NSF-Subsidy Program for Archaeological Research


The Archaeometry Laboratory at the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) establishing a laboratory to which archaeologists can submit appropriate archaeological specimens for chemical characterization.  Analytical techniques possible are neutron activation analysis (NAA), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), or inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).  These techniques are frequently used for provenance research in archaeology.  The individual techniques have their own advantages and disadvantages for application to specific matrices and archaeological problems.  The objectives of the Archaeometry Lab's support program are to increase the availability of these analytical methods to archaeologists who would normally be unable to afford this assistance and to encourage increased collaboration between archaeologists and analytical chemists.  Applicants requesting participation in this program must be graduate students or faculty members from colleges, universities, and institutes in the USA.  Projects eligible for support must involve basic research in anthropological archaeology.

Investigators from foreign countries and from non-academic institutions in the USA (e.g., CRM firms) are not eligible for the NSF-support program.  However, they are still encouraged to submit mini-proposals describing their project(s) because other arrangements may be possible.  A well-written proposal will help us to understand your research questions so that we can respond more favorably with advice as to appropriate analytical methods and with cost estimates, etc.

Program Requirements

Investigators interested in applying to this program are required to submit the application form and a descriptive mini-proposal (maximum of five pages of text) with a brief curriculum vita (maximum of two pages) for each principal investigator. Proposals must describe an anthropological research project for which chemical analysis is essential. The proposal should state the important questions in the research project for which answers are sought. The number, type, and contexts of samples must be discussed in the proposal. Maps are strongly encouraged. All program participants are required to accept the conditions of the Archaeometry Laboratory's Data Management and Sharing Plan.

The order of pages should be:

  1. Application form (electronic signature is satisfactory)
  2. Mini-proposal
  3. Bibliography
  4. Maps, Figures and Tables
  5. Curriculum vita

Do not exceed 20 pages in total. Please merge into a single PDF file and send by email.

This outline is provided to help guide applicants prepare successful mini-proposals. It addresses the most common type of study submitted to MURR (NAA of ceramic artifacts to determine production patterns, exchange relationships...), but similar studies with other materials and other methods should be generally similar.

NSF-supported projects represent investments for the Archaeometry Laboratory, and we want to ensure projects are capable of producing the desired results.  Most unsuccessful proposals fail due to a poor, or poorly described, sampling strategy rather than insufficient theoretical and archaeological detail. Although theoretical and archaeological context are important, they should not form the bulk of the proposal.  Condense the information to a proposal aimed at a broader audience. The proposal is limited to five pages, and significant attention should be paid to: 1) stating the research goals, 2) describing the sampling strategy in detail, and 3) explaining how the sampling strategy will address the research goals. These are the critical elements that will be evaluated to accept or reject the proposal.

Common features of successful proposals:

Deadlines for Submission

Proposals are accepted two times per year on either April 15 or October 15. Completed proposals must be received before these dates. Late or incomplete submissions will be either held until the following acceptance date or returned to the applicant. Electronic submission as a single PDF file is encouraged.

Application Forms and Example Proposal

Applications for the NSF-support program can be downloaded in either PDF or RTF format. The PDF format will work with the Adobe Acrobat software, and the RTF format will work in most word-processing programs (e.g., MS Word, WordPerfect, etc.).

To aid in the preparation of high-quality proposals, the laboratory has made available a previously accepted application. This is a well-designed proposal, and applicants may benefit from reading it.

Proposal Review Process

The review process for projects seeking NSF support takes about six weeks. An anonymous advisory committee will evaluate each proposal for (1) scientific merit of the proposed research; (2) appropriateness of the proposed analysis to the specific project; and (3) the principal investigator's research record or other evidence of research potential. The evaluations will be used to rate each proposal. Final selection and scheduling of projects receiving support are the responsibility of the Archaeometry Lab at the University of Missouri. Only high-quality proposals will be selected for support

Project Publications and Reports

All publications and reports presenting data obtained through this NSF-sponsored program at the MURR must acknowledge support from our NSF grant and must be considered as collaborative projects with the MURR staff members involved. The University of Missouri is obligated to submit an annual report to the NSF summarizing activities under this program. Therefore, participants are required to send copies of all theses, reports, and publications resulting from this support to Dr. Glascock as soon as available.

Allowable Charge Reductions

If your project is approved, the charges eligible for reduction under this program include irradiation services, equipment utilization fees, and technical assistance by MURR staff. Costs for which investigators must reimburse MURR are those required to recover costs for supplies consumed. The rates for recovery of costs for supplies consumed by NAA (Table 1), XRF (Table 2), and ICP-MS (Table 3) are listed in the table below.

Analysis Charge per Sample Minimum Charge
Pottery and fired-clay briquettes 40$ 500$
Clays and soils subject to USDA APHIS 50$ 500$
Obsidian artifacts by short irradiation NAA only 25$ 250$
Obsidian, chert, basalt, and similar geological materials by short and long NAA 50$ 500$
Hematite, ochre, and geological matrices requiring grinding/powdering and long NAA 100$ 500$
Table 1. NSF-subsidized project rates per sample for NAA by both combined short and long irradiations.
Please contact the lab to discuss analysis of any other archaeological or geological material by NAA.


Analysis Charge per Sample Minimum Charge
Pottery to be powdered and analyzed as pressed pellets 50$ 500$
Basalt and other rocks to be powdered and analyzed as pressed pellets 50$ 500$
Obsidian analysis by non-destructive XRF 20$ 100$
Non-destructive XRF of materials other than obsidian 50$ 500$
Table 2. NSF-subsidized project rates per sample for XRF.
Please contact the lab to discuss analysis of any other archaeological or geological material by XRF.


Analysis Daily Charge Minimum Charge
Characterization of sample surfaces (e.g., glazes, paints, glass beads) by LA-ICP-MS 400$ 400$
Characterization of bulk samples (e.g., pottery, basalt, soils, rocks, etc.) by microwave-digestion ICP-MS 1000$ 2500$
Measurement of isotope ratios (Sr isotopes, Pb isotopes, Uranium isotopes) by multi-collector ICP-MS Call Call
Table 3. NSF-subsidized project rates per sample for ICP-MS.
Please contact the lab to discuss analysis of any other archaeological or geological material by ICP-MS.

Please contact the lab to discuss analysis of any other archaeological or geological material by NAA, XRF, or ICP-MS. Reduced charges for other sample matrices will depend upon a number of factors, including the sample matrix, suitability of the method, and complexity of the analytical problem. As a consequence, the analytical problem(s) must be evaluated before an estimated charge is recommended.

Whom to Contact and Where to Send

By Email:

By Fax:
(573) 882-6360

By Regular Mail:
Dr. Michael D. Glascock
Archaeometry Laboratory
University of Missouri
Research Reactor Center
1513 Research Park Drive
Columbia, MO 65211

Research performed by the Archaeometry Laboratory at MURR after August 2014 is supported by the National Science Foundation under our current grant number 1415403. Earlier research was supported by several NSF grants including the following: 1110793, 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 authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Last Updated on May 14, 2015
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