Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Rice, Prudence


This study examines small projectile point technology of the Postclassic Lowland Maya (A.D. 1400 - 1697) using a technological systems framework, to evaluate production strategies and the movement of finished goods within Mesoamerican exchange networks. Small arrow points (1 - 3 cm long) were typically made from obsidian and microcrystalline silicates (chert, chalcedony), and were key components of bow-and-arrow weaponry among multiple Mayan-speaking groups and ethnopolities known as the Itza, Xiw, Kowoj, Chak'an Itza, Kehach, Dzuluinikob, Chetumal, Lakam tun (Lacandon), and Chuj. Literature suggests that the Late Postclassic period was a time of heightened "international" exchange, defined by frequent inter-polity interactions, information sharing, and intensified long-distance exchange of raw materials across political boundaries. Thus, this study adds to anthropological theory by focusing on the interplay between political geography and material culture to understand the relationship between non-elite goods and intensified social interaction. In total, this study analyzes 2,128 small projectile points originating from 17 different Lowland centers, focusing explicitly on the research domains of raw material procurement, production, use, repair, and discard. Multiple lithic analyses are used to collect data including macroscopic methods, taxonomic classification, and spatial-contextual analysis. Additionally, instrumental methods including portable x-ray fluorescence (pXRF) and cross-over immuno-electrophoresis (CIEP) are used to identify raw material procurement patterns and interpret use activities related to the bow-and-arrow. The results of this study demonstrate that raw material preference and procurement strategies for small points varied significantly across the Maya Lowlands, and were often contingent on ethnopolitical affiliations and factionalism. In particular, strong differences emerge among neighboring polities within the Petén Lakes region of Guatemala, where the Itza, Kowoj, and Chak'an Itza maintained territories in close proximity to one another. A taxonomic and technological classification of small points reveals considerable variability in technological styles in addition to morphometric variability of haft types. Spatial-contextual analyses of depositional patterns demonstrate a range of activities associated with bow-and-arrow weaponry that often included symbolic associations with ritual and civic-ceremonial architecture. CIEP results reveal a multiplicity of use activities of the bow-and-arrow, with several positive immunological matches for indigenous and introduced fauna. Overall, the holistic approach of this dissertation helps bridge the divide between seemingly mundane artifacts and past economic behaviors that are critically important to Postclassic Maya studies.




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