Obsidian and the Maya
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Monday November 12, 2018

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Institute of Archaeology (NICH)
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Obsidian and the Maya

Top photo: Early Classic Pachuca Blades, Caracol

Second photo: Early Classic Pachuca Points, Caracol

Third photo: Eccentric found at Actun Uayazba Kab, scanned by W. James Stemp, drawn by Christophe Helmke.

Obsidian found at Maya sites in Belize did not originate in the country. Obsidian is a volcanic rock thus comes from sources near volcanoes, and if you ever heard an archaeologist in Belize speak about obsidian, chances are you have heard of El Chayal and Ixtepeque, both being sources in the Guatemalan highlands. This type of obsidian has a dark grey/black color and is found all over the Maya region, getting to these places as a trade item.

In special elite contexts, sometimes you would find the elegance of green obsidian, and if you ask for the source you will likely hear the word Pachuca. Pachuca is a city in the modern Mexican state of Hidalgo, but for the Classic Maya, as well as other cultures in Mesoamerica, it was one of the sources of the highly prized green obsidian. We can be certain that such a prized item was also traded with the Maya of Belize, for Pachuca items have been found at Altun Ha, Actun Uayazba Kab, and Caracol.

Photographs courtesy Institute of Archaeology

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