The Sounds and Colors of Power: The Sacred Metallurgical Technology of Ancient West Mexico

The Sounds and Colors of Power: The Sacred Metallurgical Technology of Ancient West Mexico

by Dorothy Hosler
     
 
This is a groundbreaking analysis of the relationship between culture and technology. Dorothy Hosler, an archaeologist, metallurgist, and anthropologist, shows how the methods of materials science, augmented by archaeological and other sources of data, can be used to illuminate historical puzzles such as the origins of the unique metallurgy developed in West Mexico

Overview

This is a groundbreaking analysis of the relationship between culture and technology. Dorothy Hosler, an archaeologist, metallurgist, and anthropologist, shows how the methods of materials science, augmented by archaeological and other sources of data, can be used to illuminate historical puzzles such as the origins of the unique metallurgy developed in West Mexico between the seventh and sixteenth centuries.

Hosler traces the roots of this technology to Central and South America and establishes that it was introduced to West Mexico in two separate waves, both traveling along a maritime trade route originating in Ecuador and extending as far south as central and southern Peru. She then shows how West Mexican smiths transformed the elements of the technology (including alloy systems, fabrication methods, and artifact designs) to reflect their own perceptions of what were for them late-appearing materials, in that they were introduced some time after the foundations of civilization had appeared in their land.

The central question Hosler addresses is why West Mexicans chose not to exploit the utilitarian properties of metals but focused instead on what seem to us to be incidental properties of sound and color. Drawing on historical, ethnographic, and linguistic data, she argues that metallic sounding instruments, especially bells, were used in rituals that offered protection in war, that celebrated creation, fertility, and regeneration, and that figured in concepts of the sacred -- rituals, in short, that created a universe through song, through the sound of bells, and through reflective golden and silvery colors. The focus on sound and color thus constituted an expression of divine power. Hosler argues further that the elites and rulers who wore and used these metal objects themselves embodied these supernatural qualities. A rich array of technical date, maps, and photomicrographs support Hosler's analysis.

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Hosler (archaeology and ancient technology, MIT) demonstrates how the methods of materials science, augmented by archaeological and other sources of data, can be used to illuminate the origins of West Mexican metallurgy between the seventh and sixteenth centuries. She traces the roots of this technology to two separate waves of influence from Central and South America, and describes how West Mexican smiths transformed the elements of the technology (including alloy systems, fabrication methods, and artifact designs) to reflect their own perceptions of what were, for them, entirely new materials. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780262082303
Publisher:
MIT Press
Publication date:
02/24/1995
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

Gordon R. Willey
A masterly summary and synthesis of the metallurgical traditions of Pacific Mexico: the nature of the artifacts, their metallic composition, the details of their construction, and their archaeological history - all of these things are presented with clarity and imaginative scholarship. The Sounds and Colors of Power is truly a landmark work.

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