Heritage Center speaker to discuss fragile artifacts

On Sunday, Aug. 18, at 1 p.m. at the Anasazi Heritage Center, Laurie Webster will talk about the challenges and rewards found in studying the most fragile kinds of prehistoric artifacts. Her lecture is called "Ancient Textiles, Hides, Baskets, and Wood from Southeast Utah."

Perishable materials rarely survive for long because they are easily destroyed by mice, insects, mold, fire or other environmental dangers. Cloth, wood or leather degrade rapidly in most outdoor environments, but they may survive in the arid environment and dry rock shelters of the Four Corners.

During the 1890s, literally thousands of such artifacts were excavated and shipped to museums outside the Southwest, where few had been studied until recently. Webster began a project to systematically document these collections in 2010.

Her presentation will discuss her work with these collections and highlight some of the more remarkable 1,000 to 2,000-year-old textiles, baskets, sandals, hides, and wooden implements recovered from archaeological sites.

Webster is a specialist in the weaving traditions of the American Southwest. Her research has helped to establish a nearly continuous record of Puebloan weaving traditions spanning 2,000 years.

She is a visiting scholar in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History and the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

Webster has studied textiles at museums throughout the United States and has worked with many contemporary Navajo, Hopi, and Rio Grande Hispanic weavers. She is author of the book Collecting the Weaver's Art: The William Claflin Collection of Southwestern Textiles, and a contributor to the volume Beyond Cloth and Cordage: Archaeological Textile Research in the Americas. She has published numerous journal articles about prehistoric perishable technologies.

The Anasazi Heritage Center is 3 miles west of Dolores, and is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, contact the museum at 882-5600 or visit the web site at www.co.blm.gov/ahc.