Last quarter we both had the opportunity to treat pre-Columbian Nayarit ceramic figurines from Mexico, on loan from the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, Autry National Center. At first glance we thought the treatment would be pretty straightforward, but after a closer look it appeared to be anything but!
The surface and structure of the figurines are deceptively highly restored, which can be common for artifacts passing through the art market. In addition to reassembling the fragmented figurines, our goal is to document and identify old from new, and shed light onto the unknown pasts of these objects. We’re approaching the project with a range of tools including X-ray imaging, UV-induced visible fluorescence imaging, X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis, and X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry. XRF analysis indicates the presence of lead and zinc on the surface of both figurines, which are common in modern pigments, though typically not found in pre-Columbian ceramics. Using XRF and XRD, we also detected the presence of plaster in some areas, a common restoration material for ceramics. While we work to try to piece our puzzles together, take a look at our projects!
Colette Khanaferov and Betsy Burr (’16)