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Guanín (bronze)

It is a common misconception that pre-Colombian Americas lacked bronze and thus were not able to deploy hardened copper alloys. Copper alloys are reported as ‘guanín’ by Colombus [1]. This misconception may well arise because tin, the common component of Eurasian bronze (although common in Bolivia), is rare in the Caribbean basin.

However, copper, iron, manganese, nickel, chromium, and cobalt and zinc, copper and manganese mixed into a matrix of iron sulfides and other metal sulfides gold, cobalt, nickel, etc are readily available, often glittering in such minerals as pyrite, fools gold, the brassy golden yellow cubanite, marcasite etc on the surfaces of the common place once submerged karst rock formations of these islands.

Thus guanín could well be a manganese bronze. Today US “gold dollars” are made of a probably similar alloy 88.5 % copper, 6% zinc, 3.5% manganese, and 2% nickel [2]. However, it should be noted that nickel has a melting temperature well above that produced by even a bellowed kiln (and bellows were probably first employed some time after 300 BC in China) so it would be rather unlikely that guanin would have contained nickle.

Thus Columbus’s report of metal axes in lands and seas of the Caribbean although viewed skeptically by some cannot be readily dismissed [3]. In this cited article these authors attribute this bronze to the Mayans. One might keep in mind that the Mayans were in trading contact with the Taínos who used the word guanín to describe the copper alloys they used for ornamental and religious purposes, and in addition there were readily available deposits of the necessary ores (see above) in the Major Antilles. The existence of pre-colombian metal tools in the Americas is finally considered "fact" [4], the question is which ethnicities, nations or civilizations had these objects. Thus classification of Taíno technological progress as merely Neolithic may well be an understatement awaiting archeological resolution of Taíno use of guanín alloy tools.

Richard Hakluyt (Hakluyt, 1909) reported (circa 1592) that there were different (non-Taíno, presumable Carib) names for gold (calcouri), silver (perota), iron (mointiman) and copper oxide ores (tacorao) in the Caribbean island of Trinidad, off the coast of Venezuela.

Hakluyt, Richard (1552-1606) 1907 version The interpretation of certeine stet) words of Trinidad annexed to the voyage of sir Robert Duddeley (reprinted 1926) Voyages J.M. Denton & Sons London, E.P. Dutton & Sons, New York vol. 7. p. 171

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Guanín_(bronze)". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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