Pike's grant bolsters Willamette archaeology program

Scott Pike, associate professor of environmental and earth sciences, geology and archaeology, earned a $109,000 grant from the Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Foundation to improve student research opportunities at Willamette.

The grant will expand the capacity of the university’s archaeological science field program, including the partnership with the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology to excavate a phenomenally preserved complex within the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site in Scotland. The site was called one of the top discoveries of 2009 by Archaeology magazine and was named 2011 Research Project of the Year by Current Archaeology magazine.

The only non-Scottish institution invited to join the project, Willamette is also the only leading liberal arts college west of Iowa and Wisconsin with an archaeology major. With professors Pike, David McCreery and Ann Nicgorski, the university’s program includes robust scientific and cultural curricula.

“Future archaeologists must be skilled and creative in science,” says Pike. “This grant will provide students greater opportunity to examine this amazing Neolithic complex, and it provides our undergraduate students with training in cutting-edge archaeological excavation methods.”

The grant will fund field geochemistry work that includes the purchase of a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, for which researchers typically rely on specialists.

“Most field work fails to take full advantage of the varied analyses that can be carried out with this instrument,” says Pike. “Undergraduates will use this tool to learn more about the soils and materials used at the site, including a geochemical analysis of the standing stones of the Ring of Brodgar.”

Students will also work with Orkney researchers to undertake advanced analyses using ground penetrating radar and a host of other analytical equipment.

Pike also hopes to develop tools that take advantage of tablet computers, allowing scientists to more efficiently integrate and link excavation notes, find reports, photography, drawings and other data via a graphical interface that can be synced wirelessly to a dedicated server. The most innovative aspect of this concept will be the development of a tablet-based application for drawing excavation profiles and plans.

Students interested in participating in field work are encouraged to contact Pike for more information about field school opportunities and the archaeology program.