History & Facilities


Laboratory History

The Archaeometry Laboratory at the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) was established in 1988 with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF grant allowed the laboratory to conduct research on a much broader scale supporting students and faculty from other universities and institutes. The laboratory offers a variety of analytical services to the archaeological community and encourages the integration of analytical sciences into all aspects of anthropology and archaeology. Over the years, analytical capabilities have expanded to include neutron activation analysis (NAA), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), including laser-ablation ICP-MS (LA-ICP-MS) and multi-collector ICP-MS (MC-ICP-MS), and Raman spectroscopy (RS). Since 1988, the Archaeometry Laboratory at MURR has supported hundreds of research projects and conducted analyses on over 200,000 archaeological specimens. The lab now has an extensive compositional database of artifacts and geological materials from around the world.

The Laboratory strives to support research and education. It has provided research training and employment for more than 100 undergraduate and 25 graduate students from the University of Missouri. In addition to the graduate students from MU, at least 200 graduate students from other universities have received support on dissertation and thesis projects.

Facilities and Instrumentation

The Archaeometry Laboratory is housed within the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR). MURR is a multi-disciplinary research and education center operated by the University of Missouri (MU) and is located in Columbia, Missouri. The Research Reactor provides MU with opportunities for research and graduate education in neutron-related sciences and engineering that are unmatched by any other university. The central focus of this research is the 10 MW light-water-moderated reactor—the highest-powered university research reactor in the North America. The reactor has a 150+ hour per week (90% of available time) operating schedule, the best operating schedule for any research reactor in the world.

In 2000, the Archaeometry Laboratory began adding other analytical capabilities to enhance its ability to support archaeometric research. In 2010, the laboratory acquired a 193 nm Excimer laser ablation system with improved optics for microscopic samples and a Nu Plasma II (Nu Instruments) multicollector ICP-MS for isotopic ratios. In 2021, the laboratory acquired a Bruker Bravo™ handheld Raman spectrometer. Other equipment includes a lab-based Thermo Quantx-ARL energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (ED-XRF) with sample changer and two hand-held portable XRF spectrometers. The addition of these complementary techniques has enhanced the capabilities of the laboratory to support a broad range of archaeological research.

The Archaeometry Laboratory is equipped with a clean room operating as an ISO 4 to ISO 5 class room according to the ISO 14644-1 classification system. The laboratory is equipped and maintained to provide the clean environment required for sample preparation for isotopic analysis. This equipment includes custom-designed boxes with filtered air (HEPA), a laminar air flow cabinet, polypropylene tables, corrosion-resistant lab hot plates suitable for Class 1, and inert and acid resistant material.

Other equipment at the laboratory includes a fume hood, muffle furnace, drying oven, analytical balances, laboratory press, glove box, rock saws, petrographic microscope, mixer mill, and binocular microscopes. The laboratory operates four high-purity germanium (HPGe) detectors coupled to automatic sample changers, and it shares use of two other detectors with other MURR research groups. Data processing and report generation are handled at MURR by Windows-compatible computers. The laboratory maintains archival specimens from most archaeological projects conducted there.