Rancho Pint - The Mexico Page

Text and Photos ©2016 by J. Pint

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Canadian geologist Chris Lloyd in Ahuisculco Mexico

  Chris Lloyd attempting to understand obsidian genesis from a complicated geologic sample, during his year-long study of Ahuisculco's obsidian flows. “To finish my study,” he says, “I need another three years, at least.”

Spherulites in quarry at Ahuisculco

Chris Lloyd with visitors at the Ahuisculco quarry.


Spherulites found in the Ahuisculco quarry. These volcanic stone balls are naturally formed by crystallization and in rare cases can attain a diameter of three meters, in which case they are called megaspherulites.

Obsidian with mirror-like finish

Ahuisculco obsidian is of high quality with few blemishes and a mirror-like smoothness.

Luis Median with spherulite

Luis Medina proudly displays a “perfect spherulite.” These volcanic stone balls are naturally formed by crystallization and in rare cases can attain a diameter of three meters.

Don Eleno with indian-blood obsidian at Navajas

Don Eleno Espinosa with a large piece of "Indian Blood" obsidian.

Spherulites found near Ahuisculco

Spherulites found at the Ahuisculco quarry.

Archaeologist Rodrigo Esparza at Ahuisculco Mine

Archaeologist Rodrigo Esparza at one of Ahuisculco's many obsidian workshops.

Outdoors in Western Mexico Volume 2

Information on the Selva Negra Flora and Fauna Refuge near Ahuisculco can be found in Chapter five of Outdoors in Western Mexico 2 by John and Susy Pint.


Caves beneath the dunes? Check out our Saudicaves page:







Chris Lloyd investigates Ahuisculco obsidian and sperulites

By John Pint

Chris Lloyd with obsidian cores in one of 300 obsidian mines In 2013 I paid my first visit to Selva Negra, the popular name for the Ahuisculco "Selva Negra" Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, located 30 kilometers southwest of Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city. This is a biological corridor that was selected to help link Bosque la Primavera and the Sierra de Quila by preserving the Sierra de Ahuisculco. Selva Negra is actually the title of a song by Guadalajara rock group Maná which finances the restoration and conservation of the corridor in cooperation with the local ejido de Ahuisculco.

I was introduced to this bosque by Franky Alvarez, who summed it up as “two big cerros, one composed of black obsidian and the other of red.” Indeed, anyone who takes a stroll along the paths of Selva Negra can't help be impressed by the huge quantities of obsidian underfoot, obsidian of great purity and quality.

But something else impressed me on that first visit three years ago. We had parked our car in a quarry before entering the park on foot. It looked like they were mining jal, which consists of pumice and other solids ejected during a volcanic explosion, but a close examination of the quarry wall revealed something I had never seen before. In the wall there were literally hundreds of hard, round balls, obviously not chunks of pumice, hosted in black obsidian. What were they?

That's the question I asked Canadian geologist Chris Lloyd and it triggered his own geological study of the Ahuisculco area, a study which is still ongoing today.

The biggest obsidian mine in what may be Mexico's biggest obsidian deposit

As for the naturally formed stone balls, Lloyd learned that they were spherulites, formed by crystalization of the molten obsidian and frequently associated with deposits of obsidian. Occasionally these round formations can grow to enormous sizes, in which case they are called megaspherulites, an example being the Great Stone Balls or Piedras Bola of Ahualulco, which sometimes reach a diameter of three meters.

In February of 2015, archaeologist and obsidian specialist Dr. Rodrigo Esparza visited the quarry and surrounding obsidian deposits. He discovered that the area was dotted with the remains of ancient obsidian mines and workshops and pointed out to Lloyd that no geological study of these or any of Jalisco's other obsidian deposits (which are reportedly the fourth largest in the world) had ever been undertaken.

All of this piqued Lloyd's curiosity and for the last year he has been engaged in figuring out the mechanisms which produced the Ahuisculco flows and in mapping their extent.

“So far I've mapped 14 square kilometers,” he told me, “and I've found 69 individual flows spread over an area of 359 hectares.”

With the help of several “sherpas” Lloyd collected around 200 samples and delivered them to Esparza for Trace Geochemistry Analysis, which produces an extremely detailed list of all the elements present in a piece of obsidian. “We need this data,” says Lloyd, “to determine which flows connect together and which are separate flows.”

Lloyd has found that most of the obsidian in the Ahuisculco flows is pure black or black streaked with gray, with occasional intrusions of “Indian Blood” obsidian which is a mixture of red and black. “I also discovered that there have been some notable eruptive phases in the area. So It's similar to the Primavera Caldera in that sense. The obsidian was not just flowing on the surface, but there was at least one big bang, which left pyroclastic tuff deposits at least two or three meters deep.”

Detailed mapping of obsidian deposits has been carried out in very few places around the world. “In Mexico, there have been a few geologic studies of the Sierra de Pachuca—the most famous obsidian in Mesoamerica,” says Lloyd. the only problem there, is that most of the actual obsidian is buried 20 to 40 meters under an avalanche deposit, so there's not much detail as to the original obsidian flow.” As for Jalisco, nothing of the sort has ever been attempted and the size of the Ahuisculco flow was unsuspected. “It could turn out to be the biggest flow in Mexico,” he added.

“When will you finish your survey?” I asked the geologist.
“Well,” he replied, “the whole sierra has 100 square kilometers and I've finished 14 of them—and that's taken me a year. So, unless I step up my visits—I've been going there once a week—I'm looking at another three years, at least.”

In the course of his explorations, Chris Lloyd has located over 300 obsidian mines and workshops in the Ahuisculco woods. A typical mine may often appear as a low depression, typically surrounded by thousands of “rejects” among which one might find broken or incomplete knives and spearheads. If you would like to visit Selva Negra, check chapter five of Outdoors in Western Mexico Volume two or see  Ahuisculco to Selva Negra Woods on Wikiloc.


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