Our next speaker introduction is Dr Zoe Outram, currently working as a science advisor for Historic England. She will be giving a talk on the science of archaeology as part of our conference.
Having been inspired by childhood trips to places like Avebury and West Kennet Long Barrow, Zoe has pursued a varied career centred around the archaeological sciences. She studied Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford, reassessed the Iron Age chronology of the Northern Isles of Scotland for her PHD and, in 2011, completed a post-doctoral project in archaeomagnetism. Her various job roles have included: providing specialist scientific dating services, studying Viking and Norse settlements in Shetland and the Faroe Islands, lecturing in Archaeological Sciences, working as an excavator, and carrying out specialist work in environmental archaeology, geoarchaeology, and forensic archaeology.
Some of the uses of science in archaeology include, but are not limited to:
- Helping to find a site
- Dating a site
- Analysing the material to help understand the people and their lives
FINDING A SITE
Resistivity meters use electric currents to measure the resistance in the ground. This is particularly useful for finding walls or ditches.
Ground Penetrating Radar uses electromagnetic pulses to find objects underground; the electromagnetic waves reflect off the object and are picked up by a receiving antenna.
Magnetometers can be used to find archaeological features with a magnetic field, such as ditches with magnetic particles contained in the soil.
DATING A SITE
Dendrochronology can be used to date large wooden objects by measuring and studying the patterns caused by tree rings.
Carbon Dating can be used to date organic matter, using the decay rate of carbon-14 to measure how long ago the object was alive.
Thermoluminescence Datingcan be used on objects which contain crystals by measuring the stored energy from the decay of radioactive elements.
Analysis of bones can reveal many things about the person they belonged to. Such as:
- Gender (eg. gendered jaw differences),
- Approximate age (eg. un-fused skull in a child),
- If they had children (eg. pelvic scars).
Stable isotope analysis can also tell you what a person ate, which in turn can give an indication of where they have lived (eg. near the sea if they ate lots of fish) and of their social class. Social class can also be indicated by signs of undernourishment or work.
Feeling inspired by our amateur crash course in archaeological science? Imagine how amazing it would be to listen to an expert talk on the subject! If you don’t want to miss Zoe speaking at our conference, book now: