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Scientific Tools for Probing the Past Sven Isaksson Archaeological Research Laboratory Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies Stockholm University.

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Presentation on theme: "Scientific Tools for Probing the Past Sven Isaksson Archaeological Research Laboratory Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies Stockholm University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Scientific Tools for Probing the Past Sven Isaksson Archaeological Research Laboratory Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies Stockholm University

2 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

3 History C. 1800, first chemical analyses 1896, first physical analyses 1945  New techniques in chemistry, physics and biology 1949, 14 C-dating 1970  Increased application in archaeology 1985  Break-through in organic analyses

4 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 Archaeological Research Laboratory

5 Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies Archaeology Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory Classical StudiesNumismatic Research Group Archaeological Research Laboratory

6 Scientific tools are used to probe the archaeological material for more data Archaeology!Not Archaeology? Not science? Science!

7 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

8 The nature of archaeological material

9 Contamination during excavation Hawaiian Tropic (coconut oil, UV- block).

10 Contamination during recording Day Cream (palm- tree oil etc)

11 Contamination during conservation Paraffin From Aveling 1998

12 Keeping in museums ExcavatedaDNA mtDNAHTG10HTG8 Late 1800-tal +-- Late 1900-tal +++ From Götherström 2001 Ancient horse DNA from Birka Alkanoic acids in Norwegian organic residues Is organic residues better off in the ground than in the museum?!

13 Analytical techniques Prospecting Dating Characterization

14 Prospecting Site locating

15 Prospecting Site locating Site investigating

16 Prospecting Site locating Site investigating Detecting anomalies from natural background

17 Prospecting Site locating Site investigating Detecting anomalies from natural background Geochemical – e.g. phosphate Geophysical – e.g. slingram, magnetometer and ground penetrating radar

18 Nutida kyrkan Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

19 Nutida kyrkan med tolkningen av katedralens utsträckning Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

20 Undersökningsytorna Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

21 Reflexer på 0 -0,6 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

22 Reflexer på 0,2-0,8 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

23 Reflexer på 0,5-1,1 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

24 Reflexer på 0,7-1,3 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

25 Reflexer på 1,0-1,6 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

26 Reflexer på 1,2-1,8 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

27 Reflexer på 1,4-2,1 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

28 Reflexer på 1,7-2,3 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

29 Reflexer på 1,9-2,5 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

30 Reflexer på 2,1-2,8 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

31 Reflexer på 2,4-3,0 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

32 Reflexer på 2,6-3,2 m djup Modellering efter georadar-prospektering Gamla Uppsala kyrka

33 Dating To fix an event along a time axis

34 Dating To fix an event along a time axis But what event?

35 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…

36 Dating

37 MethodMaterialRange (yrs)Sample size Chronological Find combinationartefacts Dendrochronologywood treerings Magnetic TRMburnt clay10 4, or longercm DRMsediment Radiation damage Fission tracksglass, mineral10 2 …10 7 mm TLceramic, br. stone10 2 …10 5 mg…g OSLsediment10 6 mg…g ESRenamel10 3 …10 6 mg…g Radioactive decay Conventional 14 Corganic g Accelerator 14 Corganic70 000mg K/Armineral10 5 …10 9 g Physical phenomenon Hydrationobsidian, glassmm Chemical reactions Racemisationbone, hair10 2 …10 6 g Biological growth Lichenometrylichens

38 Characterization Provenance Biological origin Technology Man Living conditions and Climate

39 Provenance Heterogeneity of the Earths crust Materials collected from a certain deposit may have a specific composition Mineral (stone, clay), metal, slag, glass

40 Provenance Flint Provenance of 70 % of flint axes identified by trace elements alone Together with archaeological data, e.g. context and date, 95 % identified

41 Provenance Garnets

42 Biological origin Stigmasterol Cholesterol Squalene

43 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 fatty acids and MAG Long-chain ketones and DAG Sterols Triacylglycerols (TAG) IR-spectra of organic residues Gas chromatogram of lipid residues Scanning Electron Micrographs of cells from barley and pea in prehistoric food residue

44 Technology Deposit or Inlay?

45 Technology Deposit or Inlay?

46 (Stjerna 1997) Technology Just because its green doesn't mean its bronze

47 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

48 Man DietC- and N-isotopes, trace elements Breast-feedingN-isotopes Sex determinationOsteology, aDNA KinshipaDNA MigrationaDNA, S- and O- isotopes, trace elements

49 Living conditions and climate DiseaseOsteology, aDNA ClimateO-isotopes Vegetation, regionalPollen analysis Vegetation, localPlant macro fossils, organic geochemistry

50 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 Facilities 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

51 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 Facilities 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

52 Research programs Svealand in the Vendel and Viking Period (finished) Forts and Fortifications in the Mälaren Region AD (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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