Dissertation Research: Organization of Chalichihuites Mining, Zacatecas, Mexico
John E. Yellen Program Manager
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Under the direction of Dr. Ben Nelson, Mr. Vincent Schiavitti will collect data for his doctoral dissertation. He will conduct archaeological fieldwork in the Chalchihuites area of northern Mexico and combine ceramic analysis with survey of both archaeological sites and associated mine complexes. The goal of the work is to define more clearly the chronological sequence for this important region and to trace changes in settlement pattern and mining activity. On this basis comparisons can then be made with developments in other parts of both Mexico and the American Southwest and cultural interactions defined. The Chalchihuites area is important because it contains over 750 mines, the earliest of which are believed to date from ca. 300 A.D. The tradition probably endured for at least 400 years. Chalchihuites mining consisted of the extraction of semi-precious and utiliaarian stones and minerals such as hematite, limonite, blue green stones, cinnabar, weathered chert and ochres. Some of these were mined in quantities far exceeding local needs and these activities left behind a wealth of archaeological remains that can be used to explore organizational aspects of this once thriving mining society. In prehistoric times Central and Northern Mexico reached levels of complexity characterized by the integration of local groups into larger regional networks. Archaeologists wish to understand just how these larger units or primitive "states" functioned and the extent to which developments - such as the development of the extensive Chalchihuites mining complex - can be interpreted only in this broader context. During much of this time period the Mesoamerican world was dominated by Teotihuacan in Central Mexico and it is unclear how far to the North its power extended. Because the mining complex is not well dated it is not possible to examine such issues. Mr. Schiavitti's research will help to answer this question. This research is important because it will provide data of interest to many archaeologists. It will increase our understanding of how states develop and will assist in the training of a promising young scientist.