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The mines of El Pedernal: 2.4 square miles of volcanic glass

Jalisco has the fourth-largest deposits of obsidian in the world. The ancient rulers of the Teuchitlan Nation, which dominated western Mexico for about 800 years, found that the very purest obsidian could be found in two large deposits: La Joya and El Pedernal.

pg8aSome years ago, my wife Susy and I became friends with archeologist Rodrigo Esparza, whom we quickly named “The Obsidian Detective” because of his particular talent for identifying the origin of obsidian artifacts through a procedure called Neutron Activation Analysis.

“When are you going to take us to La Joya or El Pedernal?” we asked him one day.

“Well, I’m tied up this coming weekend,” he replied, “but you could go to El Pedernal alone; it’s only two kilometers from Teuchitlán.”

So, a few days later, we piled into a station wagon and headed for the Teuchitlan cemetery, north of which, according to Rodrigo, we would easily find El Pedernal, which is “so big you can’t possibly miss it.”

Three kilometers north of the cemetery, we came to a wide clearing and parked. “This must be it,” I said, and we all got out and started hunting for obsidian. Amazingly, however, we were unable to find more than a few specks of the famous natural glass. We figured El Pedernal must be further ahead and, indeed, we found that the dirt road continued on the other side of the open area. At that moment, a truck came along.

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