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Mexican Obsidian at Tikal, Guatemala

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Hattula Moholy-Nagy*
University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia, PA; and 1204 Gardner, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-4321


More than 1,200 artifacts from Tikal provide new information about the presence of Mexican obsidian in the Maya Lowlands and Teotihuacan"s possible role in its transmission. In addition to the source of green obsidian near Pachuca, six other Mexican sources were identified in the Tikal sample. These artifacts date from the early Late Preclassic into the Early Postclassic periods. Over 96 percent are prismatic blades and thin bifaces, whose recovery contexts, spatial distributions, and signs of use-wear indicate they were predominantly utilitarian and domestic artifacts used by all social groups. They were commodities that were transported over Highland-Lowland long-distance exchange networks of considerable time depth. This long-standing, interregional exchange of goods is essentially different from the relatively brief adoption and integration during the Early Classic period of objects, art styles, and behavior of Teotihuacan origin. Obsidian sequins and eccentrics of Teotihuacan style were material components of this latter phenomenon. Their forms and recovery contexts suggest use in rituals borrowed from Teotihuacan, but by lesser elites or wealthy commoners rather than by Tikal"s rulers.



Más de 1,200 artefactos de Tikal proporcionan nuevos datos acerca de la presencia de obsidiana mexicana en el área maya y el papel que Teotihuacan pudo haber tenido en su transmisión. Además de la fuente de obsidiana verde próxima a Pachuca, Hidalgo, seis otras fuentes mexicanas aparecen en la muestra excavada en Tikal. Estos artefactos están fechados desde el período Preclásico Tardío temprano hasta el Postclásico Temprano. Más del 96 porciento son navajas prismáticas y puntas y bifaciales, cuyos contextos, distribuciones espaciales, y huellas de uso indican que estos artefactos tenían funciones predominantemente utilitarias y domésticas y que eran utilizados por todos grupos sociales. Estos artefactos eran mercanciás transportadas entre las Tierras Altas y Tierras Bajas por rutas de considerable antigüedad. Este intercambio interregional de larga duración de mercanciás es esencialmente diferente al de la adopción e integración relativamente breve durante el Clásico Temprano de objetos, estilos de arte y comportamientos procedentes de Teotihuacan. Las placas y excéntricos de obsidiana de estilo teotihuacano eran partes de este fenómeno. No eran utilizados por los soberanos de Tikal, sino por las élites menores o por los plebeyos ricos. Sus formas y contextos sugieren su uso en ritos teotihuacanos, que no eran adoptados por las élites más poderosos.

Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 1999

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