Marisa Fontana, North Central College adjunct assistant professor of sociology, was invited to present her original research as an archaeologist at the Southeastern Archaeology Conference held Nov. 7-10 in Baton Rouge, La. Fontana’s talk was a preliminary report on the feasibility of using technology—called Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry or LA-ICP-MS, for short—to identify chemically distinct groupings of Native American pottery recovered from archaeological sites in Alabama.
The study was undertaken at The Field Museum in Chicago where the technology necessary to test this hypothesis is housed. Results of her research showed it is indeed possible to use this technology to successfully identify specific pottery groupings, which is important because the groupings can answer questions about migration, trade and warfare among indigenous groups. To her knowledge, this is the first study of its kind using LA-ICP-MS to test Alabama pottery.
Fontana is pursuing grant applications in order to expand her initial study and include a larger sample of pottery.
A half-time faculty member at North Central, Fontana has been teaching in the department of sociology and anthropology since 2009. She earned her B.A. in anthropology from Wayne State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.