Ancient Mesoamerica


Obsidian Polyhedral Cores and Prismatic Blades in the Writing and Art of Ancient Mexico

Karl A. Taubea1

a1 Department of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0418


The widespread appearance of obsidian prismatic blades and polyhedral cores in ancient Mexican writing and art provides important information regarding ancient mesoamerican lithic technology. One common central Mexican epigraphic convention, a hooklike black element, is identified as a curving prismatic blade, here providing the phonetic value itz. The placement of blade segments on the edges of wooden clubs is one of the most commonly cited uses of prismatic blades. However, it will be noted that representations of such clubs are extremely rare until the Late Postclassic period. Rather than primarily serving as bladed edging on wooden weapons, prismatic blades were more commonly used as lancets and razors. Postclassic and early Colonial depictions of prismatic blades in use reveal that they were usually held directly in the hand, with no attempt at hafting.