Friday, August 3, 2012

Pyrite -- A Maya Mirror Mineral

Pyrite or iron pyrite -- also called fool's gold -- is a gold to brassy looking mineral that the ancient Maya, among other civilizations, incorporated into their culture.

The Maya of the Classic period connected pyrite to the sun. They used pyrite to make different kinds of mirrors, which were associated with royalty and portals. Some mirrors, called back mirrors, were worn on the back.

History of Development
Around the time of the Middle Preclassic period, ancient Maya kings would make use of mosaics made with pyrite. As time went on the ancient Maya began to craft "composite" mirrors made from chips of pyrite fixed onto  plaques made of stone or of wood. These composite mirrors were very common during the Classic period.

Archaeologists have uncovered examples of pyrite mirrors at places such as Copan, Piedras Negras, Kaminaljuyu and Quirigua. Sometimes royal burials have them. Ancient Maya pyrite mirrors have even been uncovered in the Southwest of America, via Maya trade routes.

"The Ancient Maya" 6th Edition; Robert J. Sharer, Loa P. Traxler; 2005
"Archaeomineralogy"; George Robert Rapp; 2009

"Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World:15,000 Years of Inventions and Innovations"; Emory Dean Keoke, Kay Marie Porterfield; 2009

The Free Dictionary: Encyclopedia: Pyrite

"The Maya and Teotihuacan:Reinterpreting Early Classic Interaction"; Geoffrey E. Braswell; 2004

"Death and the Classic Maya Kings"; James L. Fitzsimmons; 2009

"Art, Ideology, and the City of Teotihuacan"; Janet Catherine Berlo; 1992

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