Image of report cover

2017-18

The use of low energy plasmas to generate radiocarbon samples was pioneered in 1990 by Dr. Marvin Rowe and colleagues (Russ et al. 1990, 1991) at Texas A&M University (TAMU). Subsequent research and experimentation with TAMU graduate students, supported in part by an NCPTT grant, eventually resulted in two laboratories being founded, one under the direction of Dr. Ruth Armitage (Eastern Michigan University) and the other under the direction of Dr. Karen Steelman (University of Central Arkansas, now at the Shumla Institute, Comstock, Texas). Dr. Rowe retired to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and he approached the Conservation Bureau and the Office of Archaeological Studies (OAS) divisions of the Museum of New Mexico with an offer to collaborate in the construction of another laboratory. That collaboration was initiated in January 2013 with the installation of the first equipment in OAS laboratory space at the then newly completed Center for New Mexico Archaeology in Santa Fe, New Mexico.]

Image of argon cleaning plasma instrument.

Argon cleaning plasma used to sample opbjects as part of the Grant to the Museums of New Mexico

The core of the laboratory is a surplus NASA mass spectrometer that Rowe had obtained through the surplus property program at TAMU. The mass spectrometer was reconfigured and augmented with equipment Rowe had accumulated through years of teaching and research. Beginning in 2014, OAS and Conservation provided access to funding through the newly established Dr. Don E. Pierce Endowment for Archaeology and Conservation (Pierce Fund), administered by the Museum of New Mexico Foundation (MNMF). The development team consists of Rowe, OAS staff (Eric Blinman, Director, and Jeffrey R. Cox, Laboratory Technician), Conservation staff (Mark MacKenzie, Director) and volunteer John Martin (retired physicist and instrumentation specialist). Joe Martin (retired chemist) participated as a volunteer consultant for residual gas analysis (RGA) in 2016. Through MNMF, OAS applied for and received a National Center for Conservation and Preservation Technology grant in 2015 which carried through September of 2016. This report summarizes the status of the laboratory and the plasma radiocarbon sampling process, including results of experimental sampling and substantive improvements that were initiated and accomplished during the grant period.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
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