These fifteen essays explore the archaeological applications of an exciting new field of research in materials science. Since the first archaeometric uses of inductively coupled plasma (ICP) in the early 1980s, most applications have required the processing of solid samples with heat and/or strong acids. This is time consuming, expensive, and sometimes dangerous.
An alternative sample-introduction technique, laser ablation (LA), became commercially available in the mid-1990s. The coupling of laser ablation with state-of-the-art inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometers (ICP-MS) has resulted in the development of extremely sensitive microprobes capable of determining most elements of the periodic table. Already recognized as an invaluable technique in earth sciences, zoology, and botany, the use of LA-ICP-MS is being explored in archaeology.
Robert Speakman and Hector Neff bring together writings that specifically describe laser ablation, methods for data quantification, and applications. Originating in New World and Mediterranean sites, the materials whose analysis are described here include paints and glazes, ceramic pastes, lithics, human teeth and bone, and metals.