Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana

Volumen 74, núm. 3, A080422, 2022



Soil modification in the manufacturing process of Mesoamerican earthen architecture

Modificación de suelos en el proceso de manufactura de la arquitectura mesoamericana de tierra


Annick Daneels1, Marta Mateu2, *, Hugo Fernández3, Salvador Piña4, Héctor Cabadas-Báez5


Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México 04510, Ciudad de México, Mexico.

Postdoctoral Fellow CONACyT CB2015-254328 project, UNAM 04510, CDMX, Mexico.

Independent Researcher, Zacatecas, Mexico.

Independent Researcher, CDMX, Mexico.

Laboratorio de Geología, Facultad de Geografía, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, 50110, Toluca, Estado de México, Mexico.

* Corresponding author: (M. Mateu) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


How to cite this article:

Daneels, A., Mateu, M., Fernández, H., Piña, S., Cabadas-Báez, H., 2022, Soil modification in the manufacturing process of Mesoamerican earthen architecture: Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana, 74 (3), A080422.

Manuscript received: December 15, 2021; Corrected manuscript received: February 21, 2022; Manuscript accepted: March 15, 2022.



This paper presents a micromorphological analysis of a sample series from three Mesoamerican earthen architecture sites. It compares a soil, a sample from a construction fill and a sample of a soil mixture used for mud-brick and facing, resulting from different manufacturing steps. The purpose is to identify the soil features that remain and those that are transformed in the process. This is of interest both to geologists, who encounter anthropically modified soils, and archaeologists interested in understanding the provenance of the raw materials and the manufacturing processes. In contrast to previous research based predominantly on earthen architecture from Europe and the Near East, this study is the first comparative analysis of Mesoamerican sites, where earthen construction developed independently from the Old World, using volcanic soils developed in a range of tropical environments. The results show that similar building techniques existed in different environments, that the non-expansive clays and fine fraction derived from volcanic deposits may have presented advantages for construction, while some features reflect the addition of mineral or vegetal temper to improve the mechanical properties of some soils.

Keywords: micromorphology, construction techniques, volcanic soils, geoarchaeology, Mexico.