Pack Your Boots, Trowel, and Ray Gun: Advances in Portable XRF for Archaeological Science

Author(s): Ellery Frahm

Year: 2018


Portable XRF instruments have advanced considerably over the past decade, and many of their technical advancements are highly useful for the archaeological sciences, especially compared to fields like art conservation. The newest generation of detectors and their processing electronics, for example, make measurements significantly shorter, allowing characterization of much larger assemblages. Other advances, though, involve more than mere speed. Ruggedized instruments are dust-proof, water-resistant, and drop-protected. Vacuum pumps or helium tanks are no longer needed to measure light elements. Instead, a built-in barometer can measure air pressure to automatically correct measurements whether at sea level or high altitude. Other advances improve accuracy and reproducibility. New detectors, for example, minimize X-ray peak overlaps, as do sophisticated fundamental parameters correction algorithms. Certain instruments even use simulated photons, sent through the system milliseconds before each measurement, to maximize repeatability between the first and 500th measurements. Other advances aid collaborations and innovative research designs. For example, an embedded GPS receiver geo-tags each measurement for integration with GIS, and wireless networking enables realtime data sharing via the cloud. Discussed applications include ceramic analysis, sourcing hundreds of obsidian artifacts per day as they are excavated, soil and sediment analysis, and mapping outcrops in the field.

Cite this Record

Pack Your Boots, Trowel, and Ray Gun: Advances in Portable XRF for Archaeological Science. Ellery Frahm. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443773)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 18719