Updates from the Underwater Maya Research Group back to main page!

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What is Loss-On Ignition?

My name is Valerie Feathers. I am a PhD candidate in Geography and Anthropology (Anthropology Concentration) at Louisiana State University and also a DIVA Lab Scientist. As part of my dissertation excavations at the inundated Eleanor Betty site with the Underwater Maya Project, I examined sea-level rise through the use of loss-on ignition, a technique that involves burning marine sediment to obtain the percentage of organic matter present. In the photo I am taking sample from a desiccator and showing fellow grad and undergrad students the process. We dry the samples in the large oven and then burn off all organic matter in the smaller muffle furnace. My samples were highly organic. I presented my findings at the Belize Archaeology and Anthropology Symposium in San Ignacio, Belize, in June 2016.

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Portable XRF Machine

We acquired a Bruker portable XRF machine from a Louisiana Board of Regents grant. The PXRF machine allows us to determine the elemental composition of materials, which is useful for figuring out the origin of materials, trade routes used, and the nature of the economy. Here you see MA student Kelsey Johnson and PhD Candidate Valerie Feathers using the PXRF in the DIVA Lab to assay obsidian blades. Obsidian was traded from volcanic regions of Mesoamerica to make blades and other objects that were highly-desired by the ancient Maya. We took the pxrf machine to Belize for Kelsey to assay obsidian artifacts for her thesis research. Now that the machine is back in the DIVA Lab, we'll be assaying all sorts of materials!

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Looking for Evidence of Sea-Level Rise

Kurt Dilores is studying marine sediment from several underwater sites with large shell deposits that we excavated in 2015, using the Airline System of hoses from a compressor. The system allowed us to stay at the bottom of deeper sites to excavate. Here you see Kurt sorting the organic component of a marine sediment sample (after he washed away the inorganic sediment) under a microscope. Elsewhere in the lagoon system, we've found red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) overwhelmingly dominated the organic component of samples, meaning the sediment is mangrove peat. It is accumulated under conditions of actual sea-level rise, providing evidence that sea-level rose before the sites were occupied and eventually submerged them. What will he find? Check back here later.

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Learning to 3D Scan

Undergraduates learn to scan in the DIVA Lab formally during the 3D Digital Imaging class shown in this image, as well as informally as student workers, supervised by DIVA Lab Scientists/ PhD Candidates Val Feathers and Victoria Harrington, and me. Depending on skills, interest, and availability, undergrads have developed projects, presented at local and National conferences, and participated in field research in Belize. Student workers have also been instrumental in outreach efforts, such as the Maker-faire in Baton Rouge in 2015, Archaeology Day at the Museum in Baton Rouge in 2015, and other events. We also do fun activities, such as 3D head scans and full-body scans and sometimes make them into 3D prints. Check out the DIVA Lab facebook page for some 3D head scan movies!