Any overview of prehispanic society in the Americas would identify its obsidian core-blade production as a unique and highly inventive technology. Normally termed prismatic blades, these long, parallel-sided flakes are among the sharpest cutting tools ever produced by humans. Their standardized form permitted interchangeable use, and such blades became the cutting tool of choice throughout Mesoamerica between 600–800 B.C. Because considerable production skill is required, increased demand may have stimulated the appearance of craft specialists who played an integral role in Mesoamerican society. Some investigators have argued that control over obsidian also had a significant effect on the development and organization of chiefdom and state-level societies. While researchers have long recognized the potential of obsidian studies, recent work has focused primarily on compositional analysis to reconstruct trade and distribution networks. Study of blade production has received much less attention, and many aspects of this highly evolved craft are still lost. This volume seeks to identify current research questions in Mesoamerican lithic technology and to demonstrate that replication studies coupled with experimental research design are valuable analytical approaches to such questions.
This volume explores the social and economic processes involved in the manufacture of obsidian prismatic blades, one of the sharpest cutting instruments ever produced in the prehistoric world. Focusing on ancient Mesoamerica, contributors examine the variation in the way the blades were manufactured and the causes behind their variation.
Lithic Technologies in SedentarySocieties examines lithic technology from ancient societies in Mesoamerica, the Near East, South Asia, and North America, showcasing the important contributions in-depth lithic analysis can make to the study of sedentary societies around the world. Using cutting-edge analytical techniques these case studies address difficult anthropological questions concerning economic, social, and political issues, as well as global trends in lithic production. Lithic analysis focused on sedentary societies, especially in places like Mesoamerica, has previously been neglected mostly because of the high frequency of informal tools, but such bias limits the ways in which both lithic production and economic organization are investigated. Bringing the importance of studying such technologies to the fore and emphasizing the vital anthropological questions that lithics can answer, Lithic Technologies in Sedentary Societies is a valuable resource for scholars and students of lithic technology and sedentary, complex societies. Contributors: Fumi Arakawa, Mary A. Davis, James Enloe, Dan Healan, Francesca Manclossi, Theodore Marks, Jayur Madhusudan Mehta, Jason S. R. Paling, Steve Rosen, John Whittaker
Archaeological Concepts, Techniques, and Terminology for American Prehistory Lithic Technology by Wm Jack Hranicky is a 600-page comprehensive publication that encompasses the study of American prehistoric stone tools and implements. It is a look-up volume for studying the material culture of prehistoric people and using its concepts and methods for researching this aspect of archaeology. There are over 3000 entries which are defined and illustrated. It also has an extensive set of references and an overview for the study of stone tools.
The ancient Maya shaped their world with stone tools. Lithic artifacts helped create the cityscape and were central to warfare and hunting, craft activities, cooking, and ritual performance. 'The Technology of Maya Civilization' examines Maya lithic artefacts made of chert, obsidian, silicified limestone, and jade to explore the relationship between ancient civilizations and natural resources. The volume presents case studies of archaeological sites in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, and Honduras. The analysis draws on innovative anthropological theory to argue that stone artefacts were not merely cultural products but tools that reproduced, modified, and created the fabric of society.
Lithic analysts have been criticized for being atheoretical in their approach, or at least for not contributing to building archaeological theory. This volume redresses that balance. In Stone Tools, renowned lithic analysts employ explicitly theoretical constructs to explore the archaeological record and use the lithic database to establish its points. Chapters discuss curation, design theory, replacement of stone with metal, piece refitting, and projectile point style.
Households are, without question, the most important social units in human society. They are interactive social units whose primary concern is the day-to-day well being of their kith and kin. Households reproduce themselves and provide their members with the economic, psychological, and social resources necessary to live their lives. Although households vary enormously in size and organization, they are the fundamental social settings in which families are defined and cultural values are transmitted through a range of domestic activities and rituals. Despite their many functions, it is the range and productivity of their economic activities that determine the success, survival and well being of their members. Households are the primary production and consumption units in society and provide the vehicle through which resources are pooled, stored, and distributed to their members. Survival and reproduction is their business and the work they do determines their success.
Olmec Lithic Economy at San Lorenzo examines the specialized craft production, manufacturing, adoption, and spread of obsidian cutting tools at San Lorenzo, Mexico, the first major Olmec center to develop in the southern Gulf Coast region of Mesoamerica. Through the systematic analysis of this single commodity, Kenneth Hirth and Ann Cyphers reconstruct the importation of raw material and the on-site production and distribution of finished goods from a specialized workshop engaged in the manufacture of obsidian blades. The obsidian blade was the cutting tool of choice across Mesoamerica and used in a wide range of activities, from domestic food preparation to institutional ritual activities. Hirth and Cyphers conducted a three-decade investigation of obsidian artifacts recovered at Puerto Malpica, the earliest known workshop, and seventy-six other sites on San Lorenzo Island, where these tools were manufactured for local and regional distribution. Evidence recovered from these excavations provides some of the first information on how early craft specialists operated and how the specialized technology used to manufacture obsidian blades spread across Mesoamerica. The authors use geochemical analyses to identify thirteen different sources for obsidian during San Lorenzo’s occupation. This volcanic glass, not locally available, was transported over great distances, arriving in nodular and finished blade form. Olmec Lithic Economy at San Lorenzo offers a new way to analyze the Preclassic lithic economy—the procurement, production, distribution, and consumption of flaked stone tools—and shows how the study of lithics aids in developing a comprehensive picture of the internal structure and operation of Olmec economy. The book will be significant for Mesoamericanists as well as students and scholars interested in economy, lithic technology, and early complex societies.
The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology provides a current and comprehensive guide to the recent and on-going archaeology of Mesoamerica. Though the emphasis is on prehispanic societies, this Handbook also includes coverage of important new work by archaeologists on the Colonial and Republican periods. Unique among recent works, the text brings together in a single volume article-length regional syntheses and topical overviews written by active scholars in the field of Mesoamerican archaeology. The first section of the Handbook provides an overview of recent history and trends of Mesoamerica and articles on national archaeology programs and practice in Central America and Mexico written by archaeologists from these countries. These are followed by regional syntheses organized by time period, beginning with early hunter-gatherer societies and the first farmers of Mesoamerica and concluding with a discussion of the Spanish Conquest and frontiers and peripheries of Mesoamerica. Topical and comparative articles comprise the remainder of Handbook. They cover important dimensions of prehispanic societies--from ecology, economy, and environment to social and political relations--and discuss significant methodological contributions, such as geo-chemical source studies, as well as new theories and diverse theoretical perspectives. The Handbook concludes with a section on the archaeology of the Spanish conquest and the Colonial and Republican periods to connect the prehispanic, proto-historic, and historic periods. This volume will be a must-read for students and professional archaeologists, as well as other scholars including historians, art historians, geographers, and ethnographers with an interest in Mesoamerica.
Here, at last, is the massively updated and augmented second edition of this landmark encyclopedia. It contains approximately 1000 entries dealing in depth with the history of the scientific, technological and medical accomplishments of cultures outside of the United States and Europe. The entries consist of fully updated articles together with hundreds of entirely new topics. This unique reference work includes intercultural articles on broad topics such as mathematics and astronomy as well as thoughtful philosophical articles on concepts and ideas related to the study of non-Western Science, such as rationality, objectivity, and method. You’ll also find material on religion and science, East and West, and magic and science.
Human development is a long and steady process that began with stone tool making. Because of this skill, humans were able to adapt to climate changes, discover new territories, and invent new technologies. "Pressure knapping" is the common term for one method of creating stone tools, where a larger device or blade specifically made for this purpose is use to press out the stone tool. Pressure knapping was invented in different locations and at different points in time, representing the adoption of the Neolithic way of life in the Old world. Recent research on pressure knapping has led for the first time to a global thesis on this technique. The contributors to this seminal work combine research findings on pressure knapping from different cultures around the globe to develope a cohesive theory. This contributions to this volume represents a significant development to research on pressure knapping, as well as the field of lithic studies in general. This work will be an important reference for anyone studying the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic periods, lithic studies, technologies, and more generally, cultural transmission.
Departing from the political economy perspective taken by the vast majority of volumes devoted to Mesoamerican obsidian, Obsidian Reflections is an examination of obsidian's sociocultural dimensions—particularly in regard to Mesoamerican world view, religion, and belief systems. Exploring the materiality of this volcanic glass rather than only its functionality, this book considers the interplay among people, obsidian, and meaning and how these relationships shaped patterns of procurement, exchange, and use. An international group of scholars hailing from Belize, France, Japan, Mexico, and the United States provides a variety of case studies from Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. The authors draw on archaeological, iconographic, ethnographic, and ethnohistoric data to examine obsidian as a touchstone for cultural meaning, including references to sacrificial precepts, powerful deities, landscape, warfare, social relations, and fertility. Obsidian Reflections underscores the necessity of understanding obsidian from within its cultural context—the perspective of the indigenous people of Mesoamerica. It will be of great interest to Mesoamericanists as well as students and scholars of lithic studies and material culture.