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Application of Materials Science Principles and Methods to Infer Raw Materials Choices and Production Technology of Late Postclassic Mixtec Polychrome Ceramics


This thesis summarizes the study of a collection from the Fowler Museum at UCLA of Late Postclassic Mixtec polychrome ceramic vessels by examining their iconographies and materials to provide a holistic understanding of the objects from various perspectives. The analysis of the ceramics using materials characterization techniques utilized a multi-scale and multi-analytical approach combining non-invasive and non-destructive methods including analytical imaging, X-ray radiography, X-ray fluorescence (XRF), scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and Raman spectromicroscopy (μRS). The ceramics’ body compositions, white slips, pigments, and metal foils were studied to further understand Mixtec ceramic production technology and raw materials selection. Findings included identifying pigments used by other Mesoamerican cultures, including cinnabar, Maya Blue, Maya Green, and carbon black, and identifying metal foils as coming from gold-silver electrum.

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