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Mesoamerican Lithic Technology: Experimentation and Interpretation

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The work is notable for a number of exceptionally original contributions.... The overall contribution of the work, coupled with the extremely valuable bibliographic materials, make this a necessary purchase for anyone interested in Mesoamerica or lithic technology."
—Journal of the West

 "Every few years a book appears that should be on your shelf. Mesoamerican Lithic Technology is one of them."
—Journal of Anthropological Research

"The work stands as a milestone, not only in the study of pressure-blade technology, but in several areas of the lithic technology and industries of Mesoamerica. It will have considerable importance for replicative experimenters and analysts elsewhere in the world." 
—Lithic Technology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780874807653
  • Publisher: University of Utah Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2003
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
1 Experimentation and Interpretation in Mesoamerican Lithic Technology 3
2 The Behavioral Model in Maya Core-Blade Technology: A Historical View 10
3 A Review of Twentieth-Century Mesoamerican Obsidian Studies 15
4 Blade-Making Techniques from the Old World: Insights and Applications to Mesoamerican Obsidian Lithic Technology 55
5 Mexica Blade Making with Wooden Tools: Recent Experimental Insights 72
6 Handheld Prismatic Blade Manufacture in Mesoamerica 98
7 Pecked and Scored Initiations: Early Classic Core-Blade Production in the Central Maya Lowlands 108
8 Measurable Flintknapping 120
9 The Maya Eccentric: Evidence for the Use of the Indirect Percussion Technique in Mesoamerica from Preliminary Experiments Concerning Their Manufacture 132
10 Alternative Techniques for Producing Mesoamerican-Style Pressure Flaking Patterns on Obsidian Bifaces 147
11 From the Quarry Pit to the Trash Pit: Comparative Core-Blade Technology at Tula, Hidalgo, and the Ucareo Obsidian Source Region 153
12 The Kaminaljuyu Production Sequence for Obsidian Prismatic Blades: Technological Characteristics and Research Questions 170
13 The Xochicalco Production Sequence for Obsidian Prismatic Blades: Technological Analysis and Experimental Inferences 182
14 Biface Production and Craft Specialization: A View from Sierra de las Navajas, Hidalgo 197
15 Measuring Prehistoric Craftsman Skill: Contemplating Its Application to Mesoamerican Core-Blade Research 208
16 Craftsmanship and Craft Specialization 220
17 Experimentation and Interpretation in Mesoamerican Lithic Technology: A Look to the Future 234
App. A Bibliography of Quarry Studies 239
App. B Publication History of Major Journals 241
App. C Bibliography of Dissertations and Theses 253
App. D Combined Bibliography of Journal Samples, Dissertations, and Theses 263
App. E Bibliography of Replication and Ethnographic Studies 271
App. F Explanation of the Cases Documented in Table 16.2 273
References 277
List of Contributors 341
Index 343
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