“A must-have book for all Mesoamerican scholars and researchers interested in lithic studies, production models, exchange, trade, and transportation. . . . A joy to read.”
—Gerardo Gutierrez, University of Colorado Boulder
—Marcie Venter, Murray State University
Olmec Lithic Economy at San Lorenzo examines the specialized craft production, manufacturing, adoption, and spread of obsidian cutting tools at San Lorenzo, Mexico, the first major Olmec center to develop in the southern Gulf Coast region of Mesoamerica. Through the systematic analysis of this single commodity, Kenneth Hirth and Ann Cyphers reconstruct the importation of raw material and the on-site production and distribution of finished goods from a specialized workshop engaged in the manufacture of obsidian blades.
The obsidian blade was the cutting tool of choice across Mesoamerica and used in a wide range of activities, from domestic food preparation to institutional ritual activities. Hirth and Cyphers conducted a three-decade investigation of obsidian artifacts recovered at Puerto Malpica, the earliest known workshop, and seventy-six other sites on San Lorenzo Island, where these tools were manufactured for local and regional distribution. Evidence recovered from these excavations provides some of the first information on how early craft specialists operated and how the specialized technology used to manufacture obsidian blades spread across Mesoamerica. The authors use geochemical analyses to identify thirteen different sources for obsidian during San Lorenzo’s occupation. This volcanic glass, not locally available, was transported over great distances, arriving in nodular and finished blade form.
Olmec Lithic Economy at San Lorenzo offers a new way to analyze the Preclassic lithic economy—the procurement, production, distribution, and consumption of flaked stone tools—and shows how the study of lithics aids in developing a comprehensive picture of the internal structure and operation of Olmec economy. The book will be significant for Mesoamericanists as well as students and scholars interested in economy, lithic technology, and early complex societies.