Artifact Associations

Once the location of the object and quite possibly the general identification of what the object might be are established, the next procedural step is to determine its association, if any, with the remains as a whole. Other anthropological and paleopathological data collected via field radiography should be considered in association with the artifacts being analyzed.

It is imperative that other anthropological data such as sex, age at time of death, dentition, and dental status be compared to the artifacts discovered. For example, in a number of Peruvian mummies, artifacts such as "pinchers," a device used by males of the Chachapoya, Inca, and other pre-Columbian cultures to pluck facial hair, are usually associated only with male remains (see Chapter 2, Figure 2.77). If pinchers are found within a bundle that contains a female mummy, an anomaly exists and context may be in question. In contrast, female Chachapoya and other pre-Columbian mummies are often associated with a device used to keep a shawl fastened called a tupu, which is usually made from animal bones such as llama's (see Chapter 2, Figure 2.78). Determining the sex of infants is challenging as many of the bony landmarks used to determine sex are yet to become fully developed. At times, associated artifacts are helpful in suggesting the sex of a mummified infant. Figure 7.1 shows a paleoimaging analysis of artifacts associated with a mummified infant from Pachacamac (Duclos et al. 2000). Using endoscopic imaging in conjunction with radiographs, spindle whorls, which are artifacts associated with the typically female task of weaving, were clearly seen, suggesting that this mummified infant was likely female.

Additional associated artifacts, as well as their presence and location, can yield information regarding the status of the individual. Animal offerings, metallic artifacts, feathers, a tumi knife, and jewelry can all be compared to the larger population and assist with inferences regarding social position. Figure 7.2 shows a unique Inca mummy from Tucume adorned with a spondylus shell, a metal feather, and other artifacts (Incas Unwrapped 2001).

Figure 7.1 (See color insert following page 12.) Paleoimaging analysis of artifacts associated with a mummified infant from Pachacamac, which assisted in the determination of its sex.
Figure 7.2 (See color insert following page 12.) Spondylus shell in association with mummified remains.
Figure 7.3 Lateral skull radiograph (A) of an Inca mummy from Cuzco, Peru, showing extent of the trephination. (B) Associated axe heads that may correlate with injury.

These associated artifacts suggest that this individual held a unique social status when compared to other remains from the same site.

Associating specific artifacts and paleopathological information seen on radiographs may also provide clues to what the individual did during his or her life. Weapons found in association with a mummy bundle may well correlate to injury or healing patterns seen in the radiographic data (Figure 7.3). Weaving tools associated with a mummy may explain arthritic changes seen in the joints of the hand or wear patterns seen on the teeth from repetitive passing of yarn over a particular tooth (Figure 7.4). Coca leaves found within a mummy bundle may correlate to molar decay in radiographs of the dentition (Figure 7.5).

Once all the possible information has been extracted from the radiographs, including possible relationships between the artifacts and the anthropological and paleopathological data, a complementary imaging procedure should be considered. In addition to obtaining alternate radiographic views, if an entry route exists, videoendoscopy should be employed in an attempt to gather additional data. The endoscope can be used to search for additional artifacts perhaps missed by the radiograph because of low density, or to assess additional characteristics such as colors and contours of artifacts seen on the x-ray. Also, if it is within the research protocol, artifacts may be retrieved under endoscopic guidance for detailed analysis.

Figure 7.4 Endoscopic view of biomechanical wear pattern seen on the molar of a mummy from Pachacamac (A), possibly the result of yarn preparation. The mummy was associated with this spindle whorl (B) as well as other weaving implements seen endoscopically.

Figure 7.5 Molar and maxillary bone decay (arrow) seen on this lateral conventional x-ray of a mummy from cuzco, Peru. This may have been the result of chewing coca leaves.


The endoscope is a powerful data collection tool used in artifact analysis of grave goods within the internal context and has proved to be complementary to radiography as applied in the field. The endoscope has been employed in three major ways for internal context artifact analysis: as a survey tool; for target artifact analysis; and for extraction of artifacts from within bundles, coffins, and mummies.

Recall that one of the limitations of the standard x-ray is that exposure variables may be set in such a manner that some objects of lower density, such as feathers or textile bundles, may not be readily visible. While nonscreen imaging techniques and CR systems can help with the exposure setting issue, they too are subject to superimposition of shadows and an artifact may be "hidden" from the radiographic image. Therefore, the first step in the procedural application of endoscopy for artifact analysis should be the same as that for preliminary analysis of human remains, that is, an overall survey of any and all accessible body cavities. In addition to body cavities, folds within bundle wrappings too should be explored endoscopically (Figure 7.6). If the remains are in a coffin, endoscopic exploration of the air-filled spaces of that coffin surrounding the remains should be conducted. During the initial endoscopic survey, additional associated artifacts may be discovered (Figure 7.7). The major limitation is, of course, the lack of access points for introduction of the endoscopic tool. If it falls within the research-specific protocols, openings can be made. The opening, depending on the material, can be made in such a way as to be resealable with the original material, minimizing the alteration of the original context. If an artificial opening is made, careful photographic documentation is required (Figure 7.8).

Because of its two-dimensional nature, the radiographic image of an artifact lacks the ability to determine the color and shape, or contour of that artifact. Following the initial survey, endoscopic target analysis of any accessible artifact discovered and located by

Figure 7.6 Endoscopic images of feather packing held within the folds of textile wrappings. The density of the feathers rendered them virtually invisible to x-rays.

standard x-ray should be conducted. The endoscopic image can complement the x-ray in that it will provide these additional characteristics of color, shape, and contour of the target artifact (Figure 7.9). This in turn will improve the interpretability of the data collected.

Finally, the endoscope can be used to extract any artifacts discovered within body cavities or among the wrappings. Extraction can be accomplished directly through the biopsy channel found in medical endoscopes or by using the scope as a guide along with additional retrieval tools, much like modern laparoscopic surgical procedures. This procedure may require more than one access route.

It is imperative that during each of the endoscopic procedural steps, survey, target analysis, and extraction, preferably two radiographs at 90° to one another should be taken to ensure that the endoscope is in the proper position, document the scope location, and further correlate the data being collected. The "locator grid" (see Chapter 2) is an excellent adjunct to any endoscopic procedure related to artifact analysis within the internal context.

Figure 7.7 Image of a rolled shell necklace within an extended mummy bundle from southern Peru discovered during endoscopic survey of accessible body cavities.

Figure 7.8 Photographic documentation with scale of an artificial opening made at the midaxillary line of the left lateral thorax in a mummy from the Museo de las Momias in Guanajuato, Mexico, and the subsequent introduction of the endoscope. The opening was made to allow access to the thoracic cavity in order to endoscopically image pulmonary calcified lesions seen on a conventional radiograph.

Figure 7.8 Photographic documentation with scale of an artificial opening made at the midaxillary line of the left lateral thorax in a mummy from the Museo de las Momias in Guanajuato, Mexico, and the subsequent introduction of the endoscope. The opening was made to allow access to the thoracic cavity in order to endoscopically image pulmonary calcified lesions seen on a conventional radiograph.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment