A Material World: Collaborative Research in Art, Archaeology, and Materials Science in the Study of the Ancient Americas

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

This session features collaborative research in art, archaeology, and materials science in the study of the ancient Americas. Collaboration between scientists and social scientists or humanists has long been a part of archaeological studies, yet recent decades have seen a flourishing in productive collaborations between archaeologists and art historians with materials and conservation scientists. This panel explores new directions in such inter-disciplinary collaboration, particularly regarding how new scientific analyses can help us understand ancient technologies, artists’ decisions in the choice of materials or modes of manufacture, and the meaning of materials to artists and users. In some cases, materials science reveals information that can confirm or refute what is suggested from stylistic or other analysis, particularly regarding sharing of materials and technologies across cultures. In others, new technologies of excavation, preservation, and analysis give insight into the use of organic materials, which allow us both to see a wider range of materials used by artists and to help recreate the ancient sensorial world and ask new questions about the experience of artists and users in the ancient past of the Americas.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-10 of 10)

  • Documents (10)

  • Ancient Greenstone Mosaic Masks from the Central Maya Lowlands of Guatemala: A Contextual and Technological Study (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Juan Melendez.

    To date, nine greenstone mosaic masks (GMM), recovered in eight royal and one elite interment, have been found in association with other grave goods belonging to ancient Maya individuals from Tikal, El Zotz, and El Perú-Waka’. Nearly 1,000 tesserae compose these nine GMM, however to date it is unknown what the mosaic masks originally looked like as these were found unassembled. Nonetheless, prior to carrying out preliminary reintegration and restoration projects, a manufacturing study was deemed...

  • Beyond Polychrome and Greenstone: FTIR and SEM-XEDS Analysis of Fine-Grained Remains from Two Ancient Maya Royal Tombs at El Perú-Waka’ (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michelle Rich.

    Ample evidence suggests Classic period Maya royal tombs were intentional arrangements of symbolically-charged objects and offerings. Because of this, critical examination of the entire array of a tomb’s contents is vital. Analysis of polychrome vessels, greenstone jewels, and human remains are certainly essential. Relative to these more well-preserved or spectacular components of a mortuary assemblage, small-scale or fine-grained remains have historically tended to be understudied or overlooked,...

  • The Black, The Red: A Study of Two Maya Mural Pigments from the Petén Region (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Heather Hurst. Caitlin O'Grady.

    Black and red are foundational colors in Mesoamerican painting and scribal arts, often derived from easily accessible raw materials. Although their presence is ubiquitous, variations in chemistry and microscopic properties are data that tell a more nuanced story. This paper summarizes analysis of black and red colorants used in Maya wall paintings that contribute to observations regarding local traditions in manufacture, as well as individual variation in artistic practice. Reported results...

  • Collaborative Research on Maya Ceramic Vessels at LACMA (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Megan ONeil. Charlotte Eng. John Hirx. Diana Magaloni. Yosi Pozeilov.

    This paper features the Maya Vase Research Project, a collaboration of LACMA’s Conservation Center and the Art and the Ancient Americas Program, which is studying Classic-period Maya ceramics in the LACMA collection. The project’s first phase was to perform digital technical imaging, comprised of photography in different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, starting in the visible and expanding from X-rays to the Infrared, including ultraviolet visible induced fluorescence. Digital rollout...

  • Colorful material connections: Non-invasive analyses of Mesoamerican pictorial manuscripts and their cultural-historical implications (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Davide Domenici.

    Non-invasive scientific analyses recently performed by the ‘MOLAB’ mobile laboratory on a number of pre-Hispanic and early colonial pictorial manuscripts provided a host of new data that deepen our knowledge of Mesoamerican coloring materials and painting practices. The huge corpus of available analytical data – obtained from codices Madrid, Cospi, Borgia, Vatican B, Laud, Fejérváry-Mayer, Nuttall, Bodley, Selden, Selden Roll, Tudela, Vatican A, and Mendoza – allows the first cultural-historical...

  • First Steps and Finishing Touches: Imaging Techniques and Ancient Maya Bone Craft Production (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sarah Newman.

    Although archaeology focuses on the things that endure, the means by which we study those things is constantly changing. Recent technological developments have revolutionized how we assess chronology, our abilities to identify smaller and smaller traces of organic and inorganic residues, and the ways we share our data among ourselves and with the public. This presentation details a series of imaging techniques, used alone and in combination, that reveal details of ancient bone crafting methods,...

  • Journeys of Our Ancestors: Ceramic Colorants and their Role in Undestanding Migration in the American Southwest (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Caitlin O'Grady. Nancy Odegaard. E. Charles Adams.

    Culturally defined color, and the technology used to produce it, is a hallmark of ceramics produced in the American Southwest prior to European contact. This characteristic (among others) was utilized to initially name, define and describe archaeologically recovered ceramic wares (e.g. Colton and Hargrave 1937; Fewkes 1898; Kidder 1931; Shepard 1931). The integration of conservation science and materials science approaches to this research is crucial to reveal nuanced interpretations of cultural...

  • Lead and Zinc Pigmented Mural Paints: Lowry Pueblo Great House, Southwest Colorado (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marie Desrochers. Marvin Rowe. Sally Cole. Karen Steelman.

    We used numerous techniques to study the white step pattern murals of Lowry Pueblo Kivas A and B: visual analysis, portable X-ray fluorescence, scanning electron microscopy with an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer, and powder X-ray diffraction. Elemental analyses identified lead and zinc in the shiny bright white paint layer and calcium in the dull white paint layer. X-ray diffraction confirmed zinc oxide and lead sulfate pigment minerals in the shiny, bright white paint layer, whereas...

  • Maya Monument Production: Techne and the Birth of Meaning (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Emmett Nahil. Mary Clarke.

    Analyses of sculptural practices of the Ancient Maya have centered on the final stages of production, namely the identities of sculptors, the locations of production, and the techne of sculptural practice. While the contributions of these analyses cannot be contested, there remains a poorly resolved understanding of when in the process of sculpture limestone gains its cultural significance. This paper presents data from recent excavations at a quarry workshop at Xultun where a stela still...

  • They are what they eat: A need to know more about diet through residues, hieroglyphic texts, and images of the Classic Mayas (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jennifer Loughmiller-Cardinal.

    Among the various sources of information about what foodstuffs comprised the Classic Mayan diet, we lack resolution on daily, domestic, and the various ritual and event foodstuffs. Beyond the archaeologically recovered macrofossil and faunal data, the identifications of drugs and ritual foodstuffs are less well established. Speculative and presumed behaviors that surround these goods tend to bias methods of analysis towards known substances and preconceived interpretations, thereby potentially...