My ongoing research at the Postclassic Maya city of Mayapan, Yucatan, Mexico, investigates metallurgical craft production. I focus specifically on the influence of interregional exchange networks on its patterns of raw materials acquisition, the transmission of technical knowledge and skills, and the stylistic choices made by local artisans. Metalworking is very rare in the Maya region, and Mayapan is one of only four Maya sites where metallurgical production has been documented. This project is integrated with broader research efforts at Mayapan by the Economic Foundations of Mayapan Project directed by Dr. Marilyn Masson (SUNY-Albany), Carlos Peraza Lope (INAH-Yucatan), Dr. Timothy Hare (Morehead State University, and Dr. Bradley Russell (College of St. Rose).
My most recent project is entitled, “The Search for Ancient Maya Metalworkers at Mayapan, Yucatan, Mexico.” The project is directed in collaboration with Carlos Peraza Lope (INAH-Yucatan) and Dr. Jennifer Meanwell (MIT). Our research focuses on an elite houselot (R-183) where metal production debris has been found in test excavations. Magnetometer survey by Dr. J. Grahame Bradley (SUNY-Oswego) identified a number of magnetic anomalies which will be investigated through future excavation for their possible association with metalworking activity areas. Compositional analysis and x-ray diffraction analysis of metallurgical ceramics will investigate possible relationships with palygorskite sources near the modern town of Ticul, which were also used in the production of Maya Blue pigment. The project is supported by a National Geographic CRE grant and a Dumbarton Oaks Project Grant.
Previous research efforts focus on the identification of metallurgical ceramics at Mayapan. Copper alloy residues and prills were identified on exterior surfaces and within the fabric of the ceramics using a combination of XRF, EDS, microprobe, and thin section petrography of metallic residues, and supports the identification of these objects as molds used in open casting and lost-wax casting of metal objects. Thin section analysis suggests that ceramic vessel supports were exposed to the high temperatures associated with melting copper or copper alloys, and that the objects were deliberately crafted to perform this function. Furthermore, these artifacts were found in multiple contexts in both the monumental center and in the southeastern sector of the city, suggesting that production activities may have been less spatially and socially concentrated than previously thought.
Other projects focus on the form, function and compositional analysis of finished metal objects at Mayapan. Compositional analysis of metal objects uses SEM-EDS to identify metal alloys used in the production of metal objects from the site, as well as macroscopic analyses.
Paris, Elizabeth H. and Carlos Peraza Lope. 2013. Breaking the Mold: The Socioeconomic Significance of Metal Artifacts at Mayapan. In Archaeometallurgy in Mesoamerica: Current Approaches and New Perspectives, edited by Aaron N. Shugar and Scott E. Simmons, pp. 161-201. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.