Journal article

Macusani obsidian from southern Peru: A characterization of its elemental composition with a demonstration of its ancient use

Nathan Craig, Robert J Speakman, Rachel S Popelka-Filcoff, Mark Aldenderfer, Luis Flores Blanco, Margaret Brown Vega, Michael D Glascock, Charles Stanish



Transparent obsidian artifacts have been reported for the northern Lake Titicaca Basin. Based on instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) of these artifacts a distinct chemical group was identified. Yet, the location of the source of transparent obsidian in the southern Andes remained unreported in the archaeological literature. This paper reports on the chemical composition and geographic location of a source of transparent obsidian from the Macusani region of Peru. Through the use of INAA and portable X-ray fluorescence (PXRF) we demonstrate that Macusani obsidian or macusanite comprises (at least) two chemical groups. One of these groups was used for making artifacts during the Arc..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Awarded by National Science Foundation

Funding Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Albino Pilco Quispe (A.K.A. The McGyver of the Andes) for his keen eyes in the field and for his absolutely amazing ability to repair machines with little more than a Leatherman (R). Special thanks are extended to Leslie Hale and LuElla Parks for bringing MacDonald et al's. (1992) publication to our attention and for facilitating the loan of the Macusani obsidian housed in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. Speakman would like to acknowledge Kathy Tighe and Bruce Kaiser for their support and assistance with the XRF portions of this project. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation grant BCS-0318500 which was awarded to Aldenderfer to survey the upper Rio Ramis; grants BCS 9905138, BCS-0003229, and BCS 0210158 which were awarded to Stanish to survey the Huancane and lower Ramis: grant BCS-0405042 which was awarded to Glascock to purchase the PXRF instrument; and generous support from the Curtis T. and Mary G. Brennan Foundation which was awarded to Craig to support aspects of the field work.