Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology
Archaeological Science at the Penn Museum

DRAFT of August 9 , 2007

The Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA) began under the direction of physicist Elizabeth Ralph [photo?] in 1961. Its primary focus was to advance understanding of the then-new technique of radiocarbon-dating. This work was informed by dendrochronological studies carried out by Henry Michael [photo, w/ bristlecone pine?]. Our second Scientific Director, physicist Stuart J. Fleming, took a much broader view of the field; his vision was to apply scientific techniques to anthropological questions. As the field of archaeology has evolved, MASCA, too, has changed. Our scientific studies now focus on human transformation of the material world in three broad overlapping categories: landscape, food, and materials. Humans change landforms into landscape, biota into food, and minerals into metalwork and ceramics. Practitioners dealing with the physical (rather than symbolic) transformation of land, food, and materials might use GIS, archaeological survey, archaeobiology (archaeobotany and zooarchaeology), organic residue analysis, metallography, petrography, etc. Because physical transformation requires the expenditure of energy, our research looks to the future as well as the past.

? LINK: History of MASCA there an article in Expedition we can link to? include old MASCATEERS as where are they now?

Archaeobiology at MASCA

[photos of plants, animals, and people?]

What is archaeobiology?

Archaeobiology is the combined and integrated analysis of plant and animal remains from archaeological sites. Archaeobiology is rooted in human-land relationships, the core of many historical processes. Civilizations rise and fall not only for political reasons, but also sometimes for ecological ones. Ancient decisions about agriculture, grazing, fuel-cutting, irrigation, and associated water management, especially in an arid environment are reflected in archaeobiological data such as charred seeds and bones. Not only do these remains help us understand the past, they mat also inform discussions of land use today. To achieve a deep-time understanding of such processes, archaeology is a key discipline; through excavation and field sampling, archaeologists provide important data and material from archaeological sites.
[LINK to 2008 conference?]

What questions do archaeobiologists ask?

Where we do field work

Where we do laboratory work

Biomolecular Archaeology at MASCA

The Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory continues to pursue state-of-the-art research on ancient organic materials, with the help of a Research Associate analytical chemist and students. Highly effective outside collaborations have expanded the laboratory's capabilities in the past three years. The laboratory is equipped with an FTIR mass spectrometer...or whatever that thing is

Where we work

Archaeoceramics at MASCA

The archaeoceramics program includes on-going collaborations within the University and beyond. In-house we have a petrographic microscope.

Examples of our projects

Archaeometallurgy at MASCA

The archaeometallurgy program focuses on the metal technology used to manufacture artifacts in the Penn Museum's extensive collections under the general supervision of Stuart Fleming (emeritus). We benefit from the expertise of several volunteers (retired metallurgists) and a work-study student.

Examples of our projects

Landscape Studies and Mapping at MASCA

Our computer laboratory is currently in use by several work-studies in several of our sections, and the quantitative/computational/GIS program is also based there. We support the ... software for archaeological mapping and planning at all scales, from site to region. We are consulting/assisting several archival digitization projects for old Penn Museum excavations.

Where we work