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The Case for the Aztec Goldsmith

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Article of journalKing, Timothy B. The Case for the Aztec GoldsmithAncient Mesoamerica, 2015 vol. 26 no. 2 p. 313-327. Keywords:
Mexico
Archaeology
Pre-hispanic period

Abstract:

There is compelling evidence to believe that some gold ornaments in the South Mexican International Style found outside the Basin of Mexico, or without provenience, were made by goldsmiths in the urban centers of the Aztec empire, rather than by the Mixtec artisans to whom they are commonly attributed. The weight of gold dust and bullion recorded as tribute to the Aztec rulers in the Codex Mendoza and other sources was sufficient to produce 22,000–27,000 small and medium-sized ornaments annually, implying a large number of goldworkers in these urban centers. Ethnohistorical documents indicate that many gold ornaments were given to provincial leaders by Aztec rulers who used gifts of luxury items as an important part of their diplomatic strategies, and political patronage system; many more were exported by means of long-distance trade.

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