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Assessment of portable X-ray fluorescence analysis for the evaluation of slate procurement and exchange: a Maritime Archaic case study from Newfoundland and Labrador

Christopher B. Wolff, Robert J. Speakman, William W. Fitzhugh
  • Robert J. Speakman
    Center for Applied Isotope Studies, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, United States
  • William W. Fitzhugh
    Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, United States


Prehistoric peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador, like many northern coastal populations, produced many of their stone tools from slate; however, the procurement and movement of this material in that Province and elsewhere has gone virtually unstudied beyond generalised typologies and macroscopic evaluation. This paper provides an overview of a recent study utilising non-destructive portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) technology to analyse slates used by people of the Maritime Archaic tradition (ca. 8000-3200 BP) in Newfoundland and Labrador. Because pXRF is non-destructive, these instruments allow archaeologists to chemically analyse artifacts directly in non-traditional laboratory environments. Through the examination of 164 slate artifacts recovered from 50 sites from throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, we were successful at identifying broad regional patterns in slate distribution, as well as identifying preferred use of particular slate varieties in the production of specific artifact classes. Although limitations exist in the use of this technology, mostly having to do with the physical nature of the source material and the appropriate scale of research, this study demonstrates its potential in identifying broad use patterns and distribution of slate in ancient exchange systems.


pXRF, slate, Newfoundland and Labrador, Maritime Archaic, lithics

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Submitted: 2014-04-23 17:42:59
Published: 2014-06-16 11:53:17
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