Dorothy Hosler




Prof. Hosler's research generally examines the extraction, processing and production of copper and copper based alloys in ancient Mesoamerica and South America and the relation of these technologies in the two areas to each other. Her primary research currently is at the site of El Manchón, Guerrero, in West Mexico, where extensive copper smelting activities took place. She and her colleagues are currently working on dating the smelting area of that site. They are also examining the production of a variety of unusual prehispanic copper-based alloy objects recently excavated in the state of Mexico. Her general interests in production extend to rubber and pottery production in ancient Mesoamerica and to construction technologies in Mesoamerica.

Current Research in Guerrero

Prof. Hosler's 1999 survey of the Balsas region of Guerrero identified six metalworking sites, the most significant of which is La Barrranca de la Fundiciones (see Hosler 2003a, b). This site is located at 1400 meters in the Sierra Madre del Sur de Guerrero. The site covers about 1 kilometer and consists of three physically distinct areas: two zones contain long low rectangular structures (3-8m long) that may have served as house foundations or for other activities. Copper smelting took place in a third physically separate area where large accumulations of slag and disturbed furnace structures appear. We have completed excavations at the site and have analyzed the slag in the laboratories at MIT. Initial dates from both the smelting area and from the mounds suggest occupation around 1200–1300AD. Ethnic affiliations of these people cannot  be determined. After four 8-12 week field seasons work at the site halted due to dangerous political/social circumstances in 2010. We have carried out extensive laboratory work on the pottery and smelting technologies and materials.  La Barranca de Las Fundiciones is the first ancient copper-smelting site yet identified in Mesoamerica.

Other Research

In 2012 Prof. Hosler traveled to Sucre, Bolivia for a three month course in intensive Quechua to explore the possiblity of enthnographic field work among local mining communities. Work in indigenous Bolivian communities has become difficult in the last several years due to political concerns and presumably will resolve in the near future.

The Spring 2008 issue of the Journal of Anthropological Research reported research on oceangoing rafts and traderoutes in pre-Columbian South and Central America; this research was performed by Prof. Hosler and Leslie Dewan, former MIT undergraduate (see the MIT News Office for the full story, March 19, 2008). Leslie Dewan is currently a MIT Ph.D. student in the Department of Nuclear Science & Engineering.

A facsimile raft conforming to original dimensions and made from original materials was constructed at MIT as a component of the laboratory class, Materials in Human Experience. The raft was launched in the Charles River in Spring 2009.

Selected Publications

(in press) D. Hosler, "Aztec Metallurgy" The Aztec. Oxford Universtiy Press

2014 D. Hosler. "Mexican Metallurgy: The Perspective from the West,” in Archaeometallurgy in Global Perspective: methods and syntheses. Ben W. Roberts and Christopher P. Thornton (eds). New York: Springer Verlag.

2013 D. Hosler. “Mesoamerican Metallurgy Today,” in Archaeometallurgy in Mesoamerica: current approaches and new perspectives. Scott E. Simmons and Aaron N. Shugar (eds). Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado

2009 D. Hosler and M.J. Tarkanian, "America's first polymer scientists: rubber processing, use, and transport in ancient mesoamerica" (to be published in 2011 in Latin American Antiquity).

2010 D. Hosler. and R. Cabrera Castro, “A mazapa phase figurine from atetelco.” Ancient Mesoamerica, 21:2

2009 D. Hosler “The Metallurgy of West Mexico: revisited and revised.” Journal of World Prehistory, 22: 185–212.

2008 L. Dewan and D. Hosler. "Ancient Maritime Trade on Balsa Rafts: An Engineering Analysis." Journal of Anthropological Research 64: 19–40.

2005 Los Sonidos y Colores del Poder: La Tecnología Metalúrgica Sagrada del Occidente de México. Zinacantepec, Mexico: Colegio Mexiquense.

2004 "Nuevos datos sobre la produccion de metal en el Occidente en la Epoca Prehispanica" in Bienes Estrategicos del Antiguo Occidente de Mexico: Produccion e Intercambio 335–354 E Williams El Colegio de Michoacan, Zamora.

"Nuevos Hallazgos sobre la metalurgia antigua de Guerrero," La Arqueologia del estado de Guerrero. El gobierno del estado de Guerrero (2003).

"Metal Production," Chapter 21 in The Postclassic Mesoamerican World, University of Utah Press:159–171 (2003).

"La Elaboración del hule en el antiguo Mesoamerica," Arqueología Mexicana Vol VIII no 44: 54–57 (2000) (with M. Tarkanian).

"Recent Insights into the Metallurgical Technologies of Ancient Mesoamerica," Journal of Metals 51 (5): 11–14 (1999).

"Prehistoric Polymers: Rubber Processing in Ancient Mesoamerica," Science 284 (5422): 1988–1991 (1999) (with others).

"Technical Choices, Social Categories and Meaning Among the Andean Potters of Las Animas," Journal of Material Culture 1 (1): 63–92 (1996).

"Copper Sources, Metal Production and Metals Trade in Late Postclassic Mesoamerica," Science 273 (5283): 1819–1824 (1996) (with A. Marcfarlane).

The Sounds and Colors of Power: The Metallurgical Technology of Ancient West Mexico. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (1994).

"The Huastec Region: A Second Locus for the Production of Bronze Alloys in Ancient Mesoamerica," Science 257 (5074): 1215–1220 (1992) (with G. Stresser-Pean).

Axe-Monies and Their Relatives. Studies in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology No. 30, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. (1990).

Related News

DMSE researchers discover early rubber processing
Prof. Dorothy Hosler and Mike Tarkanian (DMSE Technical Instructor) have published a paper on rubber processing in Mesoamerica, ca. 1600 B.C.
May 23, 2010