The Spanish conquerors used indigenous technology to build their weapons

The Spanish conquerors used indigenous technology to build their weapons

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A new investigation in the Mexican archaeological site of El Manchón has revealed that Spanish conquerors used indigenous technology to build their weapons.

The results were recently published in theLatin American Antiquity magazine, of the University of Cambridge.

The colonial historical sources show that the Spanish had no experience in smelting copper and this led them to negotiate with indigenous specialists to acquire it.

The latter agreed to produce the copper in exchange for, among other things, some exemptions from taxes and other privileges of an economic and political nature.

At resulting technological exchange, indigenous specialists requested the introduction of iron tools for mining, while the Spanish suggested introducing bellows to increase production volume.

At El Manchón foundry sector The stone foundations and a slag cake were excavated to conform to the dimensions of a manual bellows furnace, in which copper is melted in a circular depression known as cendrada.

So far, this kiln design has only been excavated at El Manchón.

Since the dates of the smelting operation and the site occupation overlap, it is likely that this type of bellows-powered furnace was operated by indigenous specialists from El Manchón, who had possibly smelted copper in the past using the ancient technique of blowing through pipes.


In this work, copper production is analyzed at the El Manchón archaeological site (Guerrero, Mexico) based on archaeological, historical, ethnographic and materials engineering data.

The Manchón It is located in the Sierra Madre del Sur de Guerrero at about 1,300 meters above sea level (asl). 36 charcoal samples were recovered which were analyzed by AMS and using Bayesian statistics.

The dates obtained place the two residential sectors of the site between 1250–1440 cal AD (sector 1) and between 1280–1680 cal AD (sector 3).

For its part, the smelting area (sector 2) dates back to between 1630–1825 cal AD and is characterized by the presence of large amounts of slag and copper ore.

García Zaldúa, J., & Hosler, D. (n.d.). Copper Smelting at the Archaeological Site of El Manchón, Guerrero: From Indigenous Practice to Colonial-Scale Production.Latin American Antiquity, 1-18. doi: 10.1017 / laq.2019.105.

Image: Stock Photos, by Juan Aunion on Shutterstock.

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