Skip to comments.Radiation Holds Key to Inca Riddle
Posted on 04/02/2005 12:15:42 AM PST by nickcarraway
An Oregon State University researcher is using modern technology to unravel the mysteries of an ancient South American culture.
The Inca empire marked momentous state occasions with a ritual called capacocha. These ceremonies linked the capital of Cuzco to remote Inca provinces through the sacrifice of children and the burial of precious objects.
OSU researcher Leah Minc used neutron activation analysis to identify the compositional elements of 15th century pottery found in several sacred burial sites. Establishing the artifacts' makeup allowed her to pinpoint their origins, and ultimately to better understand the capacocha.
The findings were published in the March issue of the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology and illustrate the possibilities of archaeometry, a field that applies scientific analysis to archaeology.
"This study gives us a whole different perspective on ancient societies," Minc said. "It was exciting to be able to shed light on an ancient ritual in a way that no other technology would allow."
Minc came to OSU last summer from the University of Michigan, where she conducted these analyses. When the University of Michigan closed its radiation center, Minc looked for a new institution with the capabilities her research required.
The OSU Radiation Center "has a lovely reactor," Minc noted. "All of this requires the artifacts be placed in the neutron flux of a nuclear reactor."
Steve Reese, acting director of OSU's Radiation Center, explained as simply as he could how neutron radiation analysis works:
"You insert the sample into the reactor and bombard it with neutrons that activate the sample. The elements in the sample absorb the neutrons and become radioactive. You look at the radiation they emit, and that tells what atoms are present."
Minc looks at the types and quantities of trace elements in a sample to determine its geographic origin based on its chemical "fingerprint" or "signature."
By applying this procedure to the Inca pottery, Minc determined that both imperial and provincial people contributed to the burial gifts. She compared samples from five sites, mostly in Peru and Argentina.
Contrasting the raw materials used to make the different ceramic vessels allowed Minc to demonstrate that all of these sacrificial burials were part of the capacocha ritual. The geographical scope of the ceremony supports archaeologists' belief that imperial Inca leaders used the ritual to link the political heartland of Cuzco to outlying provinces.
Minc spent several years on this project, but OSU's resident archaeometrist has plenty of other cultures she wants to study. One current venture uses analysis of late Bronze Age Armenian pottery to examine that society's market system and trade routes.
Reese says Minc's work will add to the radiation center's prestige, attracting more research grants and funding.
Prior to Minc arriving and beginning an archaeometry program, OSU primarily used neutron activation analysis for geochemical analysis, Reese explained. He believes Minc's work opens up new possibilities for the university's radiation technology.
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So, what is the conclusion of the study, that the whole community were Pagans? Not just the high priest?
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NUCLEAR ANALYSIS REVEALS SECRETS OF INCA BURIAL SITE Oregon State | 03-22-05 | Jana Zvibleman Posted on 03/31/2005 11:22:06 AM PST by nickcarraway http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1374795/posts
The best use of a nuclear reactor they could come up with was firing ancient pottery ?
It doesn't mean that both royals and provincials contributed gifts. It could just as well mean the royals simply bought provincial pottery.
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