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Trade on the Mesoamerican frontier : evaluating the significance of blue-green stones at La Quemada, Zacatecas, Mexico Berney, Christine

Abstract

The movement of Pre-Columbian turquoise from the American Southwest to Mesoamerica has long been considered an important factor in the emergence of complex societies in North and Northwest Mexico, including the one at La Quemada. This movement is often interpreted as an expansionary process involving the acquisition o f rare resources by Central Mexican empires. I evaluated the proposition that turquoise was an important item for exchange and o f personal wealth and status at La Quemada by examining the intrasite distribution of blue-green stones from excavated contexts. My analysis suggests that although turquoise was a precious and restricted good at the site, it was not valued locally for reasons associated with large-scale political economy. This study does not minimize the importance of turquoise exchange, but raises doubts about the turquoise trade as a primary factor in the development of some northern sites, and is a step toward understanding why blue-green stones may have circulated.

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