Beyond the Technical Revolution: Epistemological Shifts in Archaeological XRF (or: "The World of XRF Will Never Be the Same Again")
Author(s): Ellery Frahm
This is an abstract from the "2019 Fryxell Award Symposium: Papers in Honor of M. Steven Shackley" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.
In 1983, an advertisement for a Tracor X-ray spectrometer proclaimed that "the world of XRF will never be the same again" thanks to an integrated microcomputer that "takes the confusion out of instrumental analysis." It was an exaggeration that this model offered "mistake-proof" XRF, but the point is that this instrument was more automated than those in previous decades. Such an instrument might have been unrecognizable to Edward "Teddy" Hall, who, as the first Director of Oxford’s Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, pioneered the use of XRF in archaeological science during the 1950s. As Shackley noted in 2011, XRF has become "easy to use" because "tasks that once required the constant attention of a trained analyst can now be handled by skilled students and are fully automated." Critics of pXRF, however, suggest that this technology has become too easy for archaeologists without "hard science" backgrounds to use. One could instead view it as an advantage for our field, specifically how analytical knowledge is generated and who is able to do so. This process began in contexts such as UC-Berkeley, where, for two decades, undergraduate and graduate students in archaeological classes learned to use XRF from Shackley.
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Beyond the Technical Revolution: Epistemological Shifts in Archaeological XRF (or: "The World of XRF Will Never Be the Same Again"). Ellery Frahm. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450791)
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Abstract Id(s): 22851