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Este trabajo busca conocer las estrategias tecnológicas, los rangos de acción y la conectividad en las estrategias humanas de ambientes marginales. Se discute, para el caso del sur de Mendoza, el modelo clásico de trashumancia cazadora recolectora entre tierras bajas y altas. El estudio se centra específicamente en El Payén y en el uso de la obsidiana andina Laguna del Maule. En El Payén, esta obsidiana ocupa el primer lugar entre las variedades conocidas y su uso se vinculó a circuitos de movilidad estacional que involucraban tierras bajas y altas. La obsidiana Laguna del Maule posee dos subtipos geoquímicos, el Subtipo 1 registrado en cordillera, y el Subtipo 2 localizado en depósitos fluviales distales. En este trabajo modelamos las estrategias de interacción de tierras altas con tierras bajas, enfocándonos en modelos propuestos para La Payunia, que ponen énfasis en la tecnología lítica y se articulan con análisis geoquímicos y geoarqueológicos. Los resultados sostienen que las poblaciones de El Payén obtenían este recurso mediante distintas estrategias tecnológicas: un aprovisionamiento serial del Subtipo 2, con circuitos de movilidad centrados en tierras bajas; diferente al Subtipo 1 de aprovisionamiento cíclico, que habría involucrado la interacción entre tierras altas y tierras bajas.
The obsidian mirror associated with the Elizabethan polymath and magus John Dee (1527–1608/1609) has been an object of fascination for centuries. The mirror, however, has a deeper history as an Aztec artefact brought to Europe soon after the Spanish conquest. The authors present the results of new geochemical analysis, and explore its history and changing cultural context to provide insights into its meaning during a period in which entirely new world views were emerging. The biography of the mirror demonstrates how a complex cultural history underpins an iconic object. The study highlights the value of new compositional analyses of museum objects for the reinterpretation of historically significant material culture.
This study examines small-scale household ceramic production at the site of Xaltocan, Mexico, to understand the organization of household ceramic production prior to the development of the Aztec Empire. We examine utilitarian vessels and serving wares from an Early Postclassic (a.d. 900–1200) domestic context using neutron activation analysis (NAA). We also examine archaeological evidence for ceramic manufacture. The NAA data reveal that similar raw materials and paste recipes were used for both utilitarian and decorated wares, suggesting that households produced both plain and decorated pottery. We conclude that ceramic production was an intermittent activity that took place alongside other crafts and agriculture. By looking at ceramics within their contexts of use and production, we consider the practices and choices made by individual social units, which is crucial to interpreting broader Early Postclassic economic systems and the ways in which commoners influenced these systems.
In Mesoamerica, the Early Postclassic (AD 900–1200) is characterized by the long-distance circulation of pottery with a very hard and shiny coating with a metallic aspect, known as Plumbate ware. Plumbate is linked stylistically to the Toltec culture but was produced in workshops in Soconusco (Chiapas). The discovery of a similar collection of sherds during recent work at the site of El Palacio (Zacapu, Michoacán) shows that Plumbate ware also reached this region of Western Mexico. We carried out instrumental neutron activation analyses (INAA) on 11 of the Zacapu fragments and compared the results to the data from ceramic pastes from the region of Soconusco and Pátzcuaro Basin (Michoacán). Ten sherds were produced in Michoacán and are thus a local imitation, whereas the last fragment corresponds to a Tohil-type Plumbate paste and was transported over a long distance. This raises questions of the modalities for the circulation of this pot and the conditions allowing for production of an imitation (transfer of technical know-how?), which we suggest is linked to the Toltec culture in the center of Mexico.
Zhokhov Island in the Siberian High Arctic has yielded evidence for some of the most remote prehistoric human occupation in the world, as well as the oldest-known dog-sled technology. Obsidian artefacts found on Zhokhov have been provenanced using XRF analysis to allow comparison with known sources of obsidian from north-eastern Siberia. The results indicate that the obsidian was sourced from Lake Krasnoe—approximately 1500km distant—and arrived on Zhokhov Island c. 8000 BP. The archaeological data from Zhokhov therefore indicate a super-long-distance Mesolithic exchange network.
Geochemical analysis of the first obsidian artefact discovered in Belarus reveals its source to be the Trans-Caucasus, rather than the expected Carpathian source for prehistoric obsidian in Eastern Europe.
We use ceramic and obsidian data from the ancient Maya port site of Vista Alegre to discuss long-distance exchange during the Terminal Classic (c. AD 850–1100) period. This is a time often associated with increased international trade relations and the growth of Chichen Itza as a dominant regional power in the northern Maya lowlands. Critical to the increased volume of international trade were the merchants who transported goods along the coast of Yucatan in large trading canoes. By combining a macroscopic assessment of the ceramics with visual, XRF, and INAA analyses of the obsidian artifacts, we gain insight into the various socioeconomic forces at work moving goods around the Peninsula. Given the paucity of Terminal Classic settlement in the interior Yalahau region, Vista Alegre appears to be an isolated site during this period, approximately 40 km from the nearest coastal neighbor. This allows us to focus on coastal exchange as the sole means by which goods arrived at the site. Our preliminary data contribute to the growing literature on the role market economies played in the Maya area, and the increased opportunities this afforded coastal peoples as circum-peninsular trade became more common through time.
Campanayuq Rumi is a large civic-ceremonial center located in the south-central highlands of Peru. Founded in the late Initial Period (1100–800 BC), Campanayuq Rumi became an important center within the Chavín Interaction Sphere in the Early Horizon (ca. 800–400 BC). In particular, Campanayuq Rumi is significant because of its geographical proximity to Quispisisa, the most important and widely circulated obsidian source during the Early Horizon. Portable X-ray florescence (pXRF) was used to geochemically source a sample of 370 obsidian artifacts from Campanayuq Rumi. Though obsidian from Quispisisa dominates the assemblage throughout the site's history, diachronic analysis indicates that the diversity of obsidian sources increases markedly in the Campanayuq II Phase (700–450 BC). The pXRF data lead us to conclude that Campanayuq Rumi was the locus of obsidian distribution to other locations in highland and coastal Peru within the Chavín Interaction Sphere, and functioned as a regional center of worship and interaction.
The Abbott Farm National Historic Landmark is one of the more significant Woodland-period sites in the Northeast. Numerous Hopewellian cultural traits (copper artifacts, cremated burials, exotic cherts, and mica) have been identified at the site. Numerous potential geological sources for the mica artifacts exist in the Mid-Atlantic region. We explore two analytical methods to evaluate the most likely geological sources of the mica artifacts. Source and artifact specimens were analyzed using pXRF as well as neutron activation. Our pXRF data are suggestive, but show high analytical uncertainty. We make several recommendations relevant to future attempts that would use this kind of instrument to study sheet mica. Our neutron activation results are promising and suggest that geochemical sourcing of mica has much potential. Results of both assays suggest that most of the artifact specimens recovered from Abbott Farm share a similar chemistry, and this composition is very similar to mica from southeastern Pennsylvania. A cut-and-drilled pendant exhibits a chemical makeup distinctly different from all other artifacts and source specimens evaluated here. Although our results are preliminary, the application of modern analytical methods to extant archaeological collections has the potential to provide significant new information.
We present data produced through archaeological and geological survey, as well as geochemical analysis of the Zaragoza-Oyameles obsidian source area located on the northern and western flanks of the Los Humeros Caldera in eastern Puebla, Mexico. One result of the intensive archaeological surface survey of this obsidian source area was the identification of 117 obsidian flow-band exposures. Geologic samples from 40 of these were submitted for instrumental neutron activation analysis. Eighty-five projectile points collected from the surface were characterized using portable X-ray fluorescence. These analyses identified three sub-sources: Z-O1, Potreros Caldera, and Gomez Sur. The Gomez Sur sub-source appears chemically similar to the previously identified Altotonga source, located 25 km to the northeast. Results of the geological survey help elucidate the relationship of Altotonga obsidian with the Zaragoza-Oyameles source area. The data from the three sub-sources are compared to all consumer site data attributed to the Zaragoza-Oyameles source in the Missouri University Research Reactor database. Results indicate that the majority of consumer samples throughout Mesoamerica match the Z-O1 sub-source, while 4 percent match the Potreros Caldera sub-source. This information, combined with the Gomez Sur data, is discussed in terms of economic relations with the regional center of Cantona. Obsidian procurement and distribution may have been more nuanced than previously modeled. We suggest that a number of potentially independent communities in addition to Cantona may have been involved in distributing this obsidian throughout Mesoamerica.
In the lower American Southeast, regional scale social interactions burgeoned alongside the growth of nucleated villages, widespread mound-building projects, and conspicuous mortuary ceremonialism during the Middle and Late Woodland periods (ca. A.D. 100–800). A premier material for understanding the scale and significance of social interactions across the southern landscape comes from Swift Creek Complicated Stamped pottery, a ubiquitous class of material culture that provides direct evidence of connections between specific sites at a multitude of scales and in myriad contexts. By combining design data and determinations of vessel provenance through Neutron Activation Analysis of a total of 825 sherds and 130 clay samples, this research ascertains types of social interaction and their predominant directions and levels of intensity across multiple ecological, social, and cultural contexts. The results indicate two main patterns: first, that vessels were frequently transported from habitation sites and civic-ceremonial centers to distant burial mounds; and second, that people traveled to ceremonial centers from outlying villages for events that included the exchange of wooden paddles. These patterns reveal a high level of social coordination within integrated networks that were inextricable from the region-wide trends toward population aggregation and heightened monumentality and rituality.
The discovery of the Nan'ao One shipwreck off the southern coast of China throws new light onto Chinese maritime trade during the late Ming period. The primary cargo was a massive consignment of blue-and-white export porcelain, most probably destined for markets in Southeast Asia or Europe. Compositional analysis was performed on 11 fragments of blue-and-white export porcelain from the wreck site and on 64 samples from 3 Chinese porcelain production centres. The results indicate that the blue-and-white export porcelain recovered from the Nan'ao One came from two sources: the Jingdezhen and Zhangzhou kilns. Given the location of the shipwreck, the most probable destinations were the Portuguese trading centre at Macau or the Dutch at Batavia.
This study integrates disparate geographical areas of the American Southeast to show how studies of Early Mississippian (A.D. 900-1250) interactions can benefit from a multiscalar approach. Rather than focus on contact and exchanges between farming communities, as is the case with most Mississippian interaction studies, we turn our attention to social relations between village-dwelling St. Johns II fisher-hunter-gatherers of northeastern Florida and more mobile Ocmulgee foragers of southern-central Georgia; non-neighboring groups situated beyond and within the southeastern edge of the Mississippian world, respectively. We draw upon neutron activation analysis data to document the presence of both imported and locally produced Ocmulgee Cordmarked wares in St. Johns II domestic and ritual contexts. Establishing social relations with Ocmulgee households or kin groups through exchange and perhaps marriage would have facilitated St. Johns II access into the Early Mississippian world and enabled them to acquire the exotic copper, stone, and other minerals found in St. Johns mortuary mounds. This study underscores the multiscalarity of past societies and the importance of situating local histories in broader geographical contexts.
We report the results of chemical sourcing of obsidian artifacts from Tres Zapotes using X-ray fluorescence analysis. This is the first obsidian sourcing study for this major Olmec and Epi-Olmec center in which samples are drawn from secure archaeological proveniences specifically assigned to Early, Middle, Late Formative, and Protoclassic periods. We employed a stratified random sampling strategy to select 180 obsidian artifacts from excavated assemblages, supplementing the random sample with another 24 specimens drawn from rare visual categories. Consequently, we are able to characterize changes in the relative importance of different obsidian sources in the political economy of Tres Zapotes across the critical transition from Olmec to Epi-Olmec society with greater confidence than has been possible for the Gulf lowlands while extending our observations to the full sample of 5,713 visually characterized obsidian artifacts—2,695 of which come from the well-dated Formative contexts examined in this article. Our study confirms the absence of obsidian from Otumba and from Guatemalan sources in the excavated Olmec assemblage in favor of sources from eastern Puebla and Veracruz, supporting a model of overlapping autonomous networks for obsidian procurement at Gulf Olmec sites. Presence of the Guatemalan San Martín Jilotepeque source in Epi-Olmec contexts may relate to the reestablishment of trans-Isthmian contacts, while increasing prevalence of Zaragoza-Oyameles obsidian from eastern Puebla marks the beginning of a long-term trend. Although more even representation of obsidian sources in Epi-Olmec contexts is consistent with the hypothesized transition from an exclusionary Olmec political economy toward a more “corporate” system associated with power sharing among factional leaders at Tres Zapotes, neither Olmec nor Epi-Olmec elites monopolized a particular obsidian source or technology.
This paper reports source identifications for a sample of obsidian prismatic blades from the site of Cerro Portezuelo, Mexico. Although the sample is highly biased and stratigraphically mixed, some interesting results were obtained. Compared to contemporary sites in the region, the frequency of green Pachuca obsidian was unusually low (65%), while obsidian from the distant Ucareo source was unusually abundant (14%). This pattern appears to hold for both the Classic and the Postclassic periods and differs from Classic Teotihuacan. This contrast implies that Cerro Portezuelo was not importing all of its obsidian directly from Teotihuacan during the Classic period but, rather, was obtaining some quantity of Ucareo obsidian from other sites, most likely located to the west. This trade pattern would eventually spread throughout the Basin of Mexico, after the fall of Teotihuacan, but it is foreshadowed during the Classic period at Cerro Portezuelo.
In this paper, we present a diachronic analysis of obsidian procurement patterns during the Postclassic period in the Lower Río Verde region of Oaxaca. The study is based on x-ray fluorescence (XRF) and visual analysis of obsidian artifacts from excavated household contexts at Early Postclassic (a.d. 800–1100) Río Viejo and Late Postclassic (a.d. 1100–1522) Tututepec (Yucu Dzaa). We report the presence of at least six sources of obsidian imported to the lower Río Verde region in the Early Postclassic, whereas during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries of the Late Postclassic, the local assemblage was dominated by obsidian from Pico de Orizaba and Pachuca. Changes in obsidian procurement patterns in the lower Río Verde region through time are interpreted in light of sociopolitical change at the local, regional, and macroregional scales. The study represents the most detailed analysis of Postclassic period obsidian exchange yet reported from Oaxaca.
Archaeologists working in the northern Maya lowlands have faced persistent problems in establishing chronological precision and accuracy. In particular, it has proven difficult to create multi-phase chronologies for the Late and Terminal Classic periods. Investigators at Xkipche, a small Puuc site southwest of Uxmal, have employed both seriation and the typological approach to ceramic chronology. The results of the ceramic seriation suggest great persistence from the second century until a.d. 1100, a continuity that is not supported by the Type-Variety approach to chronology. This report begins by reviewing the ceramic data, and then turns to another archaeological material, obsidian. Procurement patterns and production technology are discussed for the 182 obsidian artifacts collected during the first five seasons of the Projekt Xkipche. These data are compared with similar information gleaned from other sites in the northern Maya lowlands. Results of this obsidian analysis conflict with the absolute chronology proposed for the Xkipche ceramic sequence. Finally, a compromise ceramic chronology is proposed, one that is consistent with both obsidian and architectural data. This proposed chronology divides the seemingly monolithic Cehpech ceramic complex into three phases: Early Cehpech (a.d. 550–700); Late Cehpech (a.d. 700–900/950); and, Terminal Cehpech/Sotuta (a.d. 900/950–950/1000).
Abbreviated Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) was carried out on a sample of obsidian artifacts from the Terminal Formative to early Late Classic period site of Palo Errado, located in the southern Gulf lowlands of Veracruz, Mexico. Our understanding of Classic period obsidian economies in the southern Gulf lowlands has been largely informed by studies of the political economies of the highland Mexican cities of Teotihuacan and Cantona, which appear to have controlled the Pachuca and Otumba, and Zaragoza-Oyameles obsidian sources, respectively. However, the NAA results from Palo Errado indicate that while the local obsidian economy was dominated by prismatic blade technology utilizing Zaragoza-Oyameles obsidian, five additional highland Mexican sources were used during the Early Classic period. The presence of Ucareo and the use of Otumba in core-blade reduction, for instance, set Palo Errado apart from contemporary sites in the southern Gulf lowlands. Temporal variation in quantity of supplemental obsidian sources and their use in different reduction technologies suggest that consumers at Palo Errado had access to abundant Zaragoza-Oyameles obsidian of a quality high enough to facilitate the production of fine prismatic blades. At the same time, however, they continued to participate in exchange networks that tied them to other areas of central Mexico, independently from other contemporaneous sites in the southern Gulf lowlands.
Chiconautla, situated on the northeastern shore of Lake Texcoco and the southern edge of the Teotihuacan Valley, lay at an important juncture for east-west exchange in the Basin of Mexico with connections to asfar away as the Gulf Coast. Recently, we completed an INAA study on ceramics from Chiconautla to examine marketing and exchange patterns from A. D. 950 to 1521. We present these data and contextualize them in light of contexts excavated at the site by George C. Vaillant, in particular materials from an Aztec noble residence he called “Casa Reales.” We also examine historical information regarding Chiconautla’s role in Aztec society as it existed at the eve of Spanish conquest. We evaluate the site’s particular position at the crossroads of important trade routes in light of recent models of Aztec markets and exchange and what these patterns say about shifting political affiliations in this critical region.
This paper presents the results of obsidian characterization analyses for Middle and Late Postclassic sites in the Yautepec Valley of Morelos, central Mexico. A large sample (N = 390) of obsidian blades from excavated domestic contexts at the site of Yautepec and from surface collected contemporary sites were assigned to a quarry source using X-ray fluorescence (XRF), and a subsample was also analyzed with instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). The use of XRF allowed the authors to expand the number of artifacts initially analyzed by INAA. These larger samples of sourced material prove essential to answering research questions regarding regional economies, particularly with regard to issues such as production and exchange. This study demonstrates the complementarity of XRF and INAA and the specific advantages inherent in each of these techniques.