Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Gerardo Gutiérrez

Second Advisor

Payson Sheets

Third Advisor

Catherine M. Cameron

Fourth Advisor

Arthur Joyce


Though highly advanced and of remarkable sociopolitical importance, Mesoamerican metallurgy has been an understudied field. Recently the study of Archaeometallurgy has begun to establish itself within the region, and archaeologists are increasingly using metal artifacts to address a wide variety of inquiries. While this new emphasis on Mesoamerican metallurgy is seen as a welcomed shift, rarely any studies have focused on the production of gold artifacts. The study of goldwork in this region is laden obstacles, which include the lack of well-defined mining sites, as well as the limited amount of artifacts from provenienced contexts. In the face of these obstacles, I propose a multidisciplinary approach that combines ethnohistoric, and experimental evidence in order compensate for the lack of archaeological evidence of gold production. This thesis attempted to recreate and evaluate the efficiency of four metal casting techniques that could have been available to pre-Columbian goldsmiths for the manufacture of gold sheets that were used by the province of Tlapa as part of their tributary payments to the Aztec Empire. Along with assessing the efficiency of these metal-casting techniques, this thesis also analyzed the debris discarded from each of these techniques in order to identify potential archaeological markers of gold production in Mesoamerica.