A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
New Thoughts on Maya Obsidian Markets
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
PULLMAN, WASHINGTON—According to a statement released by Washington State University, the Maya obsidian market in midwestern Guatemala some 500 years ago received less oversight from the K’iche’ elite than previously thought. Rachel Horowitz analyzed obsidian artifacts held at Tulane University that were unearthed from the area around Q’umarkaj, the K’iche’ capital, in the 1970s. She determined that most of this obsidian originated in Q’umarkaj and the central K’iche’ area, suggesting that the elites were in control of its production and distribution. An abundance of obsidian from Mexico was also found in these central sites, perhaps because it was imported by the elites. Horowitz also found, however, that in areas that had been conquered by the K’iche', people obtained obsidian from different sources. She thinks that people who lived in outlying areas would have been able to buy blades and other obsidian tools from local craftsmen who had their own markets and sources of the volcanic glass. To read about murals that depict a story recorded in a K'iche' epic, go to "Piecing Together Maya Creation Stories."
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