In October 2019 the Study Center received a substantial grant from the International Music and Art Foundation to purchase a Bruker Tracer 5i handheld XRF for the conservation lab. We are particularly grateful to Gligor Tashkavich for encouraging our application to the foundation. This tool is now available to materials specialists at the Study Center.
XRF (X-ray fluorescence) is widely used in archaeology to determine the precise elemental composition of materials for studies of technology and provenance. XRF is used, for example, to determine the composition of metal alloys, the detection of trace elements to source obsidian and other lithics, in technological studies of ancient ceramics and glass, and in the examination of archaeological soils for evidence of human activity.
The first project for the new XRF was to sample copper alloys from a Late Minoan I workshop at Gournia. Since XRF sampling is entirely non-destructive, it was possible to sample the complete assemblage, revealing a wide variety of alloy types. Next, the highly portable unit was taken to Pylos where it was used by conservators to investigate various materials, including components of a sword and a stone inlays for Shari Stocker and Jack Davis. This data helped determine conservation treatments and provide a starting point for the study of several glass and faience artefacts. Additional XRF analysis of ancient glass is planned using the vacuum attachment, which allows for more precise measurement of certain light elements.