FROM CODEX TO CALABASH: RECOVERY OF A PAINTED ORGANIC ARTIFACT FROM THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF CERÉN, EL SALVADOR
HARRIET F. BEAUBIEN
With deceptive archaeological deposits such as these, careful lifting techniques are necessary to preserve the evidence properly, as are considerable conservation efforts in order to confirm an identification. The treatment of this painted calabash demonstrates the amount of information that is retrievable from poorly preserved evidence and suggests some techniques that can be used effectively. In Mesoamerican studies, it is hoped that this work will sound a cautionary note regarding artifact interpretation. In doing so, however, it also provides a step toward elucidating what we can assume is a much broader inventory of painted organic materials, not limited to highly specialized codices, which only a few sites such as Cerén give us the opportunity to recover.
This treatment reflects the input of specialists in many disciplines. I would especially like to acknowledge my co-workers at the Conservation Analytical Laboratory, with many thanks to Mark Fenn for his assistance with the mount. The collaboration of conservation and archaeology that this work initiated has been well fostered by Payson D. Sheets and the Cerén Project team members. None of this work would have been possible without the support of CONCULTURA in El Salvador's Ministry of Education and the staff of the Museo Nacional David J. Guzmán, who have been exceedingly disappointed that the object was not a codex but who nonetheless graciously welcomed the return of the painted calabash on June 10, 1992.