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Copper Artifact Analysis with the X-Ray Spectrometer

  • Edward J. Olsen (a1)


The X-ray spectrometer method as an archaeological tool is discussed with special reference to its limitations as a chemical analytical instrument. Qualitative results are presented for six North American copper samples, one European trade brass, and nine artifacts from the Great Lakes region. From this pilot study it is concluded that the most fruitful results in the problem of the determination of provenance of copper artifacts will be obtained from semi-quantitative optical spectographic analyses of carefully collected artifacts and raw materials. The largest inherent error in this problem is that of meaningful sampling techniques. The only recourse is to treat such chemical data statistically and determine the probabilities that given specimens came from the various possible sources.



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Bastian, T. 1961 Trace Element and Metallographic Studies of Prehistoric Copper Artifacts in North America: A Review. In “Lake Superior Copper and the Indians: Miscellaneous Studies of Great Lakes Prehistory,” edited by Griffin, James B., pp. 151–75. Anthropological Papers, Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, No. 17. Ann Arbor.
Broderick, T. M. 1929 Zoning in Michigan Copper Deposits. Economic Geology, Vol. 24, pp. 149–62. Lancaster.
Fairbairne, H. W. and Others 1951 A Cooperative Investigation of Precision and Accuracy in Chemical, Spectrographs, and Modal Analysis of Silicate Rocks (G-l and W-l). United States Geological Survey, Bulletin, No. 980. Washington.
Kretz, R. 1960 The Distribution of Certain Elements Among Coexisting Calcic Pyroxenes, Calcic Amphibiles and Biotites in Skarns. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Vol. 20, pp. 161–91. London.
Mueller, R. F. 1961 Analysis of Relations among Mg, Fe and Mn in Certain Metamorphic Minerals. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Vol. 25, pp. 267–96. London.


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