High Precision Isotopic Analyses of Lead Ores from New Mexico by MC-ICP-MS: Implications for Tracing the Production and Exchange of Pueblo IV Glaze-Decorated Pottery

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Earth Sciences



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Journal of Archaeological Science


Between ca. 1275 and 1700 CE, Pueblo groups in the northern Southwest United States produced and exchanged ceramic bowls decorated with lead-based glaze paints. Previous studies of these glaze-decorated bowls have used lead isotopic analysis by ICP-MS to identify the sources of lead used by Pueblo potters, and investigate how social or economic factors may have influenced resource use among different Pueblo communities (e.g.Habicht-Mauche et al., 2000,Habicht-Mauche et al., 2002;Huntley et al., 2007;Huntley, 2008). However, interpretations of much of this isotopic data have remained provisional because of overlap among the isotopic ratios of potential sources and because the isotopic composition of many glaze paints do not clearly match any known source. Here, we use multi-collector ICP-MS to re-measure the lead isotopic composition of 48 samples of lead sulfide (galena) and lead carbonate (cerussite) from sources in New Mexico that were potentially utilized by Pueblo potters, including mines within the Cerrillos Hills, Magdalena, Hansonburg, and Joyita Hills mining districts. These results define the isotopic composition of lead ores from these districts with greater precision and accuracy than achieved in previous studies and better distinguish among these mining districts in lead isotope space. Most significantly, we find that galena mineralization within the Cerrillos Hills only has a modest degree of isotopic variation, with 206Pb/204Pb ratios from 18.508 to 18.753, 207Pb/204Pb ratios from 15.580 to 15.607, and 208Pb/204Pb ratios from 38.388 to 38.560. These ranges are far narrower than previously reported, and should supersede previously published values for this district. In total, we conclude that isotopic measurements of both ores and glaze paints made by MC-ICP-MS will provide new information about the provenance of lead in glaze paints and allow for more detailed interpretations about resource procurement and exchange in the Pueblo world.


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