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Museum of New Mexico Foundation receives prestigious research grant from the National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training

October 01, 2015

(SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO, October 1, 2015) -  The National Park Service has announced the award of a $37,500 grant to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation in support of the New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies’ research on Low Energy Oxygen Plasma Radiocarbon Sampling.

The National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training strives to create new technologies and training opportunities to preserve prehistoric and historic resources throughout the United States. Since 1994, the center has awarded more than $9.2 million in grants to fund science and technology-based projects in historic preservation.

The Office of Archaeological Studies (OAS), a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, is an archaeological research and education organization that was founded in 1952 as part of the Museum of New Mexico. Located in the Center for New Mexico Archaeology (CNMA) in Santa Fe, OAS hosts a number of analytic laboratories that provide not-for-profit services to archaeologists and clients throughout New Mexico and the greater Southwest.

The grant, to be matched by $37,500 in other OAS and Foundation contributions, will support research into the low energy plasma radiocarbon sampling technique and its application as a non-destructive means of dating unique or culturally sensitive artifacts. The laboratory has been constructed under the direction of Dr. Marvin Rowe, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry from Texas A&M University, with initial support from the Dr. Don E. Pierce Endowment for Archaeology and Conservation within the Museum of New Mexico Foundation. The laboratory is currently one of only three in the world, and it has benefited from improvements in design efficiency proposed by collaborating scientists: John Martin (physicist) and Mark MacKenzie (Chief Conservator for the Department of Cultural Affairs). Jeffrey Royce Cox and Eric Blinman are the OAS collaborators in laboratory development.

This innovative radiocarbon sampling technique collects 40-100 millionths of a gram of carbon from the artifact by low temperature plasma oxidation. Oxidation takes place under vacuum conditions, and both cleaning and sampling plasma temperatures can be regulated so that the artifact is never exposed to temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Carbon for dating is captured as carbon dioxide in glass ampoules that can be submitted directly for isotope measurement by the accelerator mass spectrometer laboratory at ETH Zurich, the collaborating radiocarbon dating laboratory.

For further information concerning the grant award or the laboratory, please contact Dr. Eric Blinman, Director, Office of Archaeological Studies.;
desk: 505-476-4404;
cell: 505-660-2809

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