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A Problem of Maya Metallurgy in the Medium Grijalva, Central Guatemala, and the Yucatan Peninsula: Copper-Lead Alloy

  • Luis M. Torres (a1), Francisca V. Franco (a2) and Carlos C. Navarrete (a1)


The study of 4 metallic artifacts from the Medium Grijalva, two bells, a bipointed awl, and a needle, and one bell from Huehuetenango, Guatemala, were studied using of elemental analysis by flame atomic absorption spectroscopy (FAAS), metallographic examination and typological classification. Several problems arose, including the need to have a clearer definition of bell types, better knowledge of the technology of production of needles and awls, and problems with the Cu-Pb alloys, especially if a how high a lead content forms a Cu-Pb alloy solution.

Early analyses made of bells and copper artifacts from the Maya area, Western Mexico and Southwest USA shows variable but important amounts of lead. The Cu-Pb phase diagram shows a monotectic reaction where the metals have poorcapability of alloying or mixing, forming a eutectic at very low lead concentrations. Few metalographic studies of these alloys are reported in papers about historic metals. However, some ternary Cu-Pb alloys are found in recent literature. Does the low arsenic content as in the analysis of the Cu-PbMayan bells influence the properties of the alloys? The importance of the distribution of types of bells made of Cu-Pb could clarify possible cultural connections and trade among the Maya area, western Mexico and southwest United States. The possible introduction of metallurgy from and trade with South America makes this search of even more importance.



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