Researching artifacts to help see the big picture

HHXRF is a perfect tool for the study of migration and early trade routes using OBSIDIAN based artifacts such as arrow heads and scrapers. Using the trace element fingerprint of the measured obsidian, measured with a traceable obsidian calibration and comparing them to a database compiled  from other obsidian artifacts and sources, it is possible to trace the origin. An example can be found in the paper by  Colby and Speakman:

  • Initial source evaluation of archaeological obsidian from the Kuril Islands of the Russian Far East using portable-XRF (Journal of Archaeological Science (2009), doi: 10.1016/j.jas.2009.01.014)
Obsidian Arrowhead
Obsidian arrowhead
Obsidian rock

A similar approach can be applied using chert. The use of origin determination of ceramics is more difficult since these objects are rarely as homogeneous as volcanic glass. This time trace element RATIOS are used to correlate the pigment free part of the ceramics, or building blocks, to local or not so local sources to establish where the original source material came from.

  • old or reworked Appnote on Ceramics provenance and the stone hatchet poster by Peter Graves
Spectra showing ratio of elements

The light weight hand held TRACER XRF now enables researchers to add more and more data to the database by analyzing well preserved and documented collections all thru the world.

As a tool for research the TRACER approach with XRF is especially suitable since apart from being non destructive the researcher can investigate the direct spectra with the energy distribution of the photons from the sample without any further processing.
The spectrum which originates from the characteristic emissions of the elements present in the sample also reflects the inhomogeneity’s of the elemental distribution.

Using BRUKER ELEMENTAL’s free seminars (link) researchers can invite our scientists to explain with hands on group demonstration how XRF works and how it can be used to perform cutting edge elemental determinations. XRF is well suited to analyze the composition of ancient alloys and recently new reference material was created to enable more quantitative work, which will one day in the near future enable us to understand better how metal was worked and processed in the past.

  • (use link to compositional analysis of cu… from newsletter)

EDS Microanalysis, although invasive for the sample, is used extensively as a forensic and material science research tool:

  • Practical Spectrum Imaging
  • Rapid Collection for Routine Analysis webinar ( link ) summarizes the applications!
  • EDS data obtained from an SEM on meteoritic materials and micro XRF allows researcher to trace them back to sources outside of our solar system.
    (Webinar on: X-ray Expeditions into Geosciences and Mining)

Vibrational spectroscopy, in all of its instrumental setups, allow us to ID the chemical compounds and functional groups present in an organic sample. Raman spectroscopy furthermore enables to identify the mineralogical composition, and unlike XRD which is a destructive technique when not used with 2D detectors, it can determine compounds non-invasively.

  • Link to webinar on optics page Utilization of Infrared and Raman Spectroscopy for the Chemical Analysis of Art-20090610 1603