Saturday, March 28, 2009

SAS-sponsored symposium at the SAA - I

At the Society for American Archaeology meeting in Atlanta, April 22-26

Friday afternoon, April 24

Session 110

Room: M103
Time: 1:00 PM–4:45 PM
Organizer: Maria Masucci

Image at right from ceramic petrography web site of Robert Mason, University of Toronto


1:00 Maria Masucci—Fabric and Culture: Technological Change in Ecuadorian “Finger-Painted” Pottery
1:15 George Pevarnik—Not Everything that Glitters is Gold and not Every Whitish Aplastic is Quartz: Theoretical and Methodological Implications for Pottery Analyses and Interpretations
1:30 Patrick Quinn and Margie Burton—Ceramic Petrography, Craft Technology and Cultural Identity in Pre-Contact Southern California
1:45 Yukiko Tonoike—Beyond Style: Petrographic analysis of Dalma ceramics in two regions of Iran
2:00 David Hill—Regional Mobility and the Sources of Ceramics Recovered in Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas
2:15 Thomas Charlton and María Eugenia Guevara Mendoza—Petrographic and INAA Studies of Teotihuacan Period Ceramics from Rural Sites
2:30 Sophia Kelly, Gordon Moore, David Abbott and Christopher Watkins—Technological Choices Related to Sand Temper Selection in Perry Mesa Plainware Pottery
2:45 Jerolyn Morrison and Mara T. Horowitz—Studies in Replicating Bronze Age Cooking Fabrics from Two Mediterranean Sites
3:00 Miriam Cantor—Petrographic and Microprobe Analysis of Plain Ware from Chogha Sefid to Determine Cultural Origin
3:15 Sandra Lopez—New routes for characterization studies: analyzing the process of modernity
3:30 Anabel Ford, Frank Spera and Brianne Catlin—Nothing Is Simple: Identifying The Source of Late Classic Maya Volcanic Ash
3:45 Evangelia Kiriatzi—Beyond Provenance: Ceramic petrology as Tool in the Reconstruction of Technological Landscapes
4:00 Marie-Claude Boileau—Integrating macro-feature analysis to ceramic petrography for the identification of technological traditions
4:15 John Hoopes—Discussant
4:30 Charles Kolb—Discussant

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SAS veterans Doug Price and Jim Burton in the news

One of the stalwart archaeometric labs in the U.S. is the Laboratory for Archaeological Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin (lab logo at right). Doug Price is Director and Jim Burton is Associate Director. Both have been active in SAS over the years, Doug as President in 1989-1990, and Jim as Vice-President, President (1991-93), webmeister, and now SAS associate editor for the journal Archaeometry. You can read how they fit into our history in a piece I wrote when SAS reached its 25th birthday.

Doug and Jim made the news recently with research they did on the teeth of Columbus crew. As reported in a EurekaAlert from the AAAS, they used carbon, oxygen and strontium isotopes on human remains from La Isabela, the first European town in America, which was thought to have had a population made up only of men from the fleet of 17 vessels that comprised Columbus's second visit to the New World. But the first analysis of the remains of 20 individuals excavated two decades ago suggests that native Taínos, women and children, and possibly individuals of African origin were living with the Spaniards at La Isabela. If confirmed, that would put Africans in the New World as contemporaries of Columbus decades before they were believed to have first arrived as slaves.

Strontium is found in bedrock and enters the body through the food chain as nutrients pass from bedrock to soil and water and, ultimately, to plants and animals. The strontium isotopes found in tooth enamel, the most stable and durable material in the human body, provides a signature of where someone lived as a child. Carbon isotope ratios provide evidence of diet at the time an individual's adult teeth emerge in childhood. Oxygen isotopes provide information about water consumption and also can say something about geography as the isotopic composition of water changes in relation to latitude and proximity to the ocean.

Three of the individuals whose teeth were subjected to isotopic analysis by the Wisconsin group were males under the age of 40 and who had carbon isotope profiles far different from the rest, suggesting an Old World origin. "I would bet money this person was an African," Price says of one of the three individuals whose teeth were subjected to analysis.

Jim Burton and Doug Price, Lab for Archaeological Chemistry

Nice work, Doug and Jim!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Archaeological science in Israel

Over the years, I've measured archaeomagnetic samples from Israel, starting with samples I collected at Tel Yin'am in 1984 thanks to the invitation of Harold Liebowitz, and continuing with samples collected for me by colleague Egon Lass at Ashkelon and other archaeological sites. So, I found this interesting:

Inter-University/Weizmann Institute Program in Archaeological Science

The Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science was established at the Weizmann Institute in 1996, toward the purpose of educating a new generation of archaeologists who would be familiar with both the natural sciences and archaeology, in the belief that this is an important future trend in the field of archaeology. The Kimmel Center has an active program, with 6 PhD students currently enrolled. The Center's activities have impacted the field of archaeology in Israel and abroad, in that there are collaborations and interactions with archaeologists, some inter-university/Weizmann Institute courses, several major research programs, and continued interest from potential students to enter the program. While we intend to continue the PhD educational program, we have now broadened the scope of the Center’s activities, in the hope that we will be able to more effectively contribute to the archaeological establishment in Israel and world-wide.

Director of Program:
Prof Steve Weiner, Department of Structural Biology
Weizmann Institute
Rehovot 76100 Israel
Telephone: 972-8-9342552

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Archaeometry of beer

What to write about on St. Patrick's Day? The archaeology of beer? How about an entry from Beer Radar, Joe Sixpack's blog? He had an amazing entry on Patrick McGovern, the "Indiana Jones of Beer." Unfortunately, McGovern was one of the University of Pennsylvania 18, recently laid off from the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

From the good old days at Penn:
circa 3500-3100 B.C.

Researchers in the Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA) at The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, analyzed an organic residue from inside a pottery vessel dated circa 3500-3100 B.C. from the site of Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran. Their findings provide the earliest known chemical evidence of beer in the world. Archaeological chemist Dr. Patrick E. McGovern and organic chemist Dr. Rudolph H. Michel carried out a chemical Feigl spot test on a pale yellowish residue that filled grooves within an ancient jug; the tests were positive for oxalate ion. The Feigl spot test is a standard chemical technique, though previously unemployed for this purpose. Calcium oxalate (the calcium salt from the oxalate ion) is a major component of "beerstone" and settles out on the surfaces of fermentation and storage tanks of barley beer, as the researchers believe occurred with the ancient residue.

Virginia R. Badler, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, noted the residue in the jug incisions while carrying out research on sherds from Godin Tepe in the collections of Canada's Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto. Recalling that the ancient Sumerian sign for beer is in the form of a pottery vessel with interior markings, she hypothesized that ROM's jug with the unusual interior incisions had been used for beer. With ROM's permission, tests were done on the pottery sherds in the laboratories of MASCA, proving her theory correct.

In 1991, Virginia Badler collaborated with Drs. McGovern and Michel for the first time, when the MASCA researchers tested and obtained chemical evidence of the earliest known wine from jars from the same site and even the same room at Godin Tepe, a site excavated in 1973 by Dr. T. Cuyler Young, Jr., curator of ROM's West Asian Department. The researchers continue to analyze other vessels from sites throughout the ancient Near East, in the hopes of discovering even earlier instances of fermented beverages.

This one's for you, Patrick!
Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

'Pompeii' by Michelle Shocked

While I'm on this museum exhibit kick, there is also an engaging exhibit on Pompeii at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. It's not really archaeometric, but this moment sealed in time was due to a volcanic eruption, so that's inherently geoarchaeological, isn't it?

You can see a video clip of the exhibit.

Anyway, a singer-songwriter whom I really admire is Michelle Shocked. I almost posted her video-song Anchorage (I love skateboard punk rockers) on my earthquake blog a couple of weeks ago when that city was somewhat threatened by Redoubt Volcano. And I love her song Come a Long Way. She has a new album coming out in May, and a song called Pompeii. Here's the video (by the way, any political views explicitly or implicitly expressed in this blog do not represent the opinions of anyone other than me):

Monday, March 9, 2009

20th International Radiocarbon Conference

When I entered graduate school far too long ago, I had a research assistantship with Paul Damon at the University of Arizona on geomagnetic modulation of atmospheric radiocarbon concentration. This is what first got me interested in changes in the magnetic field strength over the past few millennia, which led to my master's thesis on archaeomagnetism. The rest, is history.

My first professional presentation was at the 9th International Radiocarbon Conference in Los Angeles and La Jolla, 1976. Nobel Prize winner Willard Libby was there. Now the 20th Conference is coming to Hawaii, and the abstract deadline is March 15.
From :

Hosted by the Arizona AMS Laboratory, the 2009 Radiocarbon conference will be held on the Big Island, Hawaii, from May 31–June 5, 2009.

Abstract submission and Registration are now available online. The deadline for abstract submissions is March 15, 2009. Information on the Pre-Conference field trip to the lava flows is here.

Bigger than the other Hawaiian islands combined, Hawaii's "Big Island" provides a fascinating backdrop for the Radiocarbon 2009 meeting. For some quick facts on the island and the many activities available, visit Hawaii's official tourism site.

As with previous Radiocarbon Conference proceedings, the journal Radiocarbon (which now keeps back issues online) will publish the 2009 proceedings.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ceramics for the Archaeologist online

When I was a grad student in geophysics, working on the paleointensity of Hohokam ceramics, one of my great finds was Anna Shephard's Ceramics for the Archaeologist. That monograph explained so much to me about pottery, with a scientific/engineering bent about materials and processes that I could relate to. Along with the work of Harold Colton, it gave me some of the information I needed about temperatures, redox conditions, etc., for traditional ceramic technology.

Later, I bought Prudence Rice's Pottery Analysis: A Sourcebook, but it was stolen from my office by a book re-seller.

I'm doing ceramics now in my Archaeometry class, and while browsing online a couple of days ago, I found that you can download the entire text of Shephard's book. It is on the website of the Carnegie Institution of Science. That would surprise you from the home page of that organization and its present-day emphases, but it was her publisher.

Download, read, learn, enjoy! You can download Shepard's Notes from a Ceramics Laboratory as well. I'm actually not familiar with that one.

Mission statement of the Carnegie:
Andrew Carnegie established a unique organization dedicated to scientific discovery “in the broadest and most liberal manner.” The philosophy was and is to devote the institution’s resources to “exceptional” individuals so that they can explore the most intriguing scientific questions in an atmosphere of complete freedom. Carnegie and his trustees realized that flexibility and freedom were essential to the institution’s success and that tradition is the foundation of the institution today as it supports research in the Earth, space, and life sciences.
I'm not a fan of great wealth (see where our economy is today, and why), but at least Andrew Carnegie gave some of it back.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Walters Art Museum mummy

I am definitely looking forward to Spring break, which starts in a week. I'm anticipating a trip down to Washington, D.C., to see the bones exhibit mentioned in my last entry. Maybe on the way I will stop at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore to see the Mummified exhibit. It's there until November of this year.

In the spring of 2008, the University of Maryland and the Walters Art Museum performed a CT scan on the Walters' mummy to learn more about the age, possible illness, and cause of death of the person held within the beautifully painted outer wrappings. This special kind of "virtual autopsy" also allowed the investigative team to learn more about the technique of mummification, the construction of the cartonnage, the kind of wrappings used, and the possible presence of amulets within.

This focus show will feature approximately 20 ancient Egyptian objects depicting images of mummified people, animals, and deities. A section of the installation will focus on the "Mummimania" of the 17th-20th centuries. Visitors can experience the scientific examination of the Walters' mummy at computer stations.
This should get me ready to see King Tut in Atlanta during the SAAs!