Accessibility Tools

Manufactured Light

Mirrors in the Mesoamerican Realm

edited by Emiliano Gallaga and Marc G. Blainey

Paperback Price $37.95
Ebook Price $29.95
30-day ebook rental price $9.99

Buy Now

"This book fills a theoretical and analytical gap in our understanding of Mesoamerican lifeways and world views and is necessary for any Mesoamerican archaeologist who wishes to consider the entirety of the archaeological record."
—Zachary Hruby, Northern Kentucky University

"​[A]​ satisfying project for the archaeologist and the anthropologist alike​. . . . the question of mirrors is a truly cross-cultural one, and this volume has made it an interdisciplinary one as well."

Anthropology Review Database

"​[A] welcome contribution to scholarship​ ​ on the material science and cultural significance of​ ​Mesoamerican mirrors (a topic that receives too little attention​ ​in both archaeological reports and synthetic studies),​ ​providing extensive geographic coverage within the region. These chapters definitively connect the technology required​ ​to produce such objects to their special status as costume​ ​elements, vital ritual tools and cosmological agents among​ ​diverse archaeological and post-conquest cultures."

Cambridge Archaeological Journal

"The​ ​book merits careful perusal by those interested in​ ​Mesoamerican cultures, and some chapters deserve to​ ​be read twice."

Latin American Antiquity

"[This] volume succeeds in illuminating a class of material culture sadly underrepresented in the archeological literature."
Sixteenth Century Journal

 "Manufactured Light is a timely and important collection on the production, use, and symbolism of mirrors in Mesoamerica. . . . an important contribution to the scholarship of experimental archaeology, craft production, and mirrors more specifically."
Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute

"Readers will afterward look at the technological world around them with a greater sense of historical appreciation and cross-cultural understanding."
Technology and Culture


Complex and time-consuming to produce, iron-ore mirrors stand out among Prehispanic artifacts for their aesthetic beauty, their symbolic implications, and the complexity and skill of their assembly. Manufactured Light presents the latest archaeological research on these items, focusing on the intersection of their significance and use and on the technological aspects of the manufacturing processes that created them.

The volume covers the production, meaning, and utilization of iron-ore mirrors in various Mesoamerican communities. Chapters focus on topics such as experimental archaeology projects and discussions of workshops in archaeological contexts in the Maya, Central Mexico, and northwest Mexico regions. Other chapters concentrate on the employment and ideological associations of these mirrors in Prehispanic times, especially as both sacred and luxury items. The final chapters address continuities in the use of mirrors from Prehispanic to modern times, especially in contemporary indigenous communities, with an emphasis on examining the relationship between ethnographic realities and archaeological interpretations.

While the symbolism of these artifacts and the intricacy of their construction have long been recognized in archaeological discussions, Manufactured Light is the first synthesis of this important yet under-studied class of material culture. It is a must-read for students and scholars of Mesoamerican archaeology, ethnography, religion, replicative experimentation, and lithic technology.

Contributors: Marc G. Blainey, Thomas Calligaro, Carrie L. Dennett, Emiliano Gallaga, Julie Gazzola, Sergio Gómez Chávez, Olivia Kindl, Brigitte Kovacevich, Achim Lelgemann, José J. Lunazzi, John J. McGraw, Emiliano Melgar, Joseph Mountjoy, Reyna Solis, Karl Taube


Emiliano Gallaga is a Mexican archaeologist interested in northwest Mexico and experimental and historical archaeology. He is the director of the Escuela de Antropología e Historia del Norte de México (EAHNM) INAH, Chihuahua.

Marc G. Blainey is a research fellow at the Trent University Archaeological Research Centre (TUARC). He received a PhD in anthropology from Tulane University and served as a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto. His research and publications bridge the anthropology of religion, medical anthropology, cognitive archaeology, and consciousness studies.

University Press of Colorado Logo


  • Paperback Price: $37.95
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60732-938-1
  • Ebook Price: $29.95
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $9.99
  • EISBN: 978-1-60732-408-9
  • Publication Month: May
  • Publication Year: 2016
  • Pages: 312
  • Illustrations: 89
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: edited by Emiliano Gallaga and Marc G. Blainey
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-60732-407-2
  • Get Permissions: Get Permission

Related Titles

Browse Related Titles Tagged Under:

University Press of Colorado University of Alaska Press Utah State University Press University of Wyoming Press