Kathryn Etre is an object conservator that helped determine where the true purple slip (the purple decoration on the clay body) on ancient Coclé pottery originated. Etre comments that “the goal of the object conservator is to stabilize these objects and understand the processes in which they were originally constructed.” Under the guidance of Dr. Rebecca Stone, Etre worked at the Carlos Museum at Emory University using experimental archaeology to examine this process. Etre’s research concludes that the unique purple color was created by heating hematite (a mineral commonly used to produce red pigments) to a temperature similar to the melting point of gold. It is uncertain how these peoples discovered this true purple technique, but it is unique to the ancient pottery found in Coclé, Panama. By using experimental archaeology to determine ancient techniques, Etre replicates the technology of these ancient peoples, but not the cultural experience of its application.

Pre-Columbian ceramic sherd with decorative lines in black, purple, and red slip.