Principal Fields of Research at The Wiener Laboratory
The laboratory has as its main, long-term research interests studies in human skeletal studies, faunal studies, geoarchaeology and environmental studies. A variety of complementary analytical techniques are applied to studies in each area. Close links are encouraged between Wiener Laboratory researchers and the staff of the American School, its conservation department, and associated excavation directors, enhancing communication and interpretation arising out of collaborative research.
Human skeletal research at the Wiener Laboratory is related to questions of:
• Social status as revealed in dietary deficiencies and/or pathological profiles for burial groups
• Bio-distance assessments of large cemetery deposits relating to questions of population movement
• Regional contact and kinship
• Dietary and tooth-wear studies
• Occupational markers
• The origin and patterns of occurrence of individual pathological lesions
The Wiener Laboratory has pursued a pilot study centered on the application of DNA techniques to archaeological teeth and bone from various sites of different time periods within Greece for purposes of establishing methodological foundations of DNA preservation. Diagenetic alteration (microstructural and elemental) of archaeological bone represents an important correlative field of study for the lab.
In addition to macroscopic and microscopic assessments based on the small human comparative collection, x-ray analysis and analysis of thin sections of teeth and bone are carried out in-house.
Faunal analysis in the laboratory aims to contribute to research topics such as:
• Domestication of animals and the neolithization process in Eastern Mediterranean
• Reconstruction of palaeoenvironment and terrestrial-marine ecosystems
• Past diet and practices with regard to animal husbandry and carcass utilization
• Exploitation of animals from an economic perspective, detection of exchange and trade
• The interactions between humans and animals, understanding of their place and social roles within human societies
• Seasonality in the occupation of settlements and spatial organization of site activity
• Taphonomic processes
• Animal raw materials (e.g. bone industry, purple-dye production)
The Wiener Laboratory offers researchers work and storage space for analysis of archaeological animal bone assemblages from Greece and Eastern Mediterranean. One of the major points of strength of the lab is the modern reference faunal collection, which includes mammals, birds and fish and shells -essential for precise identification and analysis of faunal remains from archaeological contexts.
The Wiener Laboratory is equipped with a range of analytical equipment and houses a large corpus of faunal manuals, osteology atlases, books, and reprints related to zooarchaeological research, as well as publications of material from Greek excavations.
This broad class of research in the Wiener Laboratory encompasses studies in the following areas:
• Palaolandscape reconstructions based on the analysis of sediments, site formation processes and micro-stratigraphy
• Compositional characterization of the raw materials and investigation of provenance and technology of manufacture of ancient artifacts:
o Pottery (ceramics petrography)
o Building materials
In addition to field and laboratory research, scholars working on geoarchaeological studies contribute to the laboratory’s permanent collections. The Wiener Laboratory is equipped with a range of analytical equipment :
- Polarizing microscopes: two microscopes with lenses providing a range of magnifications are available for the study of thin sections.
- Metallographic microscope for the study of polished sections
- Stereoscope for detailed macroscopic observation and use-wear studies. All microscopes are connected to a digital camera providing live image on computer screen and high-quality microphotographs.
The laboratory is also equipped with a rock-cutting saw and a lapping plate for the preparation of petrographic thin sections.
The Wiener Laboratory is long engaged in environmental studies with the funding of various projects from different chronological periods and excavations in Greece and Cyprus.
The Wiener Lab is well equipped with microscopes for the study of seeds, charcoal, pollen and phytoliths, and it is probably the only research establishment in Greece which can accommodate such a wide range of analytical methods for the study of past environments. On top of the technical equipment, the Wiener Laboratory has well informed reference collections of seeds, charcoal and phytoliths, which is essential for the coherent study of ancient plant remains. The reference collections are accompanied with up to date plant atlases, necessary for any study, and well informed publications on ancient environment and landscapes.