Technological Choice in the Present and the Past

Start: May 15, 2013 05:30 PM

Location: Room 209, Institute of Archaeology

Dr Melissa Goodman-Elgar

Melissa Goodman-Elgar (Washington State University) will give a seminar, sponsored by the Archaeological Sciences Section, at the Institute on 15 May.   

Dr Goodman-Elgar's seminar is entitled 'Technological Choice in the Present and the Past: Are we ready for Portable X-ray Fluorescence on Archaeological Sediments?' and all are welcome. The seminar will be followed by a wine reception.


Archaeological interest in technology appears lopsided: the robust analytical frameworks for past technologies are not always matched by equal assessment of the technologies employed to realize them. 

This presentation outlines an experimental quantitative strategy to applying pXRF technology to archaeological materials, particularly sediments which pose particular problems for pXRF. We present the results of a series of benchtop experiments with a Bruker Tracer IV Geo that quantify the limits of determination (LOD) for different sample preparation methods on archaeological materials.  This experimental approach allows us to adapt the rigorous standards of the geosciences to archaeology.  We found that software-calibrated pXRF determinations produced unacceptable LODs compared our Wavelength-Dispersive (WD) XRF machine.  However, after element-by-element manual calibration using influence coefficients, we had excellent correspondence between pXRF and WDXRF determinations on homogenized samples.  We applied this method to our next series of experiments on intact sediments as a proxy for field conditions. Despite very rigorous testing we found a dramatic loss in analytical resolution.  We suggest that the goals underlying the resurgent interest in geochemistry will be better realized when archaeologists engage in quantitative experimentation to adapt such technologies to archaeological materials.

Any enquiries about the event may be directed to Dorian Fuller.