Dorothy Hosler

  • Professor of Archeology and Ancient Technology
  • BA Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • PhD Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1986 (specialization Mesoamerican archaeology)

Material Culture

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

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.

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.


Recent News

Profs. Hosler, Lechtman, and Ortony receive J-WAFs awards

This year, seven new projects led by eleven faculty PIs across six MIT departments will be funded with two-year grants of up to $200,000, overhead free. The winning projects include a silk-based food safety sensor; research into climate vulnerability and resilience in agriculture using…   more



D. Hosler, “Aztec Metallurgy”, in The Oxford Handbook of the Aztec, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.


D. Hosler, “Mesoamerican Metallurgy: the Perspective from the West”, in Archaeometallurgy in Global Perspective: methods and syntheses, New York: Springer, 2014, pp. 329-359.


D. Hosler, “Mercury, Mining, and Empire: The Human and Ecological Cost of Colonial Silver Mining in the Andes”, Technology and Culture, vol. 54. pp. 973-975, 2013.
D. Hosler, “Mesoamerican Metallurgy Today”, in Archaeometallurgy in Mesoamerica: current approaches and new perspectives, Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2013, pp. 227-245.


D. Hosler, “Informe sobre las excavaciones en la temporada 2006”, Ejido Manchon-Parotas Coyuca de Catalan, Guerrero. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2012.


M. J. Tarkanian and Hosler, D., “America's First Polymer Scientists: Rubber Processing, Use, and Transport in Mesoamerica”, Latin American Antiquity, vol. 22. pp. 469-486, 2011.
D. Hosler, “Ancient West Mexican Metallurgy: Revised and Revisited”, Journal of World Prehistory. 2011.


D. Hosler and Cabrera, R., “A MAZAPA PHASE COPPER FIGURINE FROM ATETELCO, TEOTIHUACAN: DATA AND SPECULATIONS”, Ancient Mesoamerica, vol. 21. pp. 249-260, 2010.


D. Hosler, “West Mexican Metallurgy: Revisited and Revised”, Journal of World Prehistory, vol. 22. pp. 185-212, 2009.
D. Hosler, Tarkanian, M. J., and Hessler, K., “Aspects of Metallurgy of Calixtlahuaca. Recent Research on the Introduction, Production, and Use of Metal in Mesoamerica”, in Fifty-Third International Conference of Americanists, Mexico City, 2009.
D. Hosler, “Copper Smelting at El Manchon, Guerrero”, in Fifty-Third International Conference of Americanists, Mexico City, 2009.


L. Dewan and Hosler, D., “Ancient maritime trade on balsa rafts - An engineering analysis”, Journal of Anthropological Research, vol. 64. pp. 19-40, 2008.


D. Hosler, “Excavaciones en El Manchon, Guerrero”, Symposium in Honor of Phillip Weigand. El Colegio de Michoacan, 2006.
D. Hosler, “Mining and Metalwork”, in Oxford Dictionary of Mesoamerican Cultures, First., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.


D. Hosler, “Alternativas tecnicas, categorias, sociales y significado entre los alfareros de Las Animas”, in Etnoarqueologia: el contexto dinamico de la cultura material a traves del tiempo, Zamora, Michoacan: El Colegio de Michoacan AC, 2005, pp. 75-103.
D. Hosler, “Informe parcial sobre las excavaciones en el sitio La Barranca de las Fundiciones del Manchon”, Municipio de Coyuca de Catalán. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2005.
D. Hosler, Los sonidos y colores del poder: la sagrada metalurgia Antigua del occidente de Mexico, Translation. Toluca, Mexico: Colegio Mexiquense, 2005.


D. Hosler, “Excavations at the Copper Smelting Site of El Manchon, Guerrero, Mexico”, FAMSI reports. FAMSI, 2004.
D. Hosler, “Nuevos datos sobre la produccion de metal en occidente en la epoca prehispanica”, in Bienes estrategicos del antiguo occidente de Mexico: produccion e intercambio, Zamora, Michoacan: El Colegio de Michoacan, 2004, pp. 335-354.


D. Hosler, “Metal Production”, in The Postclassic Mesoamerican World, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2003, pp. 159-171.


M. Ferreira, Mattos, L. H. C., Moreno, R., Goncalves, P., Hosler, D., and Ortiz, C., “Studies of natural rubber clones by standard methods and nanomechanics techniques.”, Abstracts of Papers of the American Chemical Society, vol. 224. pp. U429 - U429, 2002.
D. Hosler, “Nuevos hallazgos sobre la metalurgia antigua de Guerrero”, in El pasado arqueologico de Guerrero, Chilpancingo, Guerrero: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2002, pp. 225-241.


M. J. Tarkanian and Hosler, D., “An Ancient Tradition Continued: Modern Rubber Processing in Mexico”, in The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ballgame, Charlotte: Thames & Hudson, 2001, pp. 116-121.
D. Hosler, “Mining and Metalwork”, in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures: The Civilizations of Mexico and Central America, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 309-311.


M. J. Tarkanian and Hosler, D., “La elaboracion de hule en en el antiguo Mesoamerica”, Arqueologia Mexicana, vol. 8. pp. 54-57, 2000.
D. Hosler, “Informe final: reconocimiento de la superficie para localizer sitios de produccion de cobre en la region sureste del cinturon de cobre mexicano”, Archaeometallurgy in Global Perspective: Methods and Syntheses. Mexico City, 2000.


D. Hosler, Burkett, S. L., and Tarkanian, M. J., “Prehistoric polymers: Rubber processing in ancient Mesoamerica”, Science, vol. 284. pp. 1988-1991, 1999.
D. Hosler, “Recent insights into the metallurgical technologies of ancient Mesoamerica”, JOM-Journal of the Minerals Metals & Materials Society, vol. 51. pp. 11-14, 1999.
R. Lopez, Hosler, D., and Moran, D., “Coastal and Inland Pb Isotope Groups of Paleocene Cu Ores from the Rio Balsas Basin, Guerrero State, Mexico”, in Proceedings of the American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting, San Francisco, 1999.


D. Hosler, “Artefactos de cobre en el periodo posclasico tardio Mesoamericano”, in El Occidente de Mexico: arqueologia, historia, y medio ambiente, Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara, 1998, pp. 319-330.
D. Hosler, “In quest of material wealth: aboriginal and colonial mining and metallurgy in Spanish America”, Geoarchaeology, vol. 12. pp. 165-168, 1998.
D. Hosler, “Sounds, Colors, and Meanings in the Metallurgy of Ancient West Mexico”, in Reader in Archaeological Theory, London: Routledge, 1998, pp. 103-118.


D. Hosler, “Early metal mining and production - Craddock,PT”, American Antiquity, vol. 62. pp. 153-154, 1997.
D. Hosler, “La tecnologia de la metalurgia sagrada del Occidente de Mexico”, Arqueologia Mexicana, vol. 5. pp. 34-41, 1997.
D. Hosler, “Los origenes andinos de la metalurgia del occidente de Mexico”, Boletin Museo del Oro, vol. 42. pp. 3-25, 1997.


D. Hosler, “Ancient American ritual bells”, Materials Research Society Bulletin, vol. 21. pp. 80-80, 1996.
D. Hosler, “Technical choices, social categories and meaning among the Andean potters of Las Animas”, Journal of Material Culture, vol. 1. pp. 63-92, 1996.
D. Hosler and Macfarlane, A., “Copper sources, metal production, and metals trade in late postclassic Mesoamerica”, Science, vol. 273. pp. 1819-1824, 1996.
D. Hosler, “Bells, shells, bees and boats: Metallurgy in ancient Mesoamerica”, Science Spectra, vol. 4. p. 38\textendash45, 1996.
D. Hosler, “Metallurgy in the Americas”, in Oxford Companion to Archaeology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, pp. 462-463.


D. Hosler, “SOUND, COLOR AND MEANING IN THE METALLURGY OF ANCIENT WEST MEXICO”, World Archaeology, vol. 27. pp. 100-115, 1995.


D. Hosler, “La Metalurgia en la Antigua Mesoamerica: Sonidos y Colores del Poder”, in Semillas de industria: transformaciones de la tecnologia indigena en las Americas, Tlalpan, Mexico: CIESAS, 1994, pp. 85-97.
D. Hosler, “La metalurgia prehispanica del occidente de Mexico: una cronologia tecnologica”, in Arqueologia del occidente de Mexico: nuevas aportaciones, El Colegio de Michoacan: Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico, 1994, pp. 237-295.
D. Hosler, The sounds and colors of power: The sacred metallurgical technology of ancient west Mexico. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994.
D. Hosler, “El bronce Mesoamericano: origenes, desarrollo y difusion”, in Transformaciones mayores en el Occidente de Mexico, Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara, 1994, pp. 115-126.


D. Hosler, “POTTERY FUNCTION - A USE-ALTERATION PERSPECTIVE - SKIBO,JM”, American Anthropologist, vol. 95. pp. 1024-1025, 1993.


D. Hosler and Stresser-Pean, G., “The Huastec Region - A Second Locus for the Production of Bronze Alloys in Ancient Mesoamerica”, Science, vol. 257. pp. 1215-1220, 1992.
G. Stresser-Pean and Hosler, D., “El cascabel de El Naranjo. Uno de los mas grandes y bellos de Mesoamerica”, TRACE, vol. 21. pp. 66-74, 1992.


D. Hosler, “THE DEVELOPMENT OF ANCIENT MESOAMERICAN METALLURGY”, JOM - Journal of the Minerals Metals & Materials Society, vol. 42. pp. 44-46, 1990.
D. Hosler, Lechtman, H. N., and Holm, O., Axe-monies and their relatives, vol. 30. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1990, p. 103.


D. Hosler, “ANCIENT WEST MEXICAN METALLURGY - A TECHNOLOGICAL CHRONOLOGY”, Journal of Field Archaeology, vol. 15. pp. 191-217, 1988.
D. Hosler, “The Metallurgy of Ancient West Mexico”, in The Beginning of the Use of Metals and Alloys, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988, pp. 328-343.


D. Hosler, “The Origins, Technology, and Social Construction of Ancient West Mexican Metallurgy”, vol. Ph.D. Santa Barbara, 1986.