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30Apr

Microarcheology

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 | Did you know? | 0 comment | 30 April 2011 - 11:57:05

tags  microarchaeologymetallurgyisrael

While there is much evidence for metallurgy in Iron Age Israel, a workshop had never been found until recently. A crucible was discovered at Tell es-Safi/Gath, a tenth century BC Philistine city in southern Israel, by the help of a new method in field archeology called microarcheology. This new approach uses instruments typically found in a laboratory onsite, giving archeologists a chance to restrategize their excavation based on up to date information. The use of special instruments, such as infrared spectrometers and X-ray fluorescence analyzers, allow archeologists to see deeper into the archeological record than is possible with the naked eye. More excavators are taking this approach because of the portability, preciseness and lowered prices of these instruments.

While there is much evidence for metallurgy in Iron Age Israel, a workshop had never been found until recently. A crucible was discovered at Tell es-Safi/Gath, a tenth century BC Philistine city in southern Israel, by the help of a new method in field archeology called microarcheology. This new approach uses instruments typically found in a laboratory onsite, giving archeologists a chance to restrategize their excavation based on up to date information. The use of special instruments, such as infrared spectrometers and X-ray fluorescence analyzers, allow archeologists to see deeper into the archeological record than is possible with the naked eye. More excavators are taking this approach because of the portability, preciseness and lowered prices of these instruments.

In the late 1980s, researcher Steve Weiner of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, began bringing a newly portable infrared spectrometer to archeological digs and calling his method “microarcheology”. Currently the use of infrared spectrometers can determine differences in similar looking substances, such as a whether a white flat layer was phytoliths (indicating ancient vegetation) or calcite (possibly suggesting man-made plaster). Beyond that, the instrument may also be used to determine which subtype of material the sample belongs, based on the arrangements of atoms, which is illustrated by sharper or shallower peaks on the spectrum. Weiner is currently collaborating with other scientists to expand upon this method, potentially applying it to determining the internal structures of bones, to determine whether the sample is a good candidate for DNA analysis or carbon dating, and finding the specific spectrum for most minerals archeologist encounter.
 
Summary of “New Instruments Enter the Archeological Toolbox” in Archeology magazine, March/April 2011
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