During a reorganization of the collections at Kent State University (KSU), a fired-clay human figurine was discovered. Beyond the fact that KSU obtained the specimen from a collector, and the alleged origin was the Ohio Hopewell site of Hopeton Earthworks, information on the specimen’s provenience and chain of custody was lacking or ambiguous. To determine whether the artifact was consistent in style and age with Hopewell, we conducted a comparative study, as well as a direct chronometric assessment using thermoluminescence (TL) dating. The comparative study was equivocal: The figurine possessed some attributes consistent with Hopewell, but other features were not consistent or missing. TL dating revealed an age of 4590 ± 270, exceeding the Hopewell period by over 2,000 years. These results suggest two mutually exclusive hypotheses, neither of which is relevant to Hopewell: Either the figurine is one of the earliest examples of ceramic technology in eastern North America or it is a “fake,” perhaps from the Old World, and the object entered the KSU collections under pretense. More broadly, we suggest that archaeologists take a much more circumspect approach to collector-acquired objects and perform their due diligence in verifying the stories associated with them, even if that means increased use of destructive testing procedures.

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