An analytical approach to detect non-original embellishments on Classic Mimbres vessels

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Lee, Lynn F.; Khandekar, Narayan;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 57, Number 4, p.218-226 (2012)


Native American Indian Mimbres vessels from the Classic period (AD 1000‐1150) are known for their geometric and figurative black designs on a white background. Owing to the growing popularity of Classic Mimbres vessels among collectors, it is believed that a large number of authentic Mimbres vessels have had their original designs embellished to increase their market value. Typically, the embellishments will enhance a simple central design of an authentic Classic Mimbres vessel to a more complex figurative design. A study was carried out by the Harvard Art Museums, in collaboration with the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, to investigate the composition of the black, red, and polychrome designs using pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Seven of the 25 vessels examined contained critical passages executed in synthetic modern paint media, indicative of deceptive embellishments.