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Mesoamerican Lithic Technology

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Copyright: 2003
Trim: 8½ x 11
Pages: 370 pp.
Illustrations: 160 figures, 18 tables


Mesoamerican Lithic Technology

Experimentation and Interpretation

Edited by Kenneth G. Hirth

Mesoamerica / Archaeology

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.


Bradford Andrews, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
John Clark, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Jeffrey Flenniken, Lithic Analysts, Inc., Pullman, Washington
Dan Healan, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Kenneth G. Hirth, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
Peter Kelterborn, Meilen, Switzerland
Alejandro Pastrana, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City
Jacques Pelegrin, Centre Nacional de Recherche Scientifique. Nanterre, France
Payson Sheets, University of Colorado, Denver
Gene Titmus, Idaho State University, Pocatello
Jacques Tixier, Centre Nacional de Recherche Scientifique. Nanterre, France
Rissa Trachman, University of Texas, Austin
James C. Woods, Idaho State University, Pocatello

Table of Contents:

List of Figures
List of Tables
Preface ~ Jacques Tixier

1. Experimentation and Interpretation in Mesoamerican Lithic Technology ~ Kenneth G. Hirth
2. The Behavioral Model in Maya Core-Blade Technology: A Historical View ~ Payson Sheets
3. A Review of Twentieth-Century Mesoamerican Obsidian Studies ~ John E. Clark
4. Blade-Making Techniques from the Old World: Insights and Applications to Mesoamerican Obsidian Lithic Technology ~ Jacques Pelegrin
5. Mexica Blade Making with Wooden Tools: Recent Experimental Insights ~ Gene L. Titmus and John E. Clark
6. Handheld Prismatic Blade Manufacture in Mesoamerica ~ J. Jeffrey Flenniken and Kenneth G. Hirth
7. Pecked and Scored Initiations: Early Classic Core-Blade Production in the Central Maya Lowlands ~ Rissa M. Trachman and Gene L. Titmus
8. Measurable Flilntknapping ~ Peter Kelterborn
9. The Maya Eccentric: Evidence for the Use of the Indirect Percussion Technique in Mesoamerica from Preliminary Experiments Concerning Their Manufacture ~ Gene L. Titmus and James C. Woods
10. Alternative Techniques for Producing Mesoamerican-Style Pressure Flaking Patterns on Obsidian Bifaces ~ Kenneth G. Hirth, Gene L. Titmus, J. Jeffrey Flenniken, and Jacques Tixier
11. From the Quarry Pit to the Trash Pit: Comparative Core-Blade Technology at Tula, Hidalgo, and the Ucareo Obsidian Source Region ~ Dan Healan
12. The Kaminaljuyu Production Sequence for Obsidian Prismatic Blades: Technological Characteristics and Research Questions ~ Kenneth G. Hirth
13. The Xochicalco Production Sequence for Obsidian Prismatic Blades: Technological Analysis and Experimental Inferences ~ Kenneth G. Hirth, Bradford Andrews, and J. Jeffrey Flenniken
14. Biface Production and Craft Specialization: A View from Sierra de las Navajas, Hidalgo ~Alejandro Pastrana and Kenneth G. Hirth
15. Measuring Prehistoric Craftsman Skill: Contemplating Its Application to Mesoamerican Core-Blade Research ~ Bradford Andrews
16. Craftsmanship and Craft Specialization ~ John E. Clark
17. Experimentation and Interpretation in Mesoamerican Lithic Technology: A Look to the Future ~ Kenneth G. Hirth, Peter Kelterborn, Jacques Pelegrin, and Bradford Andrews

Appendix A: Bibliography of Quarry Studies ~ John E. Clark
Appendix B: Publication History of Major Journals ~ John E. Clark
Appendix C: Bibliography of Dissertations and Theses ~ John E. Clark
Appendix D: Combined Bibliography of Journal Samples, Dissertations, and Theses ~ John E. Clark
Appendix E. Bibliography of Replication and Ethnographic Studies ~ John E. Clark
Appendix F. Explanation of the Cases Documented in Table 16.2 ~ John E. Clark

List of Contributors

Praise and Reviews:

"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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