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But carbon dating involves taking a small chunk out of an object.Ordinarily, you try to avoid scratching irreplaceable, ancient artifacts from the Archaeology (or any other) Collections.
“There is always the possibility that it was an heirloom piece, and was made well before it got into a tomb at Venado Beach.” What species of Panamanian catfish the artisan was emulating is another mystery.“The shape and size of the head with the curlicue barbels recalls the common species which is, and was, an important food fish in the area.” Aaron Celestian, Curator of Mineral Sciences, took a look at the golden catfish as well, noting what further (non-destructive! “We could do neutron scattering to get a chemical image of the entire fish and to see how big the crystals are.And we have a microbeam XRF (X-ray fluorescence microscope), so we could measure if the fins have different compositions from the whiskers, which would tell us if they were from different vat batches.” But for today, a date is plenty."When fish are the models for jewelry or sculpture, we can often figure out what kind of fish is being depicted,” said Chris Thacker, Curator of Ichthyology.“This flattened fish with barbels and two widely spaced fins on the back is probably a catfish in the family Ariidae." Richard Cooke, Senior Staff Scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panamá is familiar with a local catfish that the artist likely would have encountered so many years ago.