An Investigation of Elemental Biogenic Uptake

Molly Martell
Molly Martell graduated from JHU in December 2014 with a double major in archaeology and anthropology and a minor in museums and society, although she is still active on campus finishing up her DURA research. She will be attending graduate school at University of Florida in the fall, where she will be working towards her PhD in anthropology under Dr. Valerie DeLeon.

martellAn Investigation of Elemental Biogenic Uptake: The Examination of Portable X-ray Fluorescence as a Method of Osteological Analysis

Portable X-ray fluorescence is a method of elemental analysis whose full potential has yet to be completely understood. The importance of the handheld pXRF analyzer is severalfold: it represents a non-destructive method of analysis that allows researchers to identify the elemental composition of surfaces without removing a sample or changing anything about a bone’s surface. This study tests the capacities of portable handheld x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF) as a means of qualitative, non-destructive analysis on bone in two sample populations. XRF analysis of nine modern samples and eighteen archaeological samples were taken to compare their elemental compositions in order to ascertain the capacities and limitations of pXRF analysis. The main elements of interest were heavy metals, specifically with a focus on lead. Based on the spectra collected from these readings, it is clear that differences in the elemental composition of human bone can be recognized using pXRF analysis.


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