Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Analysis of Copper Trace Element Composition: A Methodological Pilot Study

Author(s): Kevin Nolan; Mark Hill

Year: 2015


Copper artifacts are widely represented in prehistoric sites of eastern North America and their presence in any particular region is often used in reconstructing exchange and social networks. Early interpretations were predicated on assumptions that native copper from which materials derived from the extensive copper deposits in the Lake Superior region. However, as early as 1903, assessment of copper trace element composition has been used to test such hypotheses. A number of methods have been used, including traditional assay, various forms of spectrography, and, more recently, instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) and laser-ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). Of these, LA-ICP-MS has become the most powerful, effective, and widely used, yet the method suffers from high costs and restricted access to limited facilities. In recent years, the availability of portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) systems has made elemental studies more readily available for a number of archaeological applications. We explore the use of pXRF for copper composition studies by comparing results from several copper samples of known upper Great Lakes provenance analyzed by both LA-ICP-MS and pXRF methods. Early tests indicate that pXRF analyzers exhibit sufficient sensitivity and precision to potentially discriminate some sources of native copper.

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Cite this Record

Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Analysis of Copper Trace Element Composition: A Methodological Pilot Study. Mark Hill, Kevin Nolan. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 394940)


Geographic Keywords
North America - Midwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;