- Guanín (bronze)
It is a common misconception that pre-Columbian Americas lacked
bronzeand thus were not able to deploy hardened copper alloys. Copper alloys are reported as ‘guanín’ by Colombus [http://www.doaks.org/GoldandPower/GoldandPower10.pdf] . This misconception may well arise because tin, the common component of Eurasian bronze (although common in Bolivia), is rare in the Caribbeanbasin.
copper, iron, manganese, nickel, chromium, and cobaltand 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, marcasiteetc on the surfaces of the common place once submerged karstrock 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 [http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/copper/240499.pdf] . 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 [http://www.newworldexplorersinc.org/MayaSeafarers.pd] . 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 Taínoswho 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-colombianmetal tools in the Americas is finally considered "fact" [http://www.doaks.org/precolcollection.html] , the question is which ethnicities, nations or civilizations had these objects. Thus classification of Taíno technological progress as merely Neolithicmay 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 oxideores (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
* [http://www.npi.gov.au/database/substance-info/profiles/27.html National Pollutant Inventory - Copper and compounds fact sheet]
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