The 40th International Symposium on Archaeometry (ISA) was held earlier this year in Los Angeles (May 19-23, 2014). The first two days of the conference took place at the Getty Villa, and was then moved to the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), UCLA for the remainder of the symposium. There were over 300 scholars and students from all over the world who took part in the conference, with diverse research backgrounds including archaeology, conservation science, art history, materials science and engineering, chemistry, geoscience, and physics.
The symposium covered the following major sessions: “Stone”, “Plaster and Pigments”, “Ceramics, Glazes, Glass and Vitreous Materials”, “Metals and Metallurgical Ceramics”, “Archaeochronometry and New Trends in Luminescence Dating”, “Human Environment and Bioarchaeology”, and “Remote Sensing, Geophysical Prospection and Field Archaeology”. Many important and new research results were presented during the talks followed by Q&A sessions and panel discussions. Over 200 posters were presented at the Getty Villa and UCLA during four poster sessions related to the different session themes.
Two keynote presentations were given during the symposium. Dr. Ian Freestone (Institute of Archaeology, UCL) gave a talk on the use of different archaeometric methods and techniques to identify and determine production events and provenance the organization of production of archaeological materials. During his talk, he presented several interesting case studies on ceramics, glass and metals, which were very informative and instructive. Dr. Terry Brown (Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester) reviewed the history of ancient DNA (aDNA) research in biomolecular archaeology. In addition to successful case studies where aDNA sequencing was applied to ancient human remains, he also discussed the current limitations and challenges of this research, as well as future trends.
For the first time at the symposium, a themed session on “Forensic Science Investigations in Art and Archaeology”, chaired by Dr. Ioanna Kakoulli (UCLA/Getty Conservation Program and Materials Science and Engineering Department at UCLA) was introduced. This special session focused on the challenges and technological difficulties pertaining to forensic science investigations in art and archaeology. Topics covered included the recovery of artifacts, the criminal investigation associated with looted artifacts requiring material characterization, identification and provenance of looted objects, and repatriation of looted antiquities. Agnieszka Helman-Wazny (University of Arizona) talked about the use of fiber analysis to trace manuscripts with unknown origins from the Silk Road. Patrick Boehnke (UCLA) presented preliminary results on the use of strontium isotopic and elemental analysis by secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) to help the Dept. of Homeland Security provenance looted glass artifacts with unknown origins and heterogeneous compositions. Dr. Ernst Pernicka (Curt-Engelhorn Zentrum Archäometrie and University of Heidelberg) gave a talk on the analysis and authentication of the Sky Disc of Nebra through various scientific methods and approaches. Dr. C. Brian Rose (University of Pennsylvania) reviewed the case of the Troy gold in the Penn Museum for which a repatriation claim was filed by Turkey. Lastly Dr. Timothy Potts (J. Paul Getty Museum) gave a thorough review on the evolution, over recent decades, of U.S. museum practices and policies relating to the acquisition of antiquities, as well as the issues of authenticity and conservation analysis that are involved. Unlike other sessions at ISA, the forensic science session did not have a Q&A at the end of each talk but instead held a panel discussion with all five presenters and the session organizer/moderator. One of the more lively discussions focused on the analysis of archaeological objects from collections with little or no provenance. A debate arose as to the value of analyzing these materials that lacked archaeological context. Issues with the authentication of antiquities without context were also brought up, as well as the role this analysis plays in the looting of artifacts and the illicit antiquities trade.
Though there was no session specifically focused on topics related to conservation and preservation, there were many papers of interest to those in our field. The North American conservation graduate programs were also well represented. Faculty, conservation students and researchers affiliated with the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program (https://uclagettyprogram.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/isa-2014/), Buffalo State College (http://artconservation.buffalostate.edu/publications), WUDPAC, and Queen’s University presented papers and posters, and moderated sessions. The abstracts of all the ISA presentations can be found here: http://www.archaeometry2014.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/ISA-2014-Program-and-Abstracts-Book-Online.pdf
ISA 2014 introduced attendees to many interesting topics related to the analysis of archaeological objects and archaeological research. The most recent key breakthroughs in archaeological science were presented. Fruitful discussions on current limitations and challenges were conducted, and innovative ideas on future research trends were exchanged. The symposium provided an open and friendly panel for scholars and students from different research backgrounds and countries to participate and communicate in this interdisciplinary field of study.
The next ISA conference will take place in the spring of 2016 in Kalamata, Greece offering a beautiful and relaxing place (by the seaside) to learn about the latest archaeometric research. We hope to see you there!
co-written by Yuan Lin (PhD Candidate, Materials Science & Engineering, UCLA) and Vanessa Muros (Conservation Specialist/Lecturer, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program)
This post was developed by the AIC’s Archaeological Discussion Group (ADG). For more information about ADG, please visit ADG’s Facebook page.