Dorothy Washburnretired previously affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania Museum, American Section. Currently with Oberlin Collegeat University of Pannsylvania
I am an archaeologist who analyzes patterned geometric design on cultural objects—textiles, ceramics, tile, wood, etc.-with plane pattern geometric symmetries. I have focused on ceramic designs of the prehistoric peoples of the American Southwest, but have also studied designs on Bakuba raffias, Southern Lao textiles, California Indian baskets, Basketmaker III period twined sandals, Ica ceramic design, Neolithic Greek ceramic design, Mesoamerican pre-Columbian ceramics, Navajo textiles. I have found that cultures prefer only certain symmetries to structure their decorative output. I focus on studying how these visualizations of pattern structure are replicated in the same symmetrical relationships in their social interactions as well as in other aspects of their lives, such as their architecture, music, literature, etc.. I am interested in investigating with cognitive/experimental scientists what people look at when viewing a pattern—do they focus on the parts or the whole? I want to learn more about the part that the property of symmetry plays in the perceptual process.