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Ritualized Chipped-Stone Production at Piedras Negras, Guatemala



The symbolic and iconographic nature of many obsidian eccentrics, chipped-stone items of ritual significance to the ancient Maya, appears to be related to the techniques used to produce them. This study shows that the symbolism of eccentrics extended beyond morphology and into the processes of production. It is argued that the manufacture of obsidian eccentrics may constitute an archaeological example of ritualized production, which is described here as the binding of craft and religious practice to produce material items. Ritualized production, an under-studied aspect of economic, political, and social organization in archaeology, has implications for understanding precapitalist or preindustrial societies wherein religion structured social practice in a significant way. Although it is difficult to archaeologically demonstrate ritualized production, its investigation sheds light on poorly understood aspects of economic value in ancient societies.

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