Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Scientific Examination of Art: Modern Techniques in Conservation and Analysis

There seems to be a plethora of book announcements recently apropos to archaeometry. 

Here is an online book from the National Academy of Sciences, from 2005, 252 pages. The description:

In March 2003, the National Academy of Sciences Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia presented the Scientific Examination of Art: Modern Techniques in Conservation and Analysis at the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, DC. Featuring senior investigators of specific methods and materials, the papers in this book examine the application of scientific methods to the study and conservation of art and cultural properties.
The Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia of the National Academy of Sciences address scientific topics of broad and current interest, cutting across the boundaries of traditional disciplines and attracting up to 250 leading researchers in the field. These colloquia are made possible by a generous gift from Mrs. Jill Sackler, in memory of her husband, Arthur M. Sackler.
For more information about the Sackler Colloquia, visit www.nasonline.org/sackler


John Winter

Biodeterioration of Stone
Thomas D. Perry IV, Christopher J. McNamara, and Ralph Mitchell

Multi-Spectral Imaging of Paintings in the Infrared to Detect and Map Blue Pigments
John K. Delaney, Elizabeth Walmsley, Barbara H. Berrie, and Colin F. Fletcher

Modern Paints
Tom Learner

Paint Media Analysis
Michael R. Schilling

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ancient Earthquakes book

This post qualifies for both my blogs, socarchsci.blogspot.com on archaeometry, and my other one, shakingearth.blogspot.com on earthquakes.

The Geological Society of America has come out with a volume on Ancient Earthquakes, edited by Manuel Sintubin, Iain S. Stewart, Tina M. Niemi, and Erhan Altunel, 2010, 280 p., $85.

Ancient earthquakes are pre-instrumental earthquakes that can only be identified through indirect evidence in the archaeological (archaeoseismology) and geological (palaeoseismology) record. Special Paper 471 includes a selection of cases convincingly illustrating the different ways the archaeological record is used in earthquake studies. The first series of papers focuses on the relationship between human prehistory and tectonically active environments, and on the wide range of societal responses to historically known earthquakes. The bulk of papers concerns archaeoseismology, showing the diversity of approaches, the wide range of disciplines involved, and its potential to contribute to a better understanding of earthquake history. Ancient Earthquakes will be of interest to the broad community of earth scientists, seismologists, historians, and archaeologists active in and around archaeological sites in the many regions around the world threatened by seismic hazards. This Special Paper frames in the International Geoscience Programme IGCP 567 “Earthquake Archaeology: Archaeoseismology along the Alpine-Himalayan Seismic Zone.”

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Archaeological science in the Israel Journal of Earth Sciences

This being Christmas (although not part of my particular religious persuasion), I thought I would post something about archaeological science in the modern day country where some of the events pertaining to that holiday supposedly took place.

Israel Journal of Earth Sciences
Volume 56, Number 2 - 4 / 2007
Special Issue: Archaeological Science in Israel
Guest Editor(s): Elisabetta Boaretto, Ruth Shahack-Gross, Sariel Shalev, Steve Weiner, Ehud Weiss
Foreword by the Guest Editors; pp. i – ii; Elisabetta Boaretto, Ruth Shahack-Gross, Sariel Shalev, Steve Weiner, Ehud Weiss.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.i
Archaeology, archaeological science, and integrative archaeology ; pp. 57 – 61; Steve Weiner.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.57
Micromorphology of sediments: Deciphering archaeological context; pp. 63 – 71; Panagiotis Karkanas and Paul Goldberg.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.63
Approaches to understanding formation of archaeological sites in Israel: Materials and processes; pp. 73 – 86; Ruth Shahack-Gross.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.73
Reading the field: Geoarchaeological codes in the Israeli landscape; pp. 87 – 106.  Oren Ackermann.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.87
Assessing Paleolithic pyrotechnology and associated hominin behavior in Israel; pp. 107 – 121; Francesco Berna and Paul Goldberg.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.107
Four decades of Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis and its contribution to the archaeology of the ancient land of Israel; pp. 123 – 132; Joseph Yellin and Aren M. Maeir.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.123
A brief outline summary of nonferrous archaeometallurgy in Israel; pp. 133 – 138; Sariel Shalev.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.133
Wood remains from archaeological excavations: A review with a Near Eastern perspective; pp. 139 – 162; Simcha Lev-Yadun.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.139
Plant remains as a tool for reconstruction of the past environment, economy, and society: Archaeobotany in Israel; pp. 163 – 173; Ehud Weiss and Mordechai E. Kislev.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.163
Fire in prehistory: An experimental approach to combustion processes and phytolith remains; pp. 175 – 189; Rosa María Albert and Dan Cabanes.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.175
Archaeomalacological research in Israel: The current state of research; pp. 191 – 206; Daniella E. Bar-Yosef Mayer.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.191
Determining the chronology of an archaeological site using radiocarbon: Minimizing uncertainty;  pp. 207 – 216; Elisabetta Boaretto.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.207
Molecular archaeology: People, animals, and plants of the Holy Land; pp. 217 – 229; Marina Faerman, Gila Kahila Bar-Gal, Israel Hershkovitz, Mark Spigelman, Charles L. Greenblatt.  DOI: 10.1560/IJES.56.2-4.217

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2010

Archaeology Magazine has compiled the top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2010. As you might expect, most of them are fascinating archaeological sites from around the world. However, two discoveries are more technical: the technique of non-destructive carbon-dating, developed by Marvin Rowe and colleagues at Texas A&M. Additionally, scientists in Germany were commended for decoding the Neanderthal genome. Congratulations to both groups, and looking forward to more fantastic analytical methodologies in 2011 and beyond!

Monday, December 20, 2010

ISA 2012 in Belgium

The improved ISA web site is already lists the next International Symposium on Archaeometry in Belgium in 2012. Put it on your calendar.

What will be the venue of the next American ISA for 2014?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Anthropogy as science? Anthropology vs. science?

From:  "Anthropology a Science? Statement Deepens a Rift," by Nicholas Wade, Published: December 9, 2010, NY Times
Anthropologists have been thrown into turmoil about the nature and future of their profession after a decision by the American Anthropological Association at its recent annual meeting to strip the word “science” from a statement of its long-range plan.

The decision has reopened a long-simmering tension between researchers in science-based anthropological disciplines — including archaeologists, physical anthropologists and some cultural anthropologists — and members of the profession who study race, ethnicity and gender and see themselves as advocates for native peoples or human rights.

Until now, the association’s long-range plan was “to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects.” The executive board revised this last month to say, “The purposes of the association shall be to advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects.”  
See the full article for more.

From Savage Chickens:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Portable xrf used to provenance clay tablets

From AAAS Eureka Alert:

By adapting an off-the-shelf portable x-ray lab tool that analyzes the composition of chemicals, Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations can reveal hidden information about a [clay] tablet's composition without damaging the precious ancient find itself. These x-rays reveal the soil and clay composition of a tablet or artefact, to help determine its precise origin.

Over the years, he has collected extensive data through physical "destructive" sampling of artefacts. By comparing this data to readouts produced by the XRF device, he's built a table of results so that he can now scan a tablet –– touching the surface of it gently with the machine ― and immediately assess its clay type and the geographical origin of its minerals.

The tool, he says, can also be applied to coins, ancient plasters, and glass, and can be used on site or in a lab. He plans to make this information widely available to other archaeological researchers.
This sounds like a great combination of portable xrf, as calibrated by lab-based methods

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Springer book on xrf in archaeology

Springer seems to be on a roll with archaeometry books! Here is another one edited by a veteran member and officer of the SAS, Steve Shackley.

X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry in Twenty-First Century Archaeology
M. Steven Shackley
2011, doi 10.1007/978-1-4419-6886-9_1
link to web site

Chapters in book:
X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry in Twenty-First Century Archaeology; M. Steven Shackley

An Introduction to X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analysis in Archaeology; M. Steven Shackley

Factors Affecting the Energy-Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence (EDXRF) Analysis of Archaeological Obsidian; M. Kathleen Davis, Thomas L. Jackson, M. Steven Shackley, Timothy Teague and Joachim H. Hampel

Non-destructive EDXRF Analyses of Archaeological Basalts; Steven P. Lundblad, Peter R. Mills, Arian Drake-Raue and Scott Kekuewa Kikiloi

Non-destructive Applications of Wavelength XRF in Obsidian Studies; Annamaria De Francesco, M. Bocci and G. M. Crisci

Portable XRF of Archaeological Artifacts: Current Research, Potentials and Limitations; Ioannis Liritzis and Nikolaos Zacharias

Elemental Analysis of Fine-Grained Basalt Sources from the Samoan Island of Tutuila: Applications of Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence (EDXRF) and Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) Toward an Intra-Island Provenance Study; Phillip R. Johnson

Comparison and Contrast Between XRF and NAA: Used for Characterization Of Obsidian Sources in Central Mexico; Michael D. Glascock

Is There a Future for XRF in Twenty-First Century Archaeology?; Rosemary A. Joyce

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Open Journal of Archaeometry

A new online archaeometry journal will also host the proceedings from the Insternational Symposium on Archaeomtry recently held in Tampa.  Do we need another archaeometry journal?  What are the pros and cons of having one online?

Editor-in-chief Ingmar Unkel writes the following on the journal home page:

"We cannot yet offer you a journal with a long history and reputation, but we can guarantee fast and high quality services for authors and publication online within 3 weeks of the acceptance date. To ensure publication precedence for authors, and to provide a lasting record of scientific discussion, the articles are permanently archived and fully citable. With respect to the goals of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, Open Access to scientific and scholarly literature means to us "its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited". The more, we believe that articles that are available by Open Access are likely to be read and cited more often than those not Open Access. Publicly-funded research should be made available to be read and used without access barriers. It is beneficial for the general public to have access to published scientific articles."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Consumer's Guide to Archaeological Science

Since we are on the theme of new books in archaeological science (thanks Rob), here is another one to add to the list:

A Consumer's Guide to Archaeological Science: Analytical Techniques
Mary E. Malainey
Charles E Orser, Editor
Michael B. Schiffer, Editor

2011, 603 pages

ISBN 978-1-4419-5703-0

This volume is also available online as PDFs for purchase.

From the Preface:

"The information presented should enable an archaeologist to understand and critically evaluate:
-the suitability of various analytical techniques to address particular archaeological questions;
-the data generated through the application of these techniques
-the validity of the archaeological interpretations made on the basis of the data."

Monday, November 29, 2010

German book on archaeometry

Archäometrie: Methoden und Anwendungsbeispiele naturwissenschaftlicher Verfahren in der Archäologie
[Archeometry: physical and chemical methods for solving archeological problems. Examples and methods]
Editors: Andreas Hauptmann; Volker Pingel
2008. 264 pages, 138 figures, 7 tables, 16 plates
Language: Geman
ISBN 978-3-510-65232-7, price: 49.80 € 

I'm too lazy to translate the following, so try your German:

Die moderne Archäologie hat sich in ihrem methodischen Ansatz rasant weiterentwickelt und bedient sich heute in zunehmendem Maße naturwissenschaftlicher Methoden, um kulturhistorische Fragestellungen und Probleme zu lösen. Es gibt heute kaum noch archäologische Grabungen, an denen keine Naturwissenschaftler anderer Disziplinen mitarbeiten. 

In 13 Beiträgen beschreiben Fachleute der verschiedensten naturwissenschaftlichen Fachrichtungen, auf welche Weise Methoden und Konzepte (z.B. der Anthropologie, Biologie, Chemie, der Geowissenschaften und der Physik) Beiträge zur Beantwortung archäologischer und historischer Fragen leisten können. Es werden Verfahren zur Untersuchung archäologischer Funde organischer und anorganischer Zusammensetzung vorgestellt. Antiken Landschaftsveränderungen durch den Menschen wird z.B. mit Methoden der Geoarchäologie nachgespürt.

Mehrere Beiträge befassen sich mit der Bedeutung und Anwendung radiometrischer Datierungsverfahren in der Altertumsforschung. Auch Prospektionsmethoden, die in der Archäologie besondere Bedeutung erlangt haben, werden besprochen. Anwendungsbeispiele, u.a. aus der Luftbildarchäologie und der Geophysik illustrieren den praktischen Einsatz der vorgestellten Methoden.

Dieses Buch soll Forschern und Studierenden sowie allen an der archäologischen Forschung Interessierten die notwendigen Grundlagen der Archäometrie nahe bringen.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New book on archaeological chemistry

An Introduction to Archaeological Chemistry

Price, T. Douglas, Burton, James H. (both former SAS presidents!)
1st Edition., 2011, XXXII, 311 p. 47 illus., 27 in color., Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-4419-6375-8

From the Springer web site:

"Archaeological chemistry is a subject of great importance to the study and methodology of archaeology. This comprehensive text covers the subject with a full range of case studies, materials, and research methods. With twenty years of experience teaching the subject, the authors offer straightforward coverage of archaeological chemistry, a subject that can be intimidating for many archaeologists who do not already have a background in the hard sciences. With clear explanations and informative illustrations, the authors have created a highly approachable text, which will help readers overcome that intimidation. Topics covered included: Materials (rock, pottery, bone, charcoal, soils, metals, and others), Instruments (microscopes, NAA, spectrometers, mass spectrometers, GC/MS, XRF & XRD, Case Studies (Provinience, Sediments, Diet Reconstruction, Past Human Movement, Organic Residues). The detailed coverage and clear language will make this useful as an introduction to the study of archaeological chemistry, as well as a useful resource for years after that introduction."

Nice work, colleagues.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Geoarchaeological Research in Egypt and the Nile Valley

There is a new Virtual Special Issue on the Geoarchaeology web pages entitled: Geoarchaeological Research in Egypt and the Nile Valley. All the papers are available as free downloads so it should be a valuable resource for both teaching and research. 

From the web page:
The Nile Valley and desert landscapes of Egypt and Sudan have been key areas of geoarchaeological research for many decades. Geoscientists have worked alongside archaeologists in a wide range of contexts including Palaeolithic sites in desert oases and the magnificent urban centres of Pharaonic Egypt. This interaction has yielded a very rich body of work and has led to the development of new geoarchaeological methods and important theoretical advances. Since its launch in 1986, this journal has regularly published papers on geoarchaeological research in Egypt and the Nile Valley. The 17 papers presented here (and available below as free downloads) were published in Geoarchaeology between 1988 and 2008. They exemplify a range of approaches, settings and timescales whilst highlighting the value of interdisciplinary research in the study of the human past. This special issue includes classic work by some of the most influential archaeologists and geoarchaeologists to have worked in the region. While there is some overlap in approach and themes, the papers are grouped under the following headings:

1. Palaeoclimates, human settlement, and geochronology
2. Contexts, site formation and the analysis of cultural materials
3. Long-term river channel and flood dynamics

This collection was launched to coincide with a major international symposium on Landscape Archaeology, Egypt and the Mediterranean World held in Cairo from September 19th to 21st 2010 under the auspices of the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO). It will be of particular interest to all who are concerned with long-term human-environment interactions in the Nile Valley and the desert landscapes of the Eastern Sahara.
Jamie Woodward
Professor of Physical Geography
The University of Manchester
Email: jamie.woodward@manchester.ac.uk

Archaeological photogrammetry group

The Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society is the United Kingdom’s leading society for remote sensing and photogrammetry and their application to education, science, research, industry, commerce and the public service. As a charity, its remit is to inform and educate its members and the public. It supports networking between the university, business and government sectors. An international society, RSPSoc is also active in Europe and on the world stage.

It includes the Archaeology SIG (special interest group), which aims to encourage the exchange of research and methodology between remote sensing scientists and archaeologists, especially those concerned with methods of site prospection and novel applications. Meetings concentrate on a mixture of case studies and developing methodology and include ground-based methods, photogrammetry, LIDAR, laser scanning, and geophysical prospection, as well as aerial photography and thermal imaging.

You can download the SIG publications and special reports.

Award for best Archaeometry dissertations

Groupe des Méthodes Pluridisciplinaires Contribuant à l´Archéologie (GMPCA)  
Best Archaeometry Ph.D. Award
2011 G.M.P.C.A. PhD Award - Call for Applications

The Groupe des Méthodes Pluridisciplinaires Contribuant à l´Archéologie (GMPCA) awards two prizes of EUR1000 maximum (*) every two years to the best PhD theses written in French or in English relating to original work in archaeometry, in any of the different scientific fields contributing to archaeology. These prizes (*) are usually given to the winner(s) at the time of the GMPCA´s biennial conference. The Archéométrie 2011 meeting will take place in Liège (Belgium) from 11 to 15 April 2011, organized by the Centre Européen d´Archéométrie of Liège University.

This prize is open to all researchers under 40 years of age who do not hold a full time academic position or a permanent contract. The applicants for the GMPCA prize must have written and defended a thesis in French or in English in a university within the European Union and have been awarded a doctorate between January 1st 2009 and December 31th 2010. Candidates cannot apply twice. The candidate´s file must be comprised of :

1. a printed copy of the thesis,
2. a 3-page (max.) précis of the PhD project´s methodology, results and future implications and applications
3. an appendix indicating the title of the PhD, the date and the university, and the composition of the jury,
4. postal and electronic addresses,
5. abstract and/or full text consultation web addresses, if available.

The prize winner(s) is (are) committed to submitting an article within an reasonable delay to the journal ArcheoSciences.

We expressly invite candidates to declare themselves by email with available documents enclosed. Definitive applications must be sent by post to the secretary of the association, or to one of the members of the board.

Applications must be received no later than January 8th 2011.

S. Dubernet
GMPCA Secretary

Sunday, November 14, 2010


The NSF recently announced awards for a new program: Chemistry and Materials Research at the Interface between Science and Art or SCIART.

This program is co-sponsored with the Andrew W. Mellon foundation to “to enhance opportunities for collaborative activities between conservation scientists and chemists and materials scientists to address grand challenges in the field of science of cultural heritage.”

The original call for proposals focused on four areas:

a) develop new and improved analytical techniques and instruments with high sensitivity and spatial resolution (large and small scale) for restricted volume and/or standoff detection of component materials, degradation products and deterioration markers and which are suitable for non-destructive analysis of cultural heritage objects; b) study dynamic changes leading to degradation of cultural heritage objects; c) design new multi-functional treatment materials for cultural heritage objects; d) develop new theoretical models to predict dynamic processes in cultural heritage objects that lead to their degradation while taking into account their molecular and materials properties and their surface and bulk interactions with environmental perimeters.

While many of these topics may focus on conservation, several of these directions will also aid in many regions of archaeological science, specifically in chemical analysis and materials science. I am particularly interested to see the results of new instrumentation and understanding dynamic changes in materials. The complete list of the awards is listed here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New book from Oxford University Press

Scientific Methods and Cultural Heritage
An introduction to the application of materials science to archaeometry and conservation science

From the web site, where more details are also available:


Scientific techniques developed in materials science offer invaluable information to archaeology, art history, and conservation. A rapidly growing number of innovative methods, as well as many established techniques, are constantly being improved and optimized for the analysis of cultural heritage materials. The result is that on the one hand more complex problems and questions can be confronted, but on the other hand the required level of technical competence is widening the existing cultural gap between scientists and end users, such as archaeologists, museum curators, art historians, and many managers of cultural heritage who have a purely humanistic background.

The book is intended as an entry-level introduction to the methods and rationales of scientific investigation of cultural heritage materials, with emphasis placed on the analytical strategies, modes of operation, and resulting information rather than on technicalities. The extensive and updated reference list should be a useful starting point for further reading. Students and researchers from the humanities approaching scientific investigations should find it useful, as well as scientists applying familiar techniques and methods to unfamiliar problems related to cultural heritage.


  • Comprehensive approach to cultural heritage problems, bridging sciences and humanities
  • Pedagogical, cross-disciplinary presentation, merging different strands of background information
  • Easy to follow, suitable for undergraduate and graduate level teaching
  • Emphasizes analytical strategies and resulting information rather than technicalties
  • Richly illustrated
  • Extensive and up-to-date reference list

Product Details

368 pages; 200 b/w line and halftone figures, 8pp color plates; 9.7 x 7.4; ISBN13: 978-0-19-954826-2ISBN10: 0-19-954826-9

Friday, October 1, 2010

iPads in Pompeii

A recent story on Apple Computer’s website reports on the use of iPads and related software in the University of Cincinnati's excavations of Pompeii. Not only do the hand-held devices help with recording data and artifacts into a master database, but also help with GPS/GIS locations, drawings, photographs and other aspects of recording an active excavation. The researchers cite the iPad's ease of use and ability to take the harsh conditions of the field.

iPads and other handheld devices have also found their way into excavations and analytical studies. Most excavations now use GPS devices regularly. Many types of portable instrumentation also now use PDAs as an integrated part of the hand held device, such as in the Bruker Tracer III-V PXRF. What other changes to archaeological science come from hand-held technologies? Would 4 iPads in Pompeii be ivPads?

Thanks to the OzArch listserv for this recent news story and lots of comments on the merits and downsides of technology in archaeological excavations.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Archaeology (and Archaeological Sciences?) and the Global Economic Crisis

Recently, Nathan Schlanger and Kenneth Atichison edited a report of the effects of the global economic crisis on archaeology, published by ACE Project and Culture Lab Editions. While this report mainly focuses on the US and specific countries in Europe, does it reflect worldwide trends in economics and archaeology? Is the field of archaeology suffering major declines due to the economic climate? If so, are these changes permanent or transitory? How can we quantify anecdotal or media evidence? Are the changes destructive or constructive? As archaeologists, we should be aware of how these events have a way of being cyclical.

The report does not specifically address archaeological sciences or archaeometry, but I imagine funding and personnel changes have also affected many of us regardless of employer or institution.

The editors are collecting information on the effects of the global crisis on archaeology for a future publication, so are interested in hearing from the community.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Article of Interest: "Why Trust a Reporter?"

A useful article in the recent issue of TheScientist.com (Volume 24 Issue 9 Page 40 Date: 2010-09-01) features helpful tips to scientists when giving an interview on research. The author, Edyta Zielinska, covers the basics about how to slow down, make your research clear, and avoid "press pitfalls."

The following disclaimer is provided alongside the various defnitions and helpful strategies: "While the following represent widely held definitions in the field, not every reporter will interpret the rules in the same way. Your best bet is to either not say anything you don’t want to see in print or have an explicit conversation with the reporter about how your words will be used before the interview begins. "

Read more: Why Trust A Reporter? - The Scientist - Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/2010/9/1/40/1/#ixzz0zQNEkvwm

A lively, and at times cynical, response section highlights concerns of the scientific community in responding to requests for interviews. This subject addresses the issue of how to control your message to the public. Science communication extends to the broader goal of promoting science in the community and not just to teaching students how to do it. What are the best examples of public outreach and news media for archaeological sciences, especially by SAS membership? To get things started, here is a post to a recent link from the SAS Blog -

Archaeometry SAS-blog: Video interview with SAS President Sandra López Varela

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A MEGA Database of Middle Eastern Antiquities

Following up on other recent posts on mapping and archaeology (NASA, July 19, and LIDAR, May 12), high-tech mapping and databases are being used to document and preserve archaeological sites and artifacts in the Middle East. The New York Times reports on a Getty Conservation Institute initiative to create a web-based database to document archaeological sites in Jordan (MEGA: Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities). In addition to documenting entire ancient cities such as Jerash, the database also lists individual features and finds. Individual data points can be located via Google Earth satellite images.

The concept behind this is to put field reports and critical information about possibly endangered sites in the hands of officials, allowing them easier and more efficient access to information on overwhelming numbers of sites and artifacts. Eventually the project hopes to expand to neighboring Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, all rich with archaeological heritage. Conceptually, this project could translate to anywhere in the world, given time, money and resources.

Of course more information on the web means more accessibility and knowledge. What further ramifications does this have for the archaeology and archaeometry communities?

Photo From Getty MEGA Website

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rock Art and Megafauna?

Researchers from Monash University reported recently that rock art in Australia’s Northern Territory represents Genyornis, an ancient megafaunal bird similar to an emu. This is the first reported artistry of a species that went extinct 40,000 years ago, and calls the timeline of humans in Australia into question. Further studies include excavation and dating of the site. This project and its future directions are an excellent example of archaeological sciences at their best- an archaeological team, a paleontologist, and perhaps some dating specialists will investigate this apparent chronological mystery.

Photo provided by Ben Gunn

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

CHARISMA program - proposals due 15 Spet. 2010

CHARISMA (Cultural Heritage Advanced Research Infrastructures: Synergy for a Multidisciplinary Approach to Conservation/Restoration) is an EU-funded integrating activity project carried out in the FP7 Capacities Specific Programme "Research Infrastructures".

The project provides transnational access to most advanced scientific instrumentations and knowledge allowing scientists, conservators-restorers and curators to enhance their research at the field forefront. Specialists from arts and sciences, design and set-up new instrumentations and methodologies developing the  most promising technological applications and sustainable solutions to improve diagnostics and monitoring. New extended cooperation among European infrastructures, paves the way towards expanding the harmonisation of best practices in studies and conservation.

The CHARISMA transnational access (TA) programs offer European scientists a to carry out their experiments utilizing 3 different and complementary groups of facilities (ARCHLAB, MOLAB and FIXLAB) through a service embedded in a multidisciplinary environment involving material science and artwork conservation/restoration.

* FIXLAB provides access to large and medium scale European installations, including the beamlines of one synchrotron radiation, one neutron source and two ion-beam analytical facilities;
* MOLAB offers access to a portable set of advanced analytical equipment, for in-situ non-invasive measurements on artworks, without any movement of the artefacts from their location and any contact with the surface;
* ARCHLAB permits the access to the structured scientific information and analytical data, stored in the archives of the most prestigious European museums and conservation institutions.

In a program that covers joint research, transnational access and networking, the planned challenging activities require a combined effort and commitment of an high-level partnership of twenty-one organizations to provide access to advanced facilities and develop research and applications on artwork materials finalised to the conservation of cultural heritage and favoring the opening of larger perspective to the heritage conservation activities in Europe.

The access activities are supported by 3 outreach programs as networking (NA) cooperation activities, with the intent to achieve a permanent interoperability among the European institutions of the CHARISMA consortium and those external to it. The activity fosters the culture of international cooperation, providing harmonisation of methodologies, sharing knowledge and best practices on conservation projects, adopting progressive standard compatibility, and providing education, training, users' awareness events, technology transfer and dissemination of project results.

3 Joint Research activities (JRA), intend to exploit advanced technologies and techniques as well as most promising applications and integrated solutions, to complement the project scheme providing innovative instrumentations and methodologies tailored to the user's needs.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Timberhenge at Stonehenge

One of my favorite tourist destinations ever has been Stonehenge. I was fortunate enough to visit there twice. The second time my wife and I walked in from several kilometers away, which made a special impression of Stonehenge as part of the landscape.

Archaeometric studies have played an important part of Stonehenge-based research, including chronometric dating and the provenance of the megaliths. Some of this work is reported upon in the book Science and Stonehenge.

Recently,an outer circular ditch around Stonehenge was located using ground penetrating radar. The ditch, which had once been filled with poles, has been named timberhenge. One of the investigators was Wolfgang Neubauer from the University of Vienna. I had the pleasure to hear him give a public lecture this past Spring during my sabbatical stay in Munich. His well-illustrated and engaging talk, in a schoolhouse in a small town, drew about 300 people, which amazed me.  How nice to see people interested in their cultural heritage.

Monday, July 19, 2010

NASA's Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences

The Caracol LIDAR Project (SAS Blog Post on May12, 2010) has recently been reported at professional conferences and news articles like this one from the New York Times. This project has highlighted the application of new technologies to archaeology. In addition, the success of the Caracol program has also widened awareness of the NASA Space Archaeology program which has the scientific objective to use the vantage point of space to improve our understanding of past human settlement patterns.

The NASA Space Archaeology program solicits proposals that incorporate the use of remote sensing data for the exploration of regional landscape analysis and modeling of human and enivronmental interactions as well as the protection and preservation of cultural heritage sites and sustainable development of cultural resources.

A newly awarded NASA grant, Climate Change and Human Impact on Ancient and Modern Settlements: Identification and Condition Assessment of Archaeologucal Sites in the Northern Levant from Landsat, ASTER and CORONA Imagery utilizes existing satellite imagery from the last thirty years. In full disclosure, this award has gone to my colleagues located just down the hall at The Geo-Archaeological Information Applications (GAIA) Lab, at the Archaeological Research Institute, in the School of Human Evolution & Culture Change at Arizona State University.

The initial pilot study and grant proposal are available online (link above) and outlines the goals of the project. In addition to exploring archaeological questions of urban collapse, this project seeks to identify areas of potential damage to existing cultural heritage materials in the Levant region of the Middle East. For archaeologists, the refinement and development of techniques to make use of Lansat TM, ASTER and CORONA imagery is beneficial. The corrected images and newly acquired site information will be made available on the Digital Archaeological Atlas of the Holy Land for public and professional use.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Archaeological Sciences Education Down Under

The Australian National University in Canberra recently started a Masters of Archaeological Science Program. The program includes several themes, including Environmental Archaeology, Archaeological Site Science, and Archaeology, Climate Change and Natural Hazards, among others. The program philosophy touches on some interesting ideas, including how archaeological science can shape policy and shape landscapes.

Just recently the first graduate of the program was awarded his degree. I hope that we can see development of more archaeological science programs and departments here in Australia and around the world.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Call for Papers, Australian Archaeological Association Conference 2010


The Australian National University is pleased to be hosting the 2010 Australian Archaeological Association conference.

We would now welcome proposals for individual papers in line with our conference sessions. A full list of these sessions can be viewed at: http://arts.anu.edu.au/AandA/archaeology/aaaconference/aaasessions.asp

Please contact the appropriate session organiser/s before 1 October to submit your abstract.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Promoting Archaeological Science to Kids (With Jello?)

A colleague of mine recently published an article on how to inspire kids to enjoy and learn about microfluidics (his research area). He was able to translate complex physics and engineering concepts through the use of dyed water and Jello, and a well thought-out lesson plan for two different groups of students. Although his research is not directly related to archaeological science per se, this article speaks to the to the value of hands-on experiments in education. Many science educators talk about “hands-on science”, and Lagally and his colleagues summarize this concept very well in the introduction of the article:

“Most of us, being educators or researchers in science and technology, remember a defining moment in our adolescent years that sparked a life-long interest and passion in this field. It may have been performing an oxidation-reduction reaction; it may have been building an electronic circuit; or it may have been watching cells divide under a microscope. Regardless of the subject matter, one thing these pivotal moments have in common is that they are all examples of hands-on education.”

(Cheng Wei T. Yang, Eric Ouellet, Eric T. Lagally. Using Inexpensive Jell-O Chips for Hands-On Microfluidics Education. Analytical Chemistry, 2010) (Photo Credit American Chemical Society)

I would ask the blog readers out there- what was your defining moment that sparked your interest in archaeological science? And, how do you translate that to young scientists? What are some of your favorite household materials to use to teach archaeological science and to make it accessible to students and teachers?

I have volunteered in schools in several districts in several places in the US and Australia and presented to elementary school and high school groups and in-between, with different hands-on activities. What sort of hands-on activities have you used successfully to teach and promote archaeological science to kids? I am curious to see other responses.

Friday, June 18, 2010

GeoRaman 2010

GeoRaman 2010 is coming up in a couple of weeks, from 28th June- 2nd July, at the Australian Museum in Sydney, Australia. While the conference covers the application of Raman spectroscopy in the Earth Sciences, one whole day (Tuesday, 29th June) is devoted to the applications of Raman to archaeology.

The website and program have the details, but here are some highlights:

Archeology Chairperson: Peter Vandenabeele

9:00 - 9:40 Plenary Howell Edwards Raman Spectroscopic Analysis of Archaeological Artefacts: The

Illumination of Ancient Mysteries.

9:40 - 10:00 Contributed Linda Prinsloo Recreating a Stone Age artist's"paint box"

10:00 - 10:20 Contributed Annelien Deneckere Raman spectroscopy, supplemented with two other techniques, as tool

to gather information about the mediaeval manuscript 'Liber Floridus'.

10:20 - 10:40 Contributed Nicoleta Vornicu Raman Spectrometry in Cultural Heritage

Glasses Chairperson: Jean Dubessy

13:30 - 14:10 Plenary Ludovic Bellot-Gurlet Si-O glasses and Fe-O nano-structured phases in cultural heritage materials: insight from Raman procedures

14:10 - 14:30 Contributed Elizabeth Carter Raman Spectroscopy of Fulgurites

14:30 - 14:50 Contributed Sarah Kelloway Raman Mapping of Australian Colonial Glazes

There are also some posters in the Archaeology section, so check out those titles as well!