For thousands of years, the inhabitants of highland Mesoamerica have exploited wild and cultivated maguey plants (Agave sp.) for their sap, edible leaves, and fiber. In the mid-1980s, Jeffrey and Mary Parsons undertook an ethnoarchaeological project in the town of Orizabita and nearby communities in the Mezquital Valley of Hidalgo, Mexico. There they documented the diverse uses of maguey for fiber, fermentation, and food. They wrote about their research in Maguey Utilization in Highland Central Mexico. While conducting their research, they built a small collection of tools used for maguey processing, as well as examples of fiber and waste products associated with maguey processing. Two of these examples are shown here, both from the workshop of Rutilio Felipe. On the left is a sample of fiber produced from processing two pencas (stalks) of an Agave lechuguilla using a wooden pounder and iron scraper. The sample on the right consists of waste material that was removed from the stalks before they were scraped. Other objects in the collection document the entire process of fiber production.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.