XRF scanning and sediment analyses – University of Copenhagen

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XRF scanning and sediment analyses

XRF scanning

XRF scanning (x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy) identifies and quantifies the elements in soil samples, minerals and artefacts. With two distinctly different instruments a series of new analytical possibilities is now available to archaeology.

Preparing a sediment core for XRF scanning. (Photo: Uffe Wilken).

Preparing a sediment core for XRF scanning. (Photo: Uffe Wilken).

The stationary scanner (Itrax Core Scanner) at the Natural History Museum of Denmark analyses soil cores, columns and drill samples. Initially a highly resolved colour image and x-ray picture is generated of the sediments. Subsequently, the scanning is carried out with intervals as low as 200 µm and with the possibility of variable time intervals. Thus detailed knowledge of the archaeological sediments is generated, which may assist in the later interpretation of the layers.

Handheld XRF scanners

With Handheld XRF scanners ArchaeoScience also offers on-site XRF scanning. The method makes an initial dataset of elemental composition and organic matter content available to the excavator and can continue to provide information during the excavation process. Such analysis can now also be carried out as a horizontal surface analysis with soil mapping of extended cleaned areas. Additionally, archaeological artefacts and materials such as metals, glass and ceramics can also be analysed.

Materials for XRF scanning

XRF scanning can be carried out on both geological and anthropogenic sediments. The data from such measurements can localise and specify: •sediments with high contents of organic material, •anthropogenic contaminants, •depositional conditions, •the minerogenic content of sediment cores/columns, •correlation possibilities between multiple cores from a single site, •cyclic sequences in the sedimentation of strata, •pollution and •mobility and trade, via isotopic provenience of artefacts with metal and/or minerogenic composition

XRF scanning is frequently combined with other types of archaeological science analyses, such as mass spectroscopy (stable isotopes), AMS 14C dating and DNA analysis. Pollen and macrofossil analyses are also offered.