Obsidian Craft Production in Central Mexico
Kenneth G. Hirth
Mesoamerica / Archaeology
When the Spanish conquistadors first encountered the great commercial markets of central Mexico they were amazed by the richness and the diversity of products, as well as the level of organization. Ruling elites nurtured and supervised these markets, which were based on a complex division of labor within society, including a diversity of highly skilled craft specialists.
The appearance of such craft specialists—who produced large quantities of goods for other households—represented a significant and fundamental change in the structure of prehistoric economies. In central Mexico one particularly important craft specialty was the making of obsidian prismatic blades, the cutting tools of choice.
Unlike most other craft activities, obsidian craft production can be studied using archaeological techniques. Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico examines the obsidian craft industry found at the site of Xochicalco, Morelos, between A.D. 650 and 900, the Gobernador or Epiclassic period when independent city-states appeared throughout central Mexico to fill the political vacuum left by the decline of Teotihuacan. Because the demand for obsidian tools remained constant, author Kenneth Hirth contends that obsidian can serve as a general model for discussing craft production and economic organization on a broader theoretical level.
Kenneth G. Hirth is professor of anthropology at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of Mesoamerican Lithic Technology (University of Utah Press, 2003).
Bradford Andrews, Gregory Bondar, Ronald Castanzo, Thierry Daubenspeck, J. Jeffrey Flenniken, Michael Glascock, Kenneth G. Hirth, A. J. Vonarx, Ronald Webb
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
List of Abbreviations for Major Artifact Categories
1. Introduction: Obsidian Craft Production at Xochicalco
2. Households and Plazas: The Contexts of Obsidian Craft Production at Xochicalco
3. A Technological Analysis of Xochicalco Obsidian Prismatic Blade Production
4. More Interesting Than You'd Think: The Percussion, Ground Stone, and Lapidary Industries in Xochicalco Obsidian Workshops
5. Supply-Side Economics: An Analysis of Obsidian Procurement and the Organization of Workshop Provisioning
6. Flaked Stone Craft Production in Domestic Contexts
7. Market Forces or State Control: The Organization of Obsidian Craft Production in a Civic-Ceremonial Context
8. Estimating Production Output in Domestic Craft Workshops
9. Production for Use or Exchange: Obsidian Consumption at the Workshop, Household, and Regional Levels
10. Patterns of Stone Tool Consumption in Xochicalco's Civic-Ceremonial Core
11. Craft Specialization and Craftsman Skill
12. Modeling Domestic Craft Production at Xochicalco
13. Modeling a Prehistoric Economy: Mesoamerican Obsidian Systems and Craft Production at Xochicalco
Appendix A. The Analytical Categories for Xochicalco's Lithic Terminology
Appendix B. The Results of Experimental Studies in Obsidian Prismatic Blade Production
Appendix C. An Experimental Study of Use-Wear Striation on Obsidian Prismatic Blades
Appendix D. A Trampling Experiment: Separating Use from Abuse of Obsidian Prismatic Blades
Praise and Reviews:
"A must-read for those interested in prehispanic Mesoamerican households, craft specialization, and stone tools."
—Gary Feinman, Field Museum, Chicago
"This is the best study of Mesoamerican lithic technology written to date."
—Robert Cobean, INAH, Mexico
"Hirth's fascinating study brings ancient Mesoamerican townsmen into a close and personal focus, giving them flesh and bone. Here is a book that every scholarly flintknapper and fancier of flaked stone tools will want on a bookshelf close at hand."
—The Amateur Archaeologist