“What Can the Geochemistry of Bricks Reveal about Historical Archaeology?” with David Walker
Originally presented 16 Sep 2017
What if someone asked you what was the geographic origin of a brick in an archaeological site? The question of which country constructed specific, early New World settlements might hinge on the answer to this question. The size, shape, markings, and color of the brick may be somewhat informative about the source of the brick. But these are sometimes ambiguous markers of brick provenance. What then? In order to investigate whether trace element signatures might be informative about specific clay deposits that might have been the source of particular bricks, we analysed a range of bricks from both sides of the Atlantic in order to perhaps get a fix on the origin of the brick material in the construction of Fort Sint Kruys in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. We found a surprising and profound sameness to the clay-based constituents of Dutch, Danish, and US-sourced bricks of the 17th to 20th centuries. They all look like average continental crust no matter their source, manufacturing admixtures, and state of degradation. We found potential useful markers within the heavy mineral accessories mixed in with the temper sand of all these bricks, but the present state of knowledge is not sufficient to reliably interpret these potentially useful markers for provenance. The zircons, apatites, rutiles, ilmenites and like minerals present an opportunity for further study of the question: “Who built Ft. St. Kruys?”
Dr. David Walker is the Higgins Professor in the Columbia University Department of Earth and Environmental Science. His main interest lies in the examination of the chemical and physical evolution of the terrestrial planets by methods of experimental petrology. He has a parallel interest in developing new experimental techniques and materials.
Previous E2C Workshops led by Dave Walker:
Related resources for today’s workshop:
“Brick and Tile” (Encyclopedia Britannica)
“Brick” (The-Source-of-All-Knowledge/aka Wikipedia)
“Geoarcheology” (The-Source-of-All-Knowledge/aka Wikipedia)
St. Croix, US Virgin Islands (The-Source-of-All-Knowledge/aka Wikipedia)
E2C is partnering with St. Thomas Aquinas College to expand the impact of our program by offering afternoon seminars designed to help teachers implement the NGSS and integrate these with current State Standards.
The focus for this session will be “Overview of NGSS and State Standards; Earth materials, especially minerals, rocks, and resources.”
For more information: “GED 7201–Facilitating State Standards: Earth Science”