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Archaeological Adhesives in the American Southwest

Author(s): Marilen Pool ; Christina Bisulca

Year: 2017

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The ancient cultures of the American Southwest used various plant and insect exudates as adhesives in a range of artifacts, including mosaic plaques, arrows, wooden tools, and in pottery as a repair and sealant. The conservation department at the Arizona State Museum surveyed the adhesives used in the Pottery and Archaeological Perishable Collections, analyzing over 100 objects that included every major cultural group in the Southwest sourced to 35 different archaeological sites. Identification was made with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The study revealed that pine resin and insect lac were the primary adhesives. Insect lac, a polyester exudate from insects (Tachardiella spp.) endemic to the desert lowlands, was the predominant adhesive used by the Hohokam. Both pine resin and insect lac were found in artifacts from the Mogollon and the Ancestral Pueblo. Most notable is the extensive use of insect lac by the Mogollon, as most of the artifacts analyzed were excavated from areas dominated by pine. Host plants for lac insects do not occur above ~5000 ft., which indicates trade of this material into the Mogollon Rim and Colorado Plateau. The results also potentially indicate preference for lac in certain applications, especially as a hafting material.

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Archaeological Adhesives in the American Southwest. Marilen Pool, Christina Bisulca. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430062)


Geographic Keywords
North America - Southwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14433

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America