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U of M Professors Receive National Park Service Grant to Study Ancient Artifacts

Contact: Gabrielle Maxey

July 7, 2014 - Ancient Native American artifacts shed light on what life may have been like at the end of the last great Ice Age 10,000 years ago. A $40,000 grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, a program of the National Park Service, will allow University of Memphis professors Ryan Parish, David Dye and Ying Sing Li to analyze artifacts from central Tennessee. The goal is to understand how people used stone resources and adapted to warmer climates. 

Stone was important for some early inhabitants of Tennessee, who used it for everyday tools and hunting equipment. The U of M research team is developing new technologies that can identify where Native Americans got their stone resources. The data then can be used to record past migrations and identify how this may have changed over time with stabilizing climate conditions. 

The reflectance spectroscopy techniques utilized in the study are non-destructive and provide a  balance between research and preservation concerns. The project will fill a gap in the knowledge of how prehistoric people lived and used the natural resources around them. 

“The resulting data will tell us how these terminal Ice Age hunter-gatherers moved around the land, potentially identify individual band groups, and show us how their territories may have decreased over time as the climate and ecosystems stabilized with the warming modern-day climate,” Parish said.

Parish, the principal investigator, is an assistant professor of archaeology. Dye is a professor of archaeology and Li is a professor of chemistry; they are co-principal investigators.

The research project will be carried out over the course of a year. 

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