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Obsidian Polyhedral Cores and Prismatic Blades in the Writing and Art of Ancient Mexico

  • Karl A. Taube (a1)

The widespread appearance of obsidian prismatic blades and polyhedral cores in ancient Mexican writing and art provides important information regarding ancient mesoamerican lithic technology. One common central Mexican epigraphic convention, a hooklike black element, is identified as a curving prismatic blade, here providing the phonetic value itz. The placement of blade segments on the edges of wooden clubs is one of the most commonly cited uses of prismatic blades. However, it will be noted that representations of such clubs are extremely rare until the Late Postclassic period. Rather than primarily serving as bladed edging on wooden weapons, prismatic blades were more commonly used as lancets and razors. Postclassic and early Colonial depictions of prismatic blades in use reveal that they were usually held directly in the hand, with no attempt at hafting.

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John Clark 1982 Manufacture of Mesoamerican Prismatic Blades: An Alternative Technique. American Antiquity 47(2): 355376.

Lawrence H. Feldman 1971 Of the Stone Called Iztli. American Antiquity 36(2):213214.

Charles S. Fletcher 1970 Escapable Errors in Employing Ethnohistory in Archaeology. American Antiquity 35(2):209213.

Dan M. Healan , Janet M. Kerley , and George Bey III 1983 Excavation and Preliminary Analysis of an Obsidian Workshop in Tula, Hidalgo, Mexico. Journal of Field Archaeology 10(2): 127145.

Michael W. Spence 1981 Obsidian Production and the State in Teotihuacan. American Antiquity 46(4):769788.

Karl A. Taube 1988 A Prehispanic Maya Katun Wheel. Journal of Anthropological Research 44(2):183203.

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Ancient Mesoamerica
  • ISSN: 0956-5361
  • EISSN: 1469-1787
  • URL: /core/journals/ancient-mesoamerica
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