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Magnetics at Work

Posted by: | August 2, 2011 | 1 Comment |

We integrate new technological approaches to the measurement of different aspects of the Cooper’s Ferry site in hopes of resolving a pattern or finding a significant correlation between different parts of the archaeological record.  During weeks 4 and 5, students Jasmine Kidwell and Jamie Klotz worked to measure the magnetic susceptibility of Cooper’s Ferry stratigraphic units and the sedimentary contents of a pit feature exposed in excavation unit A.  Their work contributed to Jasmine’s field school graduate student project.  OSU graduate student Alejandra (Aleks) Jimenez caught up with Jasmine to discuss her use of the Bartington magnetic susceptibility meter.


Aleks: What is your interest in archaeology?

Jasmine: Right now I am looking at Geoarchaeology, it seems to be a field of archaeology that is really interesting to me and I would like to work more on the subject to determine if its something I would like to further pursue. This field school offers a good opportunity for that.

Aleks: What is your grad student project while working with Dr. Loren Davis and the Cooper’s Ferry field school?

Jasmine: I got the chance to test out the magnetic susceptibility gun and looking at the lithostratigraphic levels of Unit A, specifically pit feature 1. I am interested in looking at the magnetic properties of the soil.

Aleks: How will you do this?

Jasmine: By using the magnetic susceptibility gun I was able to take magnetic readings from the layers in the soil. I pointed a small gun-like instrument at the soil and my pit partner Jamie Klotz pushed the button on a netbook and the instrument shot a magnetic pulse which then bounced back and read the magnetic composition of the soil. The information then appeared in the netbook.

Aleks: Is it safe to use the magnetic susceptibility gun?

Jasmine: Yes, it’s 100% safe.  There is no radiation and it is quiet and easy to use. You simply point and push a button, the instrument does the rest of the work.

Aleks: Can you describe the pit feature?

Jasmine: The pit is composed of eleven different layers, which is more than were established in 1997. This means by looking at the profile, or the side wall of the pit we can see different color sediments. Each layer has a different composition and so with the magnetic susceptibility we can distinguish these layers from each other due to their magnetic difference. At least, that is what we want to establish.

Aleks: How did you proceed to do this?

Jasmine: We took 25 readings from each of the layers in the pit feature and then took 50 readings from each of the lithostratigraphic level (LU), excluding LU 1.

Aleks: So what will all of the readings tell you?

Jasmine: Hopefully, after the analyses are complete, we will be able to discern the LUs from each other using their magnetic properties.

Aleks: What were the results so far?

Jasmine: We have completed the testing and have taken enough information but the results have yet to be determined. We are still working on the data and with the help of Dr. Shane MacFarlan, one of the staff members, we should have the information soon.

Aleks: How did you like using the magnetic susceptibility gun? Did you value the integrity of the procedure?

Jasmine: I really enjoyed using this procedure I was not familiar with the magnetic susceptibility gun but the procedures were very carefully explained and any questions I had Dr. Loren Davis was always at hand to help me. I think a test such as this is good because it will allow us to understand the sediment layers in a different manner, which will then either support our previous hypothesis of disprove them. Either way we will definitely discover something new.

Aleks: Did you enjoy your time in such a deep hole looking at sediments?

Jasmine: It was very dusty and I was very deep but with my pit partner, Jamie Klotz.  I like to think we had a good time. We certainly learned a lot, such as using the Munsel book to properly identify coloring of the sediments, we looked at texture and learned about texture analysis and about sediment identification.

Aleks: Any final thoughts?

Jasmine: My unit partner and I definitely learned a lot about the magnetic susceptibility procedure and it also allowed us to start thinking about archaeology in a different manner. There are many possibilities to help us understand the nature of archaeological sites and by using procedures such as the magnetic susceptibility we begin to understand that there are no limits to how we can proceed to understand archaeological sites.  I cannot wait to see the results.

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1 Comment

  1. By: Moving on February 16, 2012 at 3:32 am      

    Being my latest discovered passion, Geoarchaeology continues to enchant me day by day. A combination of geography, geology and other earth sciennces elements, this discipline is telling you the story of the earth.

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