Non-destructive x-ray can tell the origin of archaeological finds

August 6th, 2010 - 3:44 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Aug 6 (ANI): Using an off-the-shelf portable x-ray lab tool that analyzes the composition of chemicals, researchers at Tel Aviv University could reveal hidden information about archaeological discoveries.

These x-rays reveal the soil and clay composition of a tablet or artefact, to help determine its precise origin.

Prof. Yuval Goren’s process is based on x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry, and can go much further.

Over the years, he has collected extensive data through physical “destructive” sampling of artefacts. By comparing this data to readouts produced by the XRF device, he’s built a table of results so that he can now scan a tablet - touching the surface of it gently with the machine - and immediately assess its clay type and the geographical origin of its minerals.

The tool can also be applied to coins, ancient plasters, and glass, and can be used on site or in a lab, he said.

He plans to make this information widely available to other archaeological researchers.

Goren’s field intersects the worlds of geology, mineralogy and ancient technology as he tries to understand where ancient tablets and pots are made, based on the crystals and minerals found in the materials of these artefacts.

The new tool may help save archaeological structures while solving some of its deepest mysteries.

“It’s become a big ethical question. Many museums will not allow any more physical sampling of artefacts, and it’s especially problematic for small tablet fragments and stamps which cannot be broken in the process. I had to find another way to know what these artefacts were made of,” said Goren.

In the recent study, the researchers investigated a Late Bronze Age letter written in the Akkadian language and found among the Ophel excavations in Jerusalem.

Using his device, Goren could tell that the letter is made from raw material typical to the Terra Rossa soils of the Central Hill Country around Jerusalem.

This determination helped to confirm both the origin of the letter and possibly its sender.

The study has been published in the Israel Exploration Journal. (ANI)

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