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Events Archive

October 5th, 2016: Dr. Ruth Ann Armitage – The Fabric of the Past: Archaeological Chemistry of Ancient Textiles


The Fabric of the Past: Archaeological Chemistry of Ancient Textiles

Dr. Ruth Ann Armitage
Professor of Chemistry
Eastern Michigan University

6:00 pm

Room 300, Halle Library, 955 W. Circle Dr.
Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI

Abstract: Chemical characterization of archaeological objects is overwhelmingly focused on durable materials like stone, ceramic, metal, and in many cases, bone. Perishable artifacts – those made of plant and animal fibers and other organic materials – are less well represented in the archaeological record because they are poorly preserved except under certain conditions. Studies of textiles, cordage, netting, and basketry have been limited by their scarcity and by the large amounts of material that have been needed in the past for dating and characterization. With developments like accelerator mass spectrometry for radiocarbon analysis and non- or minimally-destructive analytical methods, much can now be learned from tiny fragments of these irreplaceable and rare objects. This talk will describe work at our laboratory in using a variety of analytical methodologies to determine the age, composition and dyeing technology of archaeological and historic fiber materials from around the world, including Seip Mound in Ohio and the elaborate mummy wrappings of the Paracas Necropolis in Peru.

Biosketch: Ruth Ann Armitage is a professor of chemistry at Eastern Michigan University. She received her B.S. (1993) and Ph.D. (1998) degrees in chemistry from Thiel College and Texas A&M University (Mentor: M.W. Rowe). She started her independent career at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (1998-2001) before moving to Eastern Michigan (2001-present) where she received tenure. Her current research projects involve radiocarbon dating of charcoal rock paintings from Cuba, identification of organic dye colorants in textiles and manuscripts by DART-ToF-MS, rapid identification of binding media and glues, evaluating the efficacy of DART-MS for identifying residues on ancient and historic ceramics, and minimally-destructive radiocarbon dating of ancient North American textiles.

Directions: Take I-94 exit 183 to Huron St 0.3 mi turn right at Huron St. go 1.0 mi to W. Cross Ave turn left go 0.7 mi and bare right on to E. Washtenaw, turn right onto Oakwood go one block past W. Circle Dr. turn right and go to lot D4 on right for paid parking. Click here for an EMU map.

Contact Felix Schneider at or voicemail 248-583-1578.

This event is free and all are welcome to attend!