Microscopy at the ASD Laboratories covers a wide range of techniques from macro-imaging/photography through to microscopic observation by means of reflected and transmitted light. We focus also on texture analyses of artefacts surface by means of 3D approaches, based on stereoscopic and confocal microscopy. All these optical equipment have a CCD (charge-coupled device) camera to examine, processing and record the resulting image directly on a computer. This way we have a wide range of updated optical microscopy equipment and specifically adapted to the different scientific interests of the research team.
Confocal microscopy is used for high precision texture analysis. The Sensofar Plu Neox laser scanning confocal microscope is provided with a 20X (0.45 NA) objective, with a spatial sampling of 0.83 mm, an optical resolution of 0.31 mm, a vertical resolution of 20 nm and a z-step interval of 1 mm. We currently use this optical equipment to quantify any type of textures, mainly icrotextures of human and animal teeth as well as use-wear analysis of lithic and bone instruments, though it can be utilized for measuring wear on any kind of object.
This device is a high-end technical solution for the generation of 3D models of objects and surfaces. It has a great capacity in the speed of capture and data management -up to 5 million points per second-, not exempt of high resolution -precision of 0.015mm-, which allows its use in archaeological metrology applications. An interchangeable configuration of 4 sets of lenses with different focal lengths allows scanning a wide range of possibilities, from small objects (e.g. beads) to much larger surfaces (e.g. parietal engravings). It is also transportable, which makes it ideal for working in museums and external laboratories.
The Samples Preparation Laboratory provides lab facilities to support activities related to samples preparation devoted to archaeological analyses and reference collections. The archaeological artefacts can be cleaned and treated here before their study and eventual restoration with the help of an extractor hood and a bucket for ultrasonic cleaning. We also have a cold storage facility to preserve organic samples and stratigraphic cores in optimal conditions. The laboratory facilities are potentially available to external users and students in training activities.
Lithotheque of siliceous rocks of the Iberian northeast
This reference collection concerns the availability of siliceous rocks in NE Iberia, covering an area surpassing 32,000 km2. Collections are documented according to their geological frame and samples have been characterized from the point of view of its mineralogical, petrological and geochemical properties. We thus handle a large variety of documentary evidence such as maps, stratigraphic logs, photographs or laboratory reports. All these samples and data are being installed so they can be accessible to users either in person or virtually. So far we have attested 70 geological units offering flint layers with 86 lithotypes substantiated.
Reference collection on flint knapping methods and techniques
As a result of two Seminars on Prehistoric Technology hold in the IMF-CSIC facilities in 2011 and 2017 we have compiled a lithic assemblage –around 40 cores- representative of several methods and techniques involved in the production of flint tools. The targeted methods concern many knapping and pressure methods devoted to the production of flakes and blades, as well as to the bifacial knapping. The applied techniques are based on many case studies of the prehistory around the world. The flintknappers were renowned specialists in lithic technology such as Eric Böeda, Laurence Bourguignon, Javier Baena, Antoni Palomo, Evgeny Y. Gyria and Frédéric Abbès.
Reference collection devoted to use-wear analysis
We have always used experimentation to analyse use-wear on prehistoric tools, becoming this methodological perspective core to our research. Based on prior experiences made by different researchers, we have managed to integrate all those pieces into a common collection. Nowadays, they form a unique and diverse reference collection for the training of specialists on use-wear and residue analyses including: about 1,000 experimental tools on flint from different geological origins, mainly from the Iberian Peninsula; around 350 items on quartz, quartzite, sandstone, limestone and other rocks; finally, about 200 tools made on shell, bone and other animal hard tissues were also used as experimental tools.
Taphonomy and Taxonomy osteological reference collection
The reference collections of taphonomy and taxonomy are currently under development. The aim is to have a complete osteological collection organised by anatomical elements, putting special interest on the main domesticated animals (sheep, goat, cattle, pig, dog, horse, donkey, rabbit, fowl…) of different ages (young, juvenile and adult). Regarding the taphonomic alterations, the collection consists of digested bones, bones altered by weathering, by roots, and bones gnawed by carnivores, omnivores (pig) and rodents. Some of these bones come from present-day experiments where the action of the taphonomic agents (e.g. carnivores and pigs) were monitored and recorded.