Jalisco has the fourth-largest obsidian deposits in the world but until now no excavations have ever been carried out to study in detail the process by which a chunk of this volcanic glass was transformed into useful artifacts by pre-Hispanic people.
As I reported in this column on May 10, a location deep inside Ahuisculco’s Selva Negra Nature Preserve was chosen for the dig because it represented all the stages of production from mining to completion of much-prized, dual-color (meca) bifacial blades.
“On top of that,” archaeologist Rodrigo Esparza explained to me, “this part of the Ahuisculco Forest appears to have been relatively undisturbed for perhaps 2,000 years.”
The excavation was carried out by digging three, one-meter-square holes, removing everything in them layer by layer and examining and sorting every item found. The result was more than 1,000 kilos of what most of us would consider rubble.
“It’s not rubble to us,” archaeologist Camilo Mireles told a group of 11 volunteer sherpas – including myself – who had come to give him a hand.
“A ton of rocks is too much for us to transport to our lab in Michoacán,” Mireles continued. “So we have picked out 300 kilos of samples for technicians to examine one by one and fit each item where it belongs in the production sequence.”
Mireles explained that there were no precedents for this sort of dig, so his team had no references telling them what to expect or what methodology to use. “We devised a plan of attack, came out here and tried it, went back and revised the plan ... and finally we are delighted with the results. And soon we will see how all the pieces fit together.”