The Future of Studying the Past: Innovative Technologies in Maryland Archeology.
Updated: Apr 1, 2022
Archeological sites are non-renewable resources formed by the activities of people in the past. Physical excavation of sites is an important method for learning about the past, however excavating is an inherently destructive endeavor. Advances in technology have transformed how archeologists study the past by providing opportunities for minimally invasive excavations. Remote sensing technologies allow archeologists to detect potential resources before excavating. With the aid of GPS receivers and GIS mapping software, the coordinates of potential archeological resources can be precisely determined and then targeted for surgical examination through excavation.
Modern technologies have also enhanced archeologists’ abilities to glean information from archeological sites and artifacts. Improvements in radiometric dating techniques allow precise dating of archeological sites using minute samples as small as a single carbonized seed. X-ray fluorescence and X-ray diffraction permit archeologists to characterize the geochemistry and structure of soils, rocks, and ceramics. Residue analysis techniques facilitate the identification of preserved animal proteins and plant lipids on artifacts used to prepare food. Digital X-Radiography enables archeologists to penetrate metallic concretions to reveal important characteristics of artifacts. 3D modeling empowers archeologists to record and study artifacts and sites in digital formats.
I hope you enjoy the excellent case studies in this booklet highlighting great applications of innovative technologies in Maryland archeology. The perpetual refinement of these technologies both to be more user-friendly and more affordable will increase the future adoption of these specialized techniques in archeology toolkits and enhance the discovery, documentation, and preservation of Maryland’s impressive archeological record.
You can see these innovative technologies in action when you become involved in the Maryland archeological community. Join the Archeological Society of Maryland, whose goals include the creation of bonds between avocational and professional archeologists. Volunteer on archeology projects in the field and the lab. Attend lectures, workshops, and site tours (see the Calendar of Events on the Maryland Archeology Month website, www.marylandarcheologymonth.org). By participating in the archeological community, both you and Maryland archeology will benefit!
Lastly, a special acknowledgment is due to Dr. Charlie Hall, the recently retired State Terrestrial Archeologist, who marshaled Maryland Archeology Month as the chair of the Maryland Archeology Month Committee for two decades. Thank you, Charlie, for your outstanding contributions to Maryland archeology and for your mentorship while guiding me through the 2022 Maryland Archeology Month planning process.