Through the glass darkly: Prehispanic obsidian procurement and exchange in southern Peru and northern Bolivia

Richard L. Burger, Karen L. Mohr Chávez, Sergio J. Chávez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent discovery of the major geological sources of Central Andean obsidian permits a new understanding of the patterns of obsidian procurement and exchange by the Prehispanic societies of southern Peru and northern Bolivia. Based on the trace element analysis of obsidian artifacts from 160 archaeological sites, it can be established that the two major deposits of obsidian were being exploited by 9400 BP, and that volcanic glass was being transported over long distances throughout Andean prehistory. Inhabitants of the Cuzco region acquired most obsidian from the Alca source in central Arequipa, while those in the high plateau surrounding Lake Titicaca obtained most obsidian from the Chivay source in southern Arequipa. Obsidian evidence suggests close ties between the Cuzco and Circum-Titicaca regions throughout prehistory, except during the Middle Horizon (ca. 1400-1050 BP), when the expansion of the Huari and Tiahuanaco states disrupted this pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-362
Number of pages96
JournalJournal of World Prehistory
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2000

Keywords

  • Andrean archaeology
  • Bolivia
  • Exchange
  • Obsidian
  • Peru

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