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3 November 2007
Tracing ancient pottery in Mississippi

A Mississippi State University anthropologist will use a $46,000 national grant to employ a new non-destructive method for tracing Southeastern prehistoric pottery and other artifacts to their sources. MSU associate professor Evan Peacock, senior research associate with the university's Cobb Institute of Archaeology, is leading a team that will analyze the chemical composition of mussel shells and Native American pottery with the Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer.
     "Beginning about a thousand years ago, American Indians in eastern North America crushed freshwater mussel shells and added the crushed shell to clay for making pots," Peacock said of this latest research project. "Mussels in different streams uptake different mixes of chemicals from the areas being drained," he explained. "The chemical signature of a particular waterway is retained in the shell." By analyzing shells excavated from numerous Mississippi and regional sites, Peacock and other team members will establish the background data needed for sourcing shell-tempered pottery.

Source: CDispatch (31 October 2007)

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