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Tubular pottery comprises certain peculiar artifacts that were produced by late Holocene complex hunter-gatherer societies in southeastern South America for unknown purposes. Some authors have related them to mortuary behaviour which has also been suggested by historical sources, while others have considered domestic use. In this paper, the technical, compositional and functional properties of these artifacts are explored in order to contrast both hypotheses, given an example of how technical analysis allows the identification of special pottery within archeological contexts. This analysis includes a study of the fabrics involved using low and high magnification, thin sections, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy, Mössbauer Spectroscopy, Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy and fatty acid profiles. The results show that these tubular artifacts are not fit structurally for utilitarian purposes and show no evidence of domestic use. Based on these results and on historical data, it can be postulated that they were used as part of mortuary rituals, thus becoming part of the select global group of pottery manufactured exclusively for mortuary purposes.
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