New X-ray device to probe archeological samples

Kathleen Blake with new X-ray equipment
The new Bruker XRF Tracer III looks like a cross between a state police radar gun and a device for “Star Trek.”

The gun-like device came with a pump to create a vacuum, a small on-board computer for work in the field, a tripod and other attachments. It uses X-ray fluorescence to analyze the elements and their proportions in a sample. The instrument, obtained via a $49,500 National Park Service grant, can analyze the elements and their proportions in a sample without destroying it.

Analyzing sharp-force trauma, studying ceramic artifacts disinterred after centuries, disclosing the trace elements in soils—State University of NewYork (SUNY Oswego) forensic anthropologist Kathleen Blake can think of many uses for portable X-ray equipment purchased with a National Park Service grant.

The new instrument will enable faculty and student researchers to study samples in detail without liquefying, pulverizing or otherwise destroying them. “This device is widely used in archeological and museum studies,” Blake said.

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