Foundations for Innovation: The Legacies and Influences of Archaeological Science at McMaster

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

McMaster University has a long history in archaeological science, including major advances in stable isotope analysis, provenience studies,and long-term human-environmental interactions. Inter-disciplinary research programs have included the pioneering work of Henry Schwarcz in using stable isotope geochemistry for palaeo-climate and palaeo-diet research, and the materials characterization research of Ron Hancock at the McMaster Nuclear Reactor. Ongoing research and student training now take place within a wide range of specialized archaeological laboratories, established with the support of the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Students are trained at labs focusing on stable isotopes, XRF, ceramic petrography, fisheries, ancient DNA, paleoethnobotany, sediment cores, and in a larger research repository for Ontario archaeological materials. These laboratories have catalyzed research programs across Canada and globally, and are examples of the rapidly evolving state of archaeological science at McMaster as well as ongoing collaborations between institutions. In this session, current researchers and alumni will draw on a wide range of case studies to explore the history of archaeological science at McMaster, the innovative archaeometric and bioarchaeological studies emerging from McMaster laboratories, the application of these studies to diverse social questions, and the state of ongoing collaborative research across the broader landscape of archaeological science. 

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-12 of 12)

  • Documents (12)

  • Arts and Sciences of Ancient Plants at McMaster University (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Éloi Bérubé. Shanti Morell-Hart. Sophie Reilly.

    Since 2013, the McMaster Paleoethnobotanical Research Facility (MPERF) has explored questions surrounding the relationship between humans and plants, including plant cultivation and collection, consumption and social uses of flora, and interactions between people and landscape. Active projects address human-plant dynamics throughout different regions of Mesoamerica, South America, and Ontario, at time periods ranging from the Late Pleistocene through historic periods. With recent support from...

  • Benefits of Time Travel, the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Hendrik Poinar.

    Our laboratory focuses on the preservation and degradation of organic signatures in archaeological remains. We devise and use state-of-the art genetic techniques to pull DNA sequences from tooth and bone remains to address questions of ancestry, origins, extinctions and evolution. Currently the lab is focusing on the evolution of infectious disease, namely plague, using full genomic evidence garnered from victims of past pandemics. I will speak about the centre, the overarching questions we are...

  • Beyond Ceramic Provenience: Interdisciplinary Research into Social Practices at LIRAC (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrew Roddick. Greg Braun. Kostalena Michelaki.

    Dr. Kostalena Michelaki founded the laboratory for Interdisciplinary Research of Archaeological Ceramics (LIRAC) in 2006, thanks to funding by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. She established this facility to examine the relationships between technology, society and the environment, through the archaeometric analysis of technological choices made by people in the production and use of ceramics. Scholars working in LIRAC, and in associated McMaster research centres such as the Brockhouse...

  • A Culture of Innovation in Archaeological Science at McMaster University (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Aubrey Cannon. Andrew Roddick.

    Archaeological science has exploded globally in the past several decades, a pattern that is evident in the range and sophistication of scholarship at a variety of Canadian institutions. McMaster University, however, has played, and continues to play, a particularly important role in the development of archaeological science. In this introductory paper, we explore the genealogy and early impact of a number of pioneering scholars at McMaster. We highlight the pivotal role of the Canadian...

  • Differentiating Commingled Human Remains through EDXRF (Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence) (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kathryn Campeau. Tracy Prowse. Tristan Carter.

    The ability to differentiate commingled skeletal remains is critical in the analysis of mass burials, archaeological sites and mass fatality events in forensic cases. The potential application of EDXRF (Energy Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence) to aid in differentiating commingled remains is being explored at the MAX Lab (McMaster Archaeological XRF Lab), expanding the lab’s research focus from solely obsidian sourcing to include bio-archaeological applications. There are numerous factors affecting...

  • Establishing provenance for chert from southern Baffin Island: a multi-scalar approach (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rachel ten Bruggencate. S. Brooke Milne. Mostafa Fayek. Robert Park. Douglas Stenton.

    Difficulties in physically or chemically distinguishing between chert from closely situated quarries have made a multi-scalar approach to chert provenance analysis necessary in some regions. We present the preliminary results of a multi-scalar chert provenance project focused on the eastern Canadian Arctic. On a regional scale, we examine ICP-MS trace element results for chert from two quarries and five archaeological sites on southern Baffin Island. Chert from the quarries and archaeological...

  • Exploring the Archaeological Applications of ITRAX XRF Soil Analysis in Southern Ontario (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Beatrice Fletcher. Aubrey Cannon. Eduard Reinhardt.

    Prehistoric human occupation in Southern Ontario, Canada spans the gamut of ephemeral hunter-gatherer usage to intensive Iroquoian village settlements. ITRAX core scanning has the capacity to explore some of this rich history. Initially developed for environmental core analysis, ITRAX technology can highlight differences in culturally generated chemical signatures between intensive and ephemeral occupations. This automated, non destructive x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis has the potential to...

  • ITRAX XRF analysis of shell midden sediments from sites on the central coast of British Columbia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kari Carter. Aubrey Cannon. Eduard Reinhardt.

    We present the results of using an ITRAX XRF core scanner on fine-fraction shell midden sediments. High-resolution multi-element analyses of central coast sites confirm patterned intra- and inter-site variability in the relative abundance of phosphorus and calcium determined on the basis of earlier low-resolution studies. Analysis of Namu site deposits dating from 11,000-2000 cal BP show the relative absence of residual calcium in early shell-free deposits (ca. 11,000-7000 cal BP) but overall...

  • New Perspectives on Past Vitamin D Deficiency (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Megan Brickley.

    Less than half of the current world population is estimated to have adequate vitamin D status and potential consequences are much debated. For those engaged in addressing the challenges that vitamin D deficiency poses, information on past deficiency provides an important time dimension to current debates. Over the last 15 years I have undertaken extensive collaborative work on past deficiency. Investigations at St. Martin’s, a 19th-century UK site, established diagnostic criteria and revealed...

  • Obsidian Characterization at the McMaster Archaeological XRF Laboratory: Case-Studies from the Italian Island of Sardinia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kyle Freund. Tristan Carter.

    The McMaster Archaeological X-ray Fluorescence Laboratory (MAX Lab) was established in 2010 with the goal of using compositional analyses of archaeological objects to engage with broad-level questions about past human behavior. In this context, obsidian has been the primary artifact type analyzed, taking form through the sourcing of artifacts to the geological sources from which they originated. As an example, this presentation focuses on prehistoric obsidian exploitation on the central...

  • Social Interaction at Distance Over the Long Term: Obsidian Sourcing from the Southern Levant (9th – 4th millennia cal BC) (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tristan Carter. Zachary Batist. Kathryn Campeau. Yosef Garfinkel. Danny Rosenberg.

    The McMaster Archaeological XRF Lab is dedicated to undertaking major regional obsidian sourcing studies, not least in the Eastern Mediterranean where we have the North American geological source sample collection. We take a holistic, integrated approach, melding chemical composition with the artefacts’ techno-typological characteristics, contextual information and other pertinent data to produce ‘thick description’ narratives. In this case we consider obsidian circulation and consumption...

  • Sustainable research in archaeological science: Examples from high-and low resolution biogeochemical studies of archaeological shell (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Meghan Burchell.

    Advances in archaeological sciences demonstrated the (almost) unlimited potential to apply new methods and techniques to existing and under-utilized archaeological collections. Developing programs of research using innovative and multi-disciplinary approaches to the analysis of material cultural, hard tissues, sediments and organic remains are critical to move the discipline of archaeological sciences forward. More critical, is the balance between technical skills one learns to become an...