This study describes the use of three different nondestructive methods to determine whether or not nine artifacts belonging to the Karuk Tribe had been treated with common inorganic and organic pesticide agents. A portable X-Ray Fluorescence analyzer was used to estimate the concentrations of arsenic, mercury, and lead at two different locations on each artifact. Black beads on a necklace were found to contain 2.1% lead and 0.23% arsenic, which can be attributed to the natural composition of the beads. Leather on a drum mallet was found to contain 0.49% lead and 0.10% arsenic, which were due to the pigments used to decorate this item. Microwave Plasma-Atomic Emission Spectrometry analysis of swab samples taken from the surfaces of an elk horn, bow, and musical drum showed nondetectable levels of arsenic and lead. Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry analysis of a second set of swab samples taken from the surface of each artifact showed nondetectable levels of p-dichlorobenzene, naphthalene, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, and other common organic pesticides. These results suggest that these artifacts were not treated with pesticides for preservation purposes, and hence they can be handled, worn, and used as intended.

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Author notes

Associate Editor.—Christine Johnson