Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chert and Flint -- Two Commonly Used Stones

Though they also used stones like jadeite and obsidian, the two most common kinds of stone that the ancient Maya used for their tools were chert and flint (a kind of chert). They used these two kinds of stone to make scrapping tools, chopping tools and cutting tools as well as items that royal people used. Beyond this, they used flint to start fires.

Sources of Chert and Flint
Deposits of chert and flint occurred in limestone bedrock of the Maya lowlands -- in particular around swamps called bajos --, and it is these sources that the ancient Maya used.

Shaping Process
Like obsidian, the ancient Maya shaped chert and flint via the pressure flaking and the percussion methods. These methods were also used by other peoples in the Americas.

A main source of tools made of chert came from Colhá, a small site located in the north of Belize. Colhá produced both regular tools and the upper class items. Two other places that possessed and worked chert were Calakmul and Tikal.

Chert and flint working may have at some point been a specialized livelyhood. Archaeologists have found small pieces of both kinds of stone in workshops, making them think some workshops worked with them alone.

When they came into contact with Europeans, the Maya started using iron and metal tools, replacing tools made of the various stones they used.


"Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World"; Lynn V. Foster; 2005; pages 11, 106

"The Ancient Maya"; Robert J. Sharer, Loa P. Traxler; 2006; pages 654, 655

"Cities of the Maya in Seven Epochs, 1250 B.C. to A.D. 1903, Part 1903"; Steve Glassman, Armando Anaya; 2011; pages 41, 71

 The Free Dictionary: Flint

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