Greater than 500 years in the past within the midwestern Guatemalan highlands, Maya folks purchased and bought items with far much less oversight from their rulers than many archeologists beforehand thought.
That is in line with a brand new research in Latin American Antiquity that exhibits the ruling Okay’iche’ elite took a hands-off strategy when it got here to managing the procurement and commerce of obsidian by folks exterior their area of central management.
In these areas, entry to close by sources of obsidian, a glasslike rock used to make instruments and weapons, was managed by native folks by means of unbiased and numerous acquisition networks. Time beyond regulation, the supply of obsidian sources and the prevalence of craftsmen to form it resulted in a system that’s in some ways suggestive of up to date market-based economies.
“Students have typically assumed that the obsidian commerce was managed by Maya rulers, however our analysis exhibits that this wasn’t the case at the very least on this space,” mentioned Rachel Horowitz, lead creator of the research and an assistant professor of anthropology at Washington State College. “Individuals appear to have had a great deal of financial freedom together with having the ability to go to locations much like the supermarkets we’ve got as we speak to purchase and promote items from craftsmen.”
Whereas there are in depth written data from the Maya Postclassic Interval (1200-1524 AD) on political group, a lot much less is thought about how societal elites wielded financial energy. Horowitz got down to tackle this information hole for the Okay’iche’ by inspecting the manufacturing and distribution of obsidian artifacts, that are used as a proxy by archeologists to find out the extent of financial improvement in a area.
She carried out geochemical and technological evaluation on obsidian artifacts excavated from 50 websites across the Okay’iche’ capital of Q’umarkaj and surrounding area to find out the place the uncooked materials initially got here from and strategies of its manufacture.
He outcomes confirmed that the Okay’iche’ acquired their obsidian from comparable sources within the Central Okay’iche’ area and Q’umarkaj, indicating a excessive diploma of centralized management. The ruling elite additionally appeared to handle the commerce of extra helpful types of nonlocal obsidian, significantly Pachua obsidian from Mexico, based mostly off its abundance in these central websites.
Exterior this core area although, in areas conquered by the Okay’iche, there was much less similarity in obsidian financial networks. Horowitz’s evaluation suggests these websites had entry to their very own sources of obsidian and developed specialised locations the place folks may go to purchase blades and different helpful implements comprised of the rock by consultants.
“For a very long time, there was this concept that folks prior to now did not have market economies, which when you concentrate on it’s form of bizarre. Why would not these folks have had markets prior to now?” she mentioned. “The extra we glance into it, the extra we understand there have been a whole lot of other ways by which these peoples’ lives had been much like ours.”
The Center American Analysis Institute at Tulane College loaned Horowitz the obsidian blades and different artifacts she used for her research. The artifacts had been excavated within the Nineteen Seventies.
Shifting ahead, Horowitz mentioned she plans to look at extra of the gathering, the remainder of which is housed in Guatemala, to find additional particulars about how the Maya carried out commerce, managed their financial programs, and usually went about their lives.