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Archaeological Fingerprinting and Fremont Figurines: Reuniting the Iconic Pilling Collection

  • Bonnie L. Pitblado (a1), Molly Boeka Cannon (a2), Megan Bloxham (a3), Joel Janetski (a4), J.M. Adovasio (a5), Kathleen R. Anderson (a6) and Stephen T. Nelson (a7)...

Abstract

After the anonymous 2011 return of a long-missing Pilling Fremont figurine, a multi-disciplinary research team conducted “fingerprint” analyses in an effort to match it to 10 mates with intact provenance. The Pilling figurines, crafted 1,000 years ago and cached in a remote sandstone niche in eastern Utah, are the most significant find of Fremont portable art ever documented because they occurred in situ and are unparalleled in detail and completeness. Most of the other 400-plus known Fremont figurines derive from secondary contexts, limiting inferences archaeologists might otherwise draw in domains ranging from Fremont exchange to inter- and intra-cultural ideology. Basketry-imprint analysis, scanning electron microscopy, and portable X-ray fluorescence suggest that the returned specimen is the original Pilling. After a 40-year absence, it is now permanently curated with the rest of the collection at the Prehistoric Museum, USU Eastern, in Price, Utah, and can contribute to research of a rare artifact class. The techniques reported can also be applied to finds of fragmentary Fremont figurines in secondary contexts to assess relationships among specimens and sites. Most broadly, the successful application of nondestructive pXRF may inspire confidence in scientists studying rare and delicate specimens traditionally profiled using destructive methods such as INAA.

Después de que en 2011 se regresara de manera anónima una figurilla Pilling Fremont que había desaparecido hacía mucho tiempo, un equipo de investigación multidisciplinario realizó un análisis de “huellas dactilares” para averiguar su relación con diez ejemplos similares de procedencia conocida. Las figurillas Pilling, elaboradas hace 1000 años y guardadas en una caja depositada en un nicho de piedra arenisca en la zona este del estado de Utah, representan el hallazgo más significativo de arte portable Fremont que se haya documentado porque se encontraron in situ y son incomparables en su detalle. El resto de las más de 400 figuras Fremont que se conocen se han encontrado en contextos secundarios, limitando las inferencias que los arqueólogos pudieran elaborar en torno a distintos temas que van desde el intercambio de los Fremont hasta la ideología inter o intra-cultural. El análisis de improntas de cestería, la microscopía del microscopio electrónico de barrido y el analizador de rayos X portátil (pXRF) sugieren que la figurilla devuelta es un Pilling original. A 40 años de su desaparición, se ha integrado al resto de la colección que se encuentra bajo la curaduría permanente del Prehistoric Museum, USU Eastern, en Price, Utah, proporcionando información en torno a esta clase de artefactos raros. Las técnicas reportadas también pueden utilizarse en fragmentos de figurillas Fremont procedentes de contextos secundarios para evaluar sus relaciones con otros ejemplos y sitios. En lo general, el uso exitoso de la técnica no destructiva pXRF podría inspirar confianza en aquellos científicos que estudian especímenes raros y delicados con métodos destructivos como AIAN.

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References

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Archaeological Fingerprinting and Fremont Figurines: Reuniting the Iconic Pilling Collection

  • Bonnie L. Pitblado (a1), Molly Boeka Cannon (a2), Megan Bloxham (a3), Joel Janetski (a4), J.M. Adovasio (a5), Kathleen R. Anderson (a6) and Stephen T. Nelson (a7)...

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