, William, and Santley, Robert 1983 A Tale of Three Cities: Energetics and Urbanization in Pre-Hispanic Central Mexico. In Prehistoric Settlement Patterns, edited by E. Vogt and R. Leventhal, pp. 243291. University of New Mexico Press and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Albuquerque and Cambridge.
Santley, Robert 1983 Obsidian Trade and Teotihuacan Influence in Mesoamerica. In Highland-lowland interaction in Mesoamerica, edited by A. Miller, pp. 69124. DORLC, Washington.
Santley, Robert 1984 Obsidian Exchange, Economic Stratification, and the Evolution of Complex Society in the Basin of Mexico. In Trade and Exchange in Early Mesoamerica, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 4386. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Santley, Robert, and Barrett, Thomas 2002 Lithic Technology, Assemblage Variation, and the Organization of Production and Use of Obsidian on the South Gulf Coast of Veracruz, Mexico. In Pathways to Prismatic Blades, edited by K. Hirth and B. Andrews, pp. 91103. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Monograph 45, University of California, Los Angeles.
Santley, Robert, Kerley, Janet, and Barrett, Thomas 1995 Teotihuacan Period Lithic Assemblages from the Teotihuacan Valley, Mexico. In The Teotihuacan Valley Project Final Report—Volume 3, The Teotihuacan Period Occupation of the valley, part 2. Artifact analyses, edited by W. Sanders, pp 466497. Occasional Papers in Anthropology No. 20. Matson Museum of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.
Santley, Robert, Kerley, Janet, and Kneebone, Ronald 1986 Obsidian Working, Long-Distance Exchange, and the Politico-Economic Organization of Early States in Central Mexico. In Research in economic Anthropology, supplement 2. Economic Aspects of Prehispanic Highland Mexico, edited by B. Isaac, pp. 101132. JAI Press, Greenwich, Connecticut.
Santley, Robert, and Kneebone, Ronald 1993 Craft Specialization, Refuse Disposal, and the Creation of Spatial Archaeological Records in Prehispanic Mesoamerica. In Prehispanic Domestic Units in Western Mesoamerica: Studies of the Household, Compound, and Residence, edited by R. Santley and K. Hirth, pp. 3763. CRC Press, Boca Raton.
Schiffer, Michael 1985 Is There a “Pompeii Premise” in Archaeology? Journal of Anthropological Research 41:1841.
Sheets, Payson 1975 Behavioral Analysis and the Structure of a Prehistoric Industry. Current Anthropology 16:369391.
Spence, Michael 1967 The Obsidian Industry of Teotihuacan. American Antiquity 32:507514.
Spence, Michael 1984 Craft Production and Polity in Early Teotihuacan. In Trade and Exchange in Early Mesoamerica, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 87114. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Spence, Michael 1987 The Scale and Structure of Obsidian Production in Teotihuacan. In Teotihuacan. Nuevos datos, nuevas sintesis, nuevos problemas, edited by E. McClung de Tapia and E. Rattray, pp. 42950. UNAM, Mexico City.
Spence, Michael, Kimberlin, Jerome, and Harbottle, Garman 1984 State-Controlled Procurement and the Obsidian Workshops of Teotihuacan, Mexico. In Prehistoric Quarries and Lithic Production, edited by J. Ericson and B. Purdy, pp. 97105. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Stark, Barbara, Heller, Lynette, Glascock, Michael, Michael Elam, J., and Neff, Hector 1992 Obsidian-Artifact Source Analysis from the Mixte-quilla Region, South-Central Veracruz, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 3:221239.
Strathern, Marilyn 1965 Axe Types and Quarries: A Note on the Classification of Stone Axe Blades from the Hagen Area, New Guinea. Journal of the Polynesian Society 74:182191.
Thomson, D. F. 1949 Economic Structure and the Ceremonial Exchange Cycle in Arnhem Land. Macmillan, Melbourne.
Titmus, Gene, and Clark, John 2003 Mexico Blade Making with Wooden Tools: Recent Experimental Insights. In Mesoamerican Lithic Technology: Experimentation and Interpretation, edited by K. Hirth, pp. 7297. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Torrence, Robin 1986 Production and Exchange of Stone Tools. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Vial, L. G. 1940 Stone Axes of Mounta Hagen, New Guinea. Oceania 11:158163.
Winter, Marcus, and Pires-Ferreira, Jane 1976 Distribution of Obsidian among Households in Two Oaxacan Villages. In The Early Mesoamerican Village, edited by K. Flannery, pp. 306311. Academic Press, New York.

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed