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Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy of Pictographs: A Case Study From the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, Texas



We evaluate the effectiveness of non-destructive portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF) for elemental analysis of pictographs at 10 sites in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas. Considerations and limitations of pXRF analysis are discussed to inform future research. We found that manganese and iron minerals were the main constituents of black and red paints, respectively. However, 40 pXRF measurements from 31 images tested at 41VV75 and 41VV76 did not contain manganese, suggesting charcoal pigment—the first widespread documentation of charcoal figures in the area. The identification of charcoal-based pigments is important for rock-art and radiocarbon studies in the region.