Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Nuclear Archaeology Database


The Archaeometry Laboratory is presently working to digitize and make available the archives of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Nuclear Archaeology Program. The program, initiated by Isadore Perlman, Frank Asaro, and Helen Michel in the late 1960s, was one of the first laboratories in the world to use NAA in conjunction with high-resolution detectors to generate compositional data for archaeological materials.

Between 1968 and 1990 the archaeometry program at LBNL conducted activation analysis of archaeological material from across the world with a particular focus on the Mediterannean and the Near East. The entire database is estimated to contain approximately 12,000 samples of pottery, obsidian, flint, metal, glass, and clay.

Additional information concerning the history and research of the LBNL program can be found in:

Asaro, F. and Adan-Bayewitz, D.
(2007)   The History of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis Programme for Archaeological and Geological Materials. Archaeometry 49(2): 201–214.

[Photograph of the LBNL Nuclear Archaeology group (Drs. I. Perlman and F. Asaro and H. Michel) and B. Holtzman of the UC-Berkeley Department of Anthropology in 1968]

The LBNL Nuclear Archaeology group (Drs. I. Perlman and F. Asaro and H. Michel) and B. Holtzman of the UC-Berkeley Department of Anthropology in 1968. Photograph courtesy of the LBNL Image Library Historical Image Library.

Preserving the LBNL Archives

The records of the NAA program at LBNL are an historical archive for both archaeometrists and archaeologists alike. The LBNL program was key in developing and standardizing the NAA procedures employed at laboratories across the world. As custodians of this archive, the Archaeometry Laboratory is working to first stablize and then disseminate as much of the record as possible.

Mr. Matthew T. Boulanger of the MURR Archaeometry Laboratory is supervising transcription of the data and digitization of all associated records. At present, the goal is to develop a a Web-based database that researchers can use to explore both the compositional data generated at LBNL and the history of NAA applications in archaeology. Questions about the LBNL data-digitization project can be addressed to him via .

Current Status of the Database

Work on the LBNL Nuclear Archaeology database is ongoing. At present, all paper records of elemental abundances provided by Dr. Asaro have been digitized and quality checked. Efforts to digitize the descriptive and contextual records of the archive are ongoing, as are efforts to locate compositional data missing from the LBNL archives.

As of February 1, 2012, all data so far transcribed has been uploaded to the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR).

Access the LBNL Archives on tDAR

LBNL Database Explorer

Use Google Earth to see all of the sites sampled in the Berkeley database!

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Work on the LBNL archives has been aided by a grant from Digital Antiquity.

Recent research reported by the Archaeometry Lab at MURR after June 2011 is based on support by the National Science Foundation under our current grant number 1110793. Earlier research was supported by several NSF grants, including the following numbers: 8801707, 9102016, 9503035, 9802366, 9977237, 0102325, 0405042, 0504015, 0802757, 0922374, and 0802757. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Last Updated on April 8, 2014
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