Isotopic Evidence for the Provenance of Turquoise, Mineral Paints, and Metals in the Southwestern United States
AuthorThibodeau, Alyson Marie
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 03-Aug-2014
AbstractLead and strontium isotopes are two powerful tracers that can be used to identify or constrain the provenance of a wide range of archaeological materials, but these two isotopic tracers have been rarely employed to infer the sources of artifacts in the southwestern USA. This dissertation contains four studies that demonstrate how these isotopic systems can address questions about the sources of three types of archaeological materials found in this region: turquoise, lead-based glaze-paints, and metals. The analysis of 116 samples of turquoise from 17 deposits in the southwestern USA reveals that lead and strontium isotopes are robust and sensitive tracers of turquoise at multiple scales. Isotopic variation among turquoise deposits correlates with broad regional differences in the geologic and tectonic setting of the rocks and mineral deposits which host turquoise mineralization. Many turquoise deposits also have unique isotopic signatures that will enable insights into ancient patterns of turquoise acquisition at regional and local levels. To show the utility of these tracers when applied to archaeological turquoise, I use lead and strontium isotopic measurements to establish that the Silver Bell Mountains are the likely source turquoise found at the Redtail site in the Tucson Basin, Arizona, USA. This dissertation also contains new, high-precision isotopic ratios of lead ores (galena and cerrusite) from four mining districts in New Mexico, including the Cerrillos Hills. All districts studied are possible sources of lead used by Pueblo IV communities to produce glaze paints. These new measurements, made by multiple-collector ICP-MS, define the isotopic composition of the ore deposits with greater precision and accuracy than achieved in previous studies, indicating an opportunity to improve interpretations about the provenance of lead in glaze paints. Lead isotopes are also found to be useful tools for identifying lead and copper metal associated with the 1540-1542 Vázquez de Coronado expedition. Lead shot and copper crossbow boltheads from two sites with archaeological evidence for the expedition's presence were determined to share similar or identical lead isotopic ratios. I propose this specific isotopic "fingerprint" can be used to identify other artifacts belonging to the expedition in the Southwest.
Degree ProgramGraduate College