Chetumal’s Dragonglass: Postclassic Obsidian Production and Exchange at Santa Rita Corozal, Belize

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Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology



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The reconstruction of patterns of obsidian production and exchange has been vital to increasing our understanding of ancient Mesoamerican economies. During the Postclassic Period (ca. 950-1532 C.E.) inhabitants of the site of Santa Rita Corozal, Belize participated in multiple exchange networks to provision themselves with the materials to produce and distribute obsidian artifacts. Analyses of obsidian artifacts dating to the Postclassic Period recovered by the Corozal Postclassic Project from 1979-1985 has demonstrated that Santa Rita Corozal’s population was engaged in the production of obsidian blades, likely from partially reduced polyhedral cores. Here we present information on 572 obsidian artifacts, including details relating to the tool production sequence and pXRF sourcing data. We further present the statistical distributions of objects in relation to hypothesized function or status of each structure. Procurement of these cores from at least six different obsidian sources likely occurred as a result of indirect trade carried out by non-specialist traders. The sources represented include Otumba, Mexico, a resource not previously identified in the region. Imported raw materials were transformed into finished artifacts and then distributed through a market system. These findings contrast with the patterns of procurement and production seen at neighboring sites thought to be members of the Chetumal polity, where prismatic blade production and number of sources being exploited were more limited. We conclude by discussing these findings in relation to neighboring sites and within our broader understandings the Postclassic Period regional economy.


Archaeological Anthropology