Skip to comments.New 10 second sourcing technology set to transform archaeology
Posted on 09/15/2013 12:17:29 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
Researchers at the University of Sheffield have developed a method of sourcing obsidian artefacts that takes only 10 seconds -- dozens of times faster than the current methods -- with a handheld instrument that can be used at archaeological excavations.
Obsidian, naturally occurring volcanic glass, is smooth, hard, and far sharper than a surgical scalpel when fractured, making it a highly desirable raw material for crafting stone tools for almost all of human history. The earliest obsidian tools, found in East Africa, are nearly two million years old, and obsidian scalpels are still used today in specialised medical procedures.
The chemistry of obsidian varies from volcano to volcano, and the chemical "fingerprints" allow researchers to match an obsidian artefact to the volcanic origin of its raw material. The chemical tests often involve dedicated analytical laboratories, even nuclear reactors, and take place months or years after an archaeological site has been excavated.
The new process uses an analytical technique called portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF), which involves a handheld instrument about the size, shape, and weight of a cordless drill. This portability enables archaeologists to identify the origins of stone tools in the field rather than having to send off artefacts to a distant lab. The newly developed method, which saves time and money, will first be used to study obsidian tools made by early humans, including Neanderthals and Homo erectus, tens of thousands of years ago.
"We carried out the research in Armenia because it has one of the most obsidian-rich natural and cultural landscapes in the world, and the lithic assemblages of numerous Palaeolithic sites are predominantly, if not entirely, composed of obsidian."
(Excerpt) Read more at shef.ac.uk ...
The advances just keep coming.
My mind boggled when they used DNA to group fragments of sheepskin from the Dead Sea Scrolls and made the impossible job of reconstruction a little more possible.
Then there was a computer program that used scanned images of pottery shards and fitted them together in minutes instead of months of painstaking trial and error.
I always though one noble invention would be to scan cuneiform tablets and have a computer at least make them printable and perhaps even translateable (yeah I know, context problems), but still . . .
Interesting development. Technologies march onward.
Winter is coming.
It’s a Game of Thrones reference about obsidian blades. I’ll take my abuse about communist Hollywood.
New microplasma source excites matter in controlled way, may revolutionize how archaeologists date objects in the field
The End Is Near!
Just thought I’d throw that in. There have been so many technological advances since the mid-1800’s that it truly boggles the mind. Scientific advances seem to have been exponentially multiplied in all fields.
And in other fields, new artifacts are being found that the technological advances “somehow” seem to match...I wonder why that is...?
Your welcome SC.
The obsidian trade goes back a long way, this technology is likely to find samples from previously unknown sources.
I don’t doubt that for a minute!
Each new discovery in technology leads to many, many more, and each new find in archeology leads to answers for the questions of the last thousand finds.
This is not random, and it’s not “chance.” We need to know it ALL! And we are finding answers where we least expect them!
Thanks for the ping!
The speed of this technique is the new part, it’ll be interesting to see how older samples (in museums for example) have their dates shift.
...obsidian scalpels are still used today in specialised medical procedures.
Wow! Did not know this.
Ironic that the person who wrote this is named Stone.
I will be waiting to hear about that! Thanks!