When artifacts come in from the field, we use various tools to process and analyze them. Microscopes are useful for looking at fragmented or very small artifacts, such as seed beads, inclusions in ceramics, and lithics. We can also look at the composition of soils and stones. Here at the lab we have a binocular scope (top) and a digital microscope (left). The binocular scope has two eyepieces, or oculars, through which the object on the slide is viewed. It can magnify objects to 4x, 10x, 40x, and 100x.
The digital scope is hooked up to a computer and the object is viewed on the screen. The magnification options are 10x, 60x, and 200x. It can take digital photos of the artifacts as well. This purple glass bead (below) has a diameter of 3 millimeters. This picture was taken with the digital microscope at 10x.
Microscopes are certainly not unique to archaeology, but they are essential for thorough lab work.
Click on any of the images for a larger view.
Image sources: www.bio.davidson.edu and www.eatametre.org