Metallurgical cCeramics from Mayapan, Yucatan, and Mexico

Jennifer L. Meanwell
Elizabeth H. Paris, University of Southern Mississippi
Wilberth Cruz Alvarado
Carlos Peraza Lope


Recent excavations at the Postclassic (AD 1050-1440) Maya site of Mayapan, Mexico, have uncovered a variety of metal objects, metal production debris, and ceramic objects that appear to be linked to metallurgical activities at the site. Our present study investigates a corpus of small ceramic objects to determine if these objects was used in metallurgical processes such as lost-wax casting. A variety of analytical techniques was utilized, including x-ray fluorescence, electron probe, petrography, and reflected light microscopy. Metal residues were detected on the surfaces of several objects, and copper prills were identified within the ceramic fabric, suggesting that the ceramics were exposed to liquid metal during remelting and/or casting events. A comparison of the microstructures of these metallurgical ceramics to typical ceramics from Mayapan demonstrates that the fabrics are very different, and suggests that the metallurgical ceramics were specifically engineered to function in the high temperature environment required for metallurgy. The distribution of metal and metallurgical ceramics across the site of Mayapan suggests that metal production activities may have been more widely distributed and practiced than earlier thought. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.