With support from the National Science Foundation, Drs. Laure Dussubieux and Ryan Williams from the Field Museum will 1) continue offering access to the Elemental Analysis Facility (EAF) to a wide range of archaeological scholars and 2) organize inter-laboratory comparison tests for LA-ICP-MS users studying ancient glass and ancient ceramic.
The EAF includes a scanning electron microscope with an energy dispersive spectrometer (SEM-EDS), and inductively coupled plasma - mass spectrometer (ICP-MS). The ICP-MS can be fitted with two lasers. One of the lasers is dedicated to the sampling of small objects with a high throughput, whereas the second laser, a totally unique, custom-transformed apparatus, accommodates large objects. This equipment is complemented by two portable XRF instruments for totally non-invasive investigations of artifacts on the premises of the Museum or in the field. The facility is used to determine the composition, including major, minor, and trace elements, of a large range of materials in a non-destructive manner to address questions related to the archaeology of cultural production, interaction and exchange in the Americas, Africa, Oceania, Europe, and Asia and advancing the cause of material conservation of The Field Museum's reknowned anthropology collections.
The elemental analysis facility serves the Field Museum community as well as scholars and students from the Chicago area, the Midwest and throughout the world. This project will reinforce our interaction with outside scientists to attract high profile collaborative projects by offering financial support to offset travel and accommodation expenses as well as part of analytical costs. The presence of an on-site laboratory at the Field Museum creates the opportunity to study artifacts from the unique collections of the museum that could not be moved easily to outside analytical facilities.
The large quantity of data generated by the EAF in eight years of activity and the multiplication of LA-ICP-MS laboratories around the country pose the questions of data set comparability. Data obtained by participating laboratories on two widely analyzed materials (glass and ceramic) will be compared in the framework of an inter-laboratory comparison test.
The intellectual merits of the project include the establishment of extensive new datasets of archaeological and ethnological material from around the world that directly informs hypotheses about ancient trade and exchange, technology, and their relationship to the development of social complexity around the world. By sharing our expertise for the investigation of ancient material and linking leading scholars and graduate students to the museum's extensive collections and giving them the tools to analyze these one of a kind assemblages, the project will significantly enhance understanding of the role of cultural production in the development of complex societies.
The broader impacts of the research include student training and public education. This project integrates research and training of undergraduate and graduate students. They are initiated into the analytical process by undertaking the analysis itself and are trained in method development, the statistical processing of the data, and interpretation. Results of this research will inform future exhibits and education activities of the institution, which educate hundreds of thousands of school children and millions of visitors annually. The inter-laboratory comparison test will constitute a first step toward the elaboration of a large data base of LA-ICP-MS data for the use of archaeologists.