Jackson State University
Mattanjah de Vries
Faculty Sponsor's Department(s):
Chemistry and Biochemistry
THE USE OF MASS SPECTROMERTRY IN THE ANALYSIS OF ANCIENT CULTURAL ARTIFACTS
We have demonstrated a new approach for the first time in a successful study of cacao residue in Mayan pottery. We explicitly identified the presence theobromine in these samples. Dr. Anabel Ford, director of UCSB’s Mesoamerican Research Center contributed thirteen sherds of Late Classic period (c. 600-900 CE) Maya cylindrical vessels from her Belize River Archaeological Settlement Survey (BRASS). The Maya elite used these distinctive, elaborately decorated vessels at feasts and ceremonies for drinking various beverages, especially cocoa. Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique used to measure the mass-to-charge ratio of charged particles. REMPI laser mass spectrometry is an amalgamation of resonance enhanced multi-photon ionization spectroscopy and time of flight mass spectrometry. This technique allows for the collection of mass specific optical spectra as well as of optically selected mass spectra. Analytes are jet-cooled by entrainment in a molecular beam, and this low temperature gas phase analysis has the advantage of producing excellent vibronic resolution. Using this system, the analysis of historically samples by means of mass spectrometry can be shortened and upgraded. These listed features allow for minute sample sizes than that of the commercial MS apparatuses, which in turn will necessitate a lesser amount of impairments to artifacts. This technique offers a promising new approach for tackling unresolved questions in the field of archeology.