Lead white pigments on Andean drinking vessels provide new historical context


Graphic: Guide researcher Allison Curley with qeros from the collection of the Smithsonian Countrywide Museum of the American Indian.
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Credit: Alyson Thibodeau

(Carlisle, Pa.) – Researchers studying direct white pigments on Andean ceremonial ingesting vessels known as qeros have uncovered new similarities between these artifacts that could support museums, conservators, historians and scholars improved have an understanding of the timeline and production of these culturally important things in the course of the colonial period (1532-1821). In a review revealed in the journal Heritage Science, researchers employed isotope measurements of direct white pigments in the attractive designs on 20 colonial qeros to reveal linkages between vessels that were being unidentified previously.

The investigation determined only 3 isotope signatures between the direct white pigments decorating the qeros. Two of these isotopic signatures, existing on a total of eight qeros, are the exact as uncovered in direct white paints employed in European artwork from the exact period. This match indicates these qeros are adorned with pigments imported to the Andes from Europe. The third signature, uncovered on twelve of the qeros, indicates that the direct white was produced regionally in the Andes.

The investigation was carried out by Allison Curley, a former Dickinson School undergraduate who is now a graduate scholar in earth & environmental sciences at the University of Michigan, and her mentor, geochemist Alyson Thibodeau, assistant professor of earth sciences at Dickinson, together with a crew of researchers from the Smithsonian Countrywide Museum of the American Indian the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork the UCLA/Getty Plan in Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials and the American Museum of Organic Heritage.

“Small is known about the record of colonial qeros now in museum or private collections. The success could direct to a improved being familiar with of the objects’ chronology and production,” spelled out Thibodeau. “For example, it is attainable that qeros manufactured before in the colonial period are adorned with European direct white, even though qeros manufactured later are adorned with direct white manufactured from Andean ores. Further more, the success strongly counsel some kind of centralization in pigment acquisition, manufacture and distribution in the colonial period.”

“The regularity of the info was both astonishing and enjoyable,” mentioned Curley, who has been collaborating with Thibodeau on this task since 2017. “It is interesting to see geochemistry provide insights into some longstanding historical and archaeological concerns, and I was unquestionably thrilled to existing these findings to the Modern society for American Archaeology and to the conservators at the Smithsonian.”

“It truly is significant for those studying qeros all in excess of the environment to have a improved being familiar with of the Andean men and women who manufactured and employed qeros in the course of a time of colonial rule,” mentioned Emily Kaplan, conservator for the Smithsonian Countrywide Museum of the American Indian, which has the greatest collection of qeros in the United States. Kaplan hopes the investigation will direct to additional radiocarbon courting, which will reveal additional about the chronology of qero production. “Design and iconography have been employed to support set up production timelines, but you can find a large amount of guesswork included,” she mentioned.

Ceremonial ingesting vessels have been employed for toasting rituals in the Andes for millennia. Wooden qeros manufactured in the colonial period were being generally fabricated in similar pairs to make ceremonial toasts for social, political and spiritual occasions. These things retain their cultural significance to this working day and are recognized as a image of the Inka Empire. Because they provide a window into the Andean indigenous colonial knowledge, qeros have been researched by artwork historians, archaeologists and anthropologists.


The review, “Isotopic composition of direct white pigments on qeros: implications for the chronology and production of Andean ritual ingesting vessels in the course of the colonial era,” is accessible on-line and is provided in the Heritage Science collection, “Pigments, dyes, and hues in Latin American archaeometric investigations.”

About Dickinson School

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