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Scientific Tools for Probing the Past

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Sven Isaksson Archaeological Research Laboratory Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies Stockholm University. Scientific Tools for Probing the Past. Archaeology and Chemistry Why a little chemistry is useful to archaeologists:

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slide1

Sven Isaksson

Archaeological Research Laboratory

Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies

Stockholm University

Scientific Tools for Probing the Past

slide2

Archaeology and Chemistry

  • Why a little chemistry is useful to archaeologists:
  • The archaeological sources are material remains – chemistry is the study of matter and its change
  • Material remains are affected by the ravages of time – what is left and how it is preserved
  • Man has always made use of matter and changed it; Man – the Chemist
slide3

History

C. 1800, first chemical analyses

1896, first physical analyses

1945 New techniques in chemistry, physics and biology

1949, 14C-dating

1970 Increased application in archaeology

1985 Break-through in organic analyses

slide4

Archaeological

Research

Laboratory

Established in 1976

Professorship in 1986, first as an adjoining position but later as a regular chair, in laboratory archaeology (swe: laborativ arkeologi)

Since 2005 part of the newly created Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies

slide5

Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies

Archaeological

Research

Laboratory

Classical Studies

Numismatic

Research

Group

Osteoarchaeological

Research

Laboratory

Archaeology

slide6

Scientific tools are used to probe the archaeological material for more data

Archaeology!

Not Archaeology?

Not science?

Science!

slide7

The Fate of Finds

  • Excavation
  • Semi-stable equilibriums are broken, collection, registration
  • Recording
  • Cleaning, visual characterization
  • Conservation
  • Halt decomposition, extract information
  • -excavation on microscopic level
  • Storage
  • Keep, preserve, display
  • Scientific analyses?
  • Excavations on molecular or atomic level
slide9

Contamination during excavation

Hawaiian Tropic (coconut oil, UV-block).

slide10

Contamination during recording

Day Cream (palm-tree oil etc)

slide11

Contamination during conservation

From Aveling 1998

Paraffin

slide12

Keeping in museums

Ancient horse DNA from Birka

Excavated aDNA

mtDNA HTG10 HTG8

Late 1800-tal + - -

Late 1900-tal + + +

From Götherström 2001

Alkanoic acids in Norwegian organic residues

Is organic residues better off in the ground than in the museum?!

slide13

Analytical techniques

Prospecting

Dating

Characterization

slide14

Prospecting

Site locating

slide15

Prospecting

Site locating

Site investigating

slide16

Prospecting

Site locating

Site investigating

Detecting anomalies from natural background

slide17

Prospecting

Site locating

Site investigating

Detecting anomalies from natural background

Geochemical – e.g. phosphate

Geophysical – e.g. slingram, magnetometer

and ground penetrating radar

slide18

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Nutida kyrkan

slide19

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Nutida kyrkan med tolkningen av katedralens utsträckning

slide20

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Undersökningsytorna

slide21

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 0 -0,6 m djup

slide22

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 0,2-0,8 m djup

slide23

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 0,5-1,1 m djup

slide24

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 0,7-1,3 m djup

slide25

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 1,0-1,6 m djup

slide26

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 1,2-1,8 m djup

slide27

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 1,4-2,1 m djup

slide28

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 1,7-2,3 m djup

slide29

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 1,9-2,5 m djup

slide30

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 2,1-2,8 m djup

slide31

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 2,4-3,0 m djup

slide32

Modellering efter georadar-prospektering

Gamla Uppsala kyrka

Reflexer på 2,6-3,2 m djup

slide33

Dating

To fix an event along a time axis

slide34

Dating

To fix an event along a time axis

But what event?

slide35

Dating

To fix an event along a time axis

But what event?

The event dated by an analytical technique is not always the same as the archaeological event…

slide37

Dating

Method Material Range (yrs) Sample size

Chronological

Find combination artefacts 106 -

Dendrochronology wood 104 100 treerings

Magnetic

TRM burnt clay 104, or longer cm

DRM sediment

Radiation damage

Fission tracks glass, mineral 102…107 mm

TL ceramic, br. stone 102…105 mg…g

OSL sediment 106 mg…g

ESR enamel 103…106 mg…g

Radioactive decay

Conventional 14C organic 50 000 10 g

Accelerator 14C organic 70 000 mg

K/Ar mineral 105…109 g

Physical phenomenon

Hydration obsidian, glass mm

Chemical reactions

Racemisation bone, hair 102…106 g

Biological growth

Lichenometry lichens

slide38

Characterization

Provenance

Biological origin

Technology

Man

Living conditions and Climate

slide39

Provenance

Heterogeneity of the Earths crust

Materials collected from a certain deposit may have a specific composition

Mineral (stone, clay), metal, slag, glass

slide40

Provenance

Flint

Provenance of 70 % of flint axes identified by trace elements alone

Together with archaeological data, e.g. context and date, 95 % identified

slide41

Provenance

Garnets

slide42

Biological origin

Squalene

Stigmasterol

Cholesterol

slide43

Biological origin

Chemical analyses of:

Fats/Oils

Waxes

Pitches

Tars

Leather

Textile

Food

Morphological analyses:

Seeds

Leather

Fur

Textile

Bone

Short-chain

fatty acids

Long-chain

ketones and DAG

Long-chain

fatty acids

and MAG

Triacylglycerols (TAG)

Sterols

Gas chromatogram of lipid residues

IR-spectra of organic residues

Scanning Electron Micrographs of cells from barley and pea in prehistoric food residue

slide44

Technology

Deposit or Inlay?

slide45

Technology

Deposit or Inlay?

slide46

Technology

Just because its green doesn\'t mean its bronze

(Stjerna 1997)

slide47

Technology

Symbols or Cymbals: the Fröslunda shields

From a sulfide ore - late Bronze Age

Hammered and annealed – not suitable as cymbals

Flattening of slag inclusions – hammered from a piece 15 cm in diameter

slide48

Man

Diet C- and N-isotopes, trace elements

Breast-feeding N-isotopes

Sex determination Osteology, aDNA

Kinship aDNA

Migration aDNA, S- and O- isotopes, trace elements

slide49

Living conditions and climate

Disease Osteology, aDNA

Climate O-isotopes

Vegetation, regional Pollen analysis

Vegetation, local Plant macro fossils, organic geochemistry

slide50

Facilities

  • aDNA laboratory for extraction and PCR, post-PCR laboratory in separate building
  • Atomic Absorption Spectrophoto-meter for trace metal element analyses of soil, bone and artefacts
  • Field-archaeology equipment, incl. sampling probes, field spectrophotometer, metal detector, GPS, total station, photo-tower for analogue or digital cameras
  • Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometry for analyses of organic residues and pigments
  • Freezer-room for the storage of very large samples, e.g. whole graves
  • Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry for organic residue analyses
  • GIS computer systems for spatial analyses
  • Mass Spectrometry for isotope (C, N, S, O) analyses primarily of bone collagen
  • Microscopes and sample preparation equipment for analyses of archaeo-botanical materials, textiles, etc
slide51

Facilities

  • Slingram, Ground-Penetrating Radar and Magnetometer for archaeological prospecting
  • Spectrophotometers for wet-chemical analyses (e.g. phosphates)
  • Variable Pressure Scanning Electron Microscope with Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectrometry for microstructure and elemental analyses
  • X-Ray Diffraction for the analysis of minerals, bones and pigments
  • Microscopes and sample preparation equipment for microstructure analyses of metals and ceramics
  • Microwave Accelerated Reaction System for rapid sample preparation, i.e. extracting, digesting, dissolving, hydrolysing or drying organic or inorganic materials
  • Optical 3D-scanner for both high-resolution surface analyses of artefacts and for large-scale 3D documentation
  • Preparation and conservation laboratory primarily for metal artefacts
slide52

Research programs

  • Svealand in the Vendel and Viking Period (finished)
  • Forts and Fortifications in the Mälaren Region AD 400-1100 (finished)
  • Us and Them – Cultural identity in the Middle Neolithic
  • Bread for the dead, bread for the living… Cereal-based food in the Late Iron Age
  • By House and Hearth – The chemistry of culture layers as a document of the subsistence of prehistoric man
  • Tracing Ancient Vegetable Food – Chemotaxonomy of plant lipid residues
  • Gender and Diet in the Neolithic
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